Men in Black
There are some rappers who are just pure id. They're men (and occasionally women) who literally bounce off walls to make rhymes and grab your attention. After years of uninterest in hardcore, humorless, fuck-wit-me-and-you'll-get-a-cap-in-yo-ass rappers, a lot of performers are channeling their personal idiosyncrasies into their music.
Busta Rhymes, that dreadlock-covered combination of half-man, half-Nerf ball, and the tragicomic Ol' Dirty Bastard are two big-timers doing this. And there are others who, once in front of a mike, put their self-control in the closet. Their words become as sharp as Star Jones's press-on nails, and the unpredictability factor gets high. Just the way rap should be.
Method Man and Redman flash their ids with a little more discretion, if that's possible. On the surface, they're the archetypical scrubs. Rarely are they photographed without wool caps covering at least one eye. Their voices make them sound like they're on a strict regimen of malt liquor and blunts. But their ability to take their scruffy rap stylings and turn them into rowdy, raucous flights of fancy is what makes them tops in the ruff-and-gruff talent pool.
Homeboys ever since they worked together on the tune "How High," for the movie soundtrack The Show in 1995, Method Man and Redman have come together to drop this year's Blackout! After years of appearing on each other's albums and doing concert tours together, the two men have finally composed an album that suitably matches their wickedly warped skills.
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It's a coincidence that they are now all over the place, performing shows and promoting their album at the same time the new button-pushing movie Fight Club is released. That story of two men who create a brutal but subversive outlet to unleash their disgust toward consumerism, corporate America and the status quo doesn't sound that far removed from what these two MCs are doing in their music. Blackout! is their fight club.
But why should you give a damn about these two wild and woolly cats when you're so perfectly happy with your Creed album? Well, Method Man (née Clifford Smith) comes from that ever-expanding order of East Coast MCs known as the Wu-Tang Clan. With his gravelly voice and charismatic swagger, Method Man was the first to stand out in the Staten Island wrecking crew, a Dean Martin with a thuggish veneer. Let's put it this way: If Wu-Tang Clan were a family (RZA as the patriarch, Ol' Dirty Bastard as the uncle who just ain't right, etc.), then Method Man would be the proud son. Method was the first to break out and go solo with Tical in 1994. He followed that album up four years later with Tical 2: Judgment Day.
As for Reggie Noble, born in Newark, New Jersey, and better known to the ruffneck world as Redman, he also indulges Meth's zest for outlandish cool. With a wide-voiced flow that could scorch a brother's eyebrows and a red-boned mug to match, Redman, who often collaborates with EPMD co-founder Erick Sermon, is a crackling, verbal merry-go-round. First popping up on EPMD's 1990 album, Business As Usual, he then went on to do his own solo work with 1992's Whut? Thee Album, 1994's Dare Iz A Darkside, 1996's Muddy Waters and last year's Doc's Da Name. In that same year, he also joined forces with Sermon and Keith Murray to form Def Squad and release the album El Nino.
With Blackout!, the duo's madness is fully realized. With tracks produced by RZA and Sermon as well as DJ Scratch, Mathematics and Redman himself, Mr. Mef and Funk Doc (as they so affectionately refer to each other) revel in their verbal shenanigans over lots of full-throttle funk rhythms. They let you know what to expect when they open the album by reciting lines from one of their (and probably your) favorite motion pictures, Cheech & Chong's Up In Smoke.
"Do you want to get high, man?" Red asks, taking over the Chong role. "Does Pinocchio have wooden balls, man?" Meth responds, filling in for Cheech. From that point on, Blackout! has the boys engaging in zonked-out, merciless wordplay, dropping verbal assaults (and insults) amid a cloud of weed smoke. "Playboy, you ain't got no balls / Plus you dickless. / And I'm like a plumber / Laying pipe up in your missus," as Meth says in "Mi Casa."
Needless to say, the guys also give it to the ladies on this album, but they manage to make their boasts and jabs more clever than degrading. ("And broads got the nerve to act funny. / You a champagne hoe with Kool-Aid money.")
What makes Blackout! such a wild and weird ride is the duo's knack for sounding genuine even when they sound silly. While not necessarily believable, the album at least has a persuasiveness and conviction that you rarely find in rap albums these days. There are a couple of instances where their over-the-top fashion ends up sounding forced, like on "Cereal Killer" when they rip off the Geto Boys' notorious "Mind of a Lunatic." But the album remains potent.
This surely won't be the last you'll hear of these two before the year is over. They both have solo albums dropping in December. They also struck a deal with Danny DeVito's Jersey Films to star in their own movie this spring (working title: How High). It looks like this alliance has endless possibilities. Besides, both these unique men share a universal intolerance for people who, in their own words, "chew gum in their asses and pop shit."
This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Method Man and Redman perform as part of the Family Values Tour, with Limp Bizkit, Filter, Primus and System of a Down, on Friday, October 29, at the Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza. Tickets are $36.25. Show starts at 7 p.m. Call (713)629-3700.
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