There’s no questioning that Method Man is That Dude. His origin story is one of a multifaceted talent who stands out in a clan of legendary emcees (Wu-Tang has been forever since forever). A solo artist who had us saying — and spelling — his name well before Tical dropped in ‘94 (also worth noting that his commercial appeal, not to mention his popularity as a magnetic presence, was firmly introduced with the album’s hit “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By” featuring Mary J. Blige). He’s a proud Staten Island representative who helped to stamp the grittiness of Baltimore into our collective consciousness as Cheese on The Wire, after bringing the laughter alongside Redman with 2001’s (now) cult classic How High. And that’s just a hint of what he accomplished in the decade or so after the Wu’s 1992 debut, 36 Chambers.
Fast forward to today’s release of his latest project, The Meth Lab, as it racks up acclaim from fans and critics all over the interweb. His team is very clear not to call the project a solo album — it’s a family affair with Mef spotlighting Shaolin talent. As he reminds us from the first words spoken, the album is “Staten Island artists, done by Staten Island, made in Staten Island.” From up-and-comers to some of his lifelong cohorts, the roster of talent featured properly demonstrates a mission accomplished.
Among those responsible for The Meth Lab’s triumphant formula is Hanz On, the man at the helm of the album as its executive producer. A start-to-finish listen, the LP is undoubtedly a reminder of what we love most about the emcee’s lyrical dexterity while giving shine to his brotherhood.
There is plenty of head-nodding to be done with the production on tracks like “2 Minutes of Your Time” reminding you Mef always has been and always will be grimy. Raekwon and Inspectah Deck show out on “The Purple Tape,” with Redman, Hanz On, and Streetlife also keeping it “Straight Gutta.” There is no “pretty boy rap” whatsoever to be found here as the album’s 19 tracks throw back to classic 90s vibes as much as they remain firmly planted in the present.
And that’s no coincidence — Mef openly supports letting today’s young emcees have fun and do their thing, admitting that he’s made a few attempts to whip or Nae Nae on occasion. We sat down with him to talk about the project, his thoughts on hip-hop’s ever-changing identity, and what to expect from him in film and TV (hint: a How High 2 Kickstarter campaign isn’t farfetched). Read the interview below and be sure to grab The Meth Lab today.
OKP: How would you describe the album and what led you to release new material now?
Method Man: [It’s] Staten Island, for one. These things don’t have a time limit on them. We’ve been [working on] this for I don’t know how long. It just turned into a project after a while.
OKP: So it wasn’t an intention for The Meth Lab to be a collective project featuring other artists? It evolved into that and you decided to put it out that way?
MM: It actually started as me doing something for one of my peoples. I was like “yeah, I’ll do a couple of verses on this shit for you.” The work [Hanz On] did was so good that I was like “let me spit on something else, let me spit on something else,” then it turned into something else. Plus, I told him I wanted to do something called ‘The Meth Lab’ and he said “well, let me handle it and if I do a good job, then yeah, that’s what it is.”
OKP: And in terms of the people that you put together for this one —
MM: Let’s be clear, he put it together. Hanz On put it together. I didn’t put anything together. I basically spit on the joints and stuff like that. There were certain emcees that wanted to come into the fold that I respected, such as Cory Gunz and Uncle Murda. There were more people, but I wanted to chill with that for a minute. I wanted to stay grounded. Those two brothers were, you know, very instrumental in getting that point across.
OKP: There’s been a lot of talk in our office about “hip-hop purists” and about people who expect certain emcees and collectives to remain as they were when they first came out. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MM: Man, that’s cool. But ya know, those same people are saying “he hasn’t grown, he sounds dated,” or something like that. You know, you can’t satisfy everybody. So you try to stay in your lane and stay true to yourself. And if that works, that’s the best feeling in the world because you didn’t compromise anything to do it.
OKP: For those artists you personally respect, is there any overlap of emcees in your Top Five all-time and your Top Five out right now?
MM: I like everybody. Let them do they thing. I’m going to stand by my word and say that these kids are having fun the same way we do. Let them have their fun, ya know? Stop being so critical of everything they do. They’re having fun. Even if you don’t like their music and shit. Respect the hustle.
OKP: It’s funny you say that. We talked to will.i.am recently and one of things he mentioned was that if an act like Kid N Play or Heavy D came out today, their music might not be respected as hip-hop the way fans and critics define it now.
MM: will.i.am has a right to his opinion, but I disagree.
OKP: How so?