In the dark, womb-like sanctuary of Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady studios in downtown Manhattan-a place that has birthed historical musical moments-sits the artist known as Iron Lung, Tical, Wu Brother #1, Johnny Blaze, and of course... Method Man. With a trusty, half-lit blunt by his side, he is lounging in front of white grand piano, his hands sweeping the keyboards, trying to remember a tune he memorized years ago.
Maybe the idea of one of hip hop's finest-and grimiest-emcees tickling the ivories sounds odd, or out of place, but Mr. Mef has never been the type to fit in. His husky, guttural voice is perhaps the most distinct in the game, his flow-dark and complex like the graphic novels from which he took his moniker from-can bury itself in cinematic tracks from RZA, complement the voices of R&B divas and or attack party tracks from Rocwilder. Whether he is trading verses with partner in rhyme, Redman, crowd surfing at a Wu Tang show, or stealing a scene in various television shows and films, Method Man is a true individual spirit. With his latest album, 4:21, The Day After, he is also focused on being a true artist.
Unlike some previous efforts-where Meth admits his priorities were different-on this new album, he says he's focusing on lyrics. After his last album, Tical O: The Prequel, he went through an especially rough time in his life-both personally and professionally-which provided him with a bulk of material. "I had a lot on my mind at the time and the second thing was, I decided to really talk about something and I had a lot to draw from and when the pen hit the paper it was like damn, remember this? And by the time I was done it was like shit, let's go." The result is his most personal and introspective work yet.
Doing the work behind the boards on 4:21, are Wu Tang mastermind and long-time collaborator, RZA as well as Scott Storch, Havoc, K1 and Eric Sermon.
"With Eric, we did three songs in three days," Meth says with an amazed smile, "He just comes in with ideas of top. And with RZA, shit, I've watched him build tracks from scratch, so all I really have to do is put the pen to the paper". Eric Sermon provided the beat for Meth's first single, "Say", featuring Lauryn Hill. The track finds Meth addressing critics, fickle fans and haters for disrespecting him and his Wu Tang brethren.
"I've been venting about all this for years and [my manager] was like, 'Write about it, Eric has the perfect joint.' And, Lauryn Hill herself, she just had the raw emotion, the small things she said on the song was enough for me to push my pen and let myself be vulnerable." Meth says his ability to let himself be so open is in line with the entire concept of the album, and its title. "The national weed smoking day is 4/20, so I named my album 4/21 the day after. Because after that day, you have this moment of clarity when you're not high and you see things clearly." The Grammy-winner sighs and continues, a serious, determined look on his face. "You feel like you're not in on the joke, and everyone's laughing at you. I felt like no one was taking me seriously. I got real angry and I just starting writing."
Anger proved to be a great motivator, as the Ticalion Stallion wrapped up the album in a few short months. He says the creative process has been cathartic, and though his skin hasn't gotten any thicker, he's able to use his writing talent to inspire self-confidence.
"It's real talk, I'm going to keep my spirits up and not let it get things to me. You know, if you start reading your own press and feeding into it, and you start questioning yourself, like, 'am I wack?' and you have to be like, 'No!' I learned to pat myself on the back, and that it's ok to pat myself on the back sometimes."
We definitely agree.