April 19, 2016 - 04:00 PM
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
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.
You are now about to embark on a unique adventure where time, sound, and reality all have different meaning. No you won’t be hanging with Pee-Wee Herman money, your guide for this ride is none other than Reggie Noble BKA Redman, and the place with all the bass just happens to be The Dark Side. There’s no need to go into how Redman came on the scene housin’ $%&! right ? What! Your memory is failing you? Don’t ask somebody, I’m about to school ya. After years tearing it out the frame doing classic freestyles across the Tri-state area, Redman burst out upon the Hip-Hop scene in 1991 by catching wreck with his gift of vocab on the EPMD tracks “Hardcore and “Brothers On My Jock.”
Soon after he gained more props by releasing his first funky single “Blow Your Mind” off the now Gold debut album “Whut? Thee Album.” It contained gem tracks such as “Time 4 some Akshun” and “Tonight’s The Night.” Besides that, Redman was also a powerful force in The Hit Squad, a crew in Hip-Hop so revered any mention of the name brought instant respect.But that was two years ago, and a lot has happened in between. In 1993 Redman was voted by The Source as the top rap artist of the year. And Now Redman returns to reveal “Dare Is A Dark Side”, his highly anticipated follow-up on Def Jam Recordings.
The title for the new platter came easily as the mc has gone through a barrage of stress, trials and tribulations career wise, in addition to the everyday struggle of maintaining out in society. After a quick trip to the corner store for a couple of phillips, he broke it down to me, “My meaning of the dark side is deep and real. All that shit I was GOING thou, I was like “This don’t make sense.” So you know what? I may just let shit go on this album to the dark side. Everybody’s got a dark side, but they don’t let it come out by pretending and grinning up in your face, and when they get home, they’re on a whole different note. It wasn’t about no gimmick. It’s strictly real. The shit is dark but it’s still funky.”
Ah yes, the funk. That word combined with Redman go together like rice and beans. “Dare Is A Dark Side” packs the same quality head-noddin’ funk the Hip-Hop nation came to love about “Whut…”, but it also contains if possible a heavier bottom groove on 17 tracks. For example the first single, “Rockafella” contains hypnotizing bassline that symbolizes traditional east coast funk, cleverly merged with snippets of samples that will undoubtedly bring mad love from the west. “Rockafella” is also a personal special jam as it’s dedicated to his man Rockafella, who was tragically gunned down just before the process of Redman putting him on. Redman states, “He had mad songs and he gave ’em to me because I was trying to let people hear him and stuff.
So I was like fuck it, I can’t do nothing but let the world hear him (on the intro). The track “Cosmic Slop” features Redman gettin’ biz with his present Def Squad family members Keith Murray and Erick Sermon the only way they know how. “Can’t Wait” is a padlock to be a favorite in the rides as it carries the same vein of the previous butter track “Tonight”‘s The Night.” The joint “Green Island” finds Reggie Noble flippin’ lyrics over a Caribbean -type beat to be believed. Other dope tracks such as “Da Game” and “Slide And Rock On” spotlights Redman doing what he does best, rhyming his ass of while even more importantly, showing us his captivating personality that gets heads open. Not too many mc’s can lift the choruses from “Hey D.J.” and a Prince jam, and in a comedic fashion, flip them, and be talking about blunts, But the treats don’t end there.
The funkadelic devil does a wicked duet with Hurricane G on “Werun N.Y.” and every single person that dug the first album “Sooperman Luva.” Redman has succeeded again on the production tip. He knocked five joints himself, while benefiting from the fly skills of the Funklord Erick Sermon and coming Funky Noble Productions producer Rockwilder who completed the package with him.
As one of the original members of the seminal ’90s rap crew the Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks) made an impact before he released his debut album, Ironman, late in 1996. Like all members of the Wu-Tang Clan, the rapper used the group as a launching pad for a solo career, which was assisted greatly by other members of the Clan, particularly producer RZA. Ghostface Killah had rapped on Wu-Tang’s 1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang, but he didn’t distinguish himself until 1995, when he was showcased on fellow Wu member Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Ghostface received good reviews for his appearance on the record, and his contribution to the soundtracks for Sunset Park and Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While You’re Drinking Your Juice in the Hood also were well-received. All of these guest appearances and soundtrack contributions set the stage for Ghostface Killah’s solo debut, Ironman, in late 1996. Like all Wu-Tang projects, it was produced by RZA and was quite successful in the large hip-hop/rap underground, debuting at number two on the pop charts upon its release. Ironman was also the first album to be released on Razor Sharp Records, RZA’s record label on Epic Records.
Work with the Wu-Tang and their various members kept Ghostface Killah busy until solo singles started appearing at the end of 1999 followed by his sophomore full-length, Supreme Clientele, in early 2000. Supreme Clientele was a success, but it was followed a year later by Bulletproof Wallets, an album that didn’t sell well and had fans declaring the Ironman had gone soft. Once again it was back to the Wu for a couple years before the rapper would be appearing solo again. Epic issued the compilation Shaolin’s Finest in April of 2003, and by the end of the year two new Ghostface tracks had started to appear on mixtapes. The chaotic “Run” with Jadakiss and the more commercial “Tush” with Missy Elliott raised the anticipation for the rapper’s first album for Def Jam and his first under the simpler moniker Ghostface. The Pretty Toney Album hit the streets in April of 2004. The Top Ten hit Fishscale, along with More Fish, followed in 2006, but not before 718 — an album from his Theodore Unit.
Always prolific, the rapper put out The Big Doe Rehab — whose release date had originally coincided with Wu-Tang’s long-awaited fifth full-length, 8 Diagrams, which RZA agreed to push back a week so as to not coincide with Ghost’s effort — in early December 2007. Ghostface returned in 2008 with a pair of compilations: The Wallabee Champ (rarities and B-sides) and GhostDeini the Great (including remixes, alternate versions, and career highlights). Influenced by R&B and focused on the ladies, his 2009 album Ghostdini the Wizard of Poetry was a significant departure. The more traditional effort Apollo Kids landed in 2010 with special guests Redman, Busta Rhymes, and the Game. Another significant departure arrived in early 2013 with the release of Twelve Reasons to Die. The album was a collaborative effort with film composer Adrian Younge and was inspired by the Italian murder mystery/slasher film genre known as giallo. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
Corey Woods aka Raekwon The Chef, has been a staple in the Entertainment industry since his debut in 1993 as an integral part in undeniably one of the greatest Hip-Hop groups to date, the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. Rae’s verbal ability took center stage early in the original cult classic Protect Ya Neck, but little did the world know, that we were merely indulging in delicious appetizers delivered by Rae. It wasn’t until 1995, when Raekwon The Chef emerged from the kitchen and invited the Hip-Hop faithful into his personal chamber and the world was privileged to partake in the perfectly sautéed full course meal… Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.
Critics and fans alike unanimously agreed, Cuban Linx was an instant classic. An opulent sonic journey defined by Raekwon’s cinematic narratives and narcotized hooks. The production delivered by Wu Tang’s Abbot, The Rza, was simply supreme – his best comprehensive work to date. And never had a co-star been so illustrious: Cuban Linx also managed to showcase the talents of then under represented Wu-Tang band mate, Ghostface Killah. This was also the beginning of the “Rae and Ghost” collaborations which have yielded some of hip hop’s most beloved songs.
To follow up this success, Rae later released Immobiliarity in 1999 and The Lex Diamond Story in 2003. All of these lyrical offerings were well received; Immobilarity going gold, yet there was always the persistent request of the fans to release a follow up to the classis OBFCL. After anticipation and some label turbulence, The Chef finally found a new home at the EMI Group. The seasoned label has joined forces with Raekwon and his independent label, Ice H2O Records Inc. to power the sequel to his 1995 masterpiece: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
No one could have anticipated the break away success of this album. Released on September 8, 2009, the instant success spent its first four days number one on itunes. Then selling 66, 000 copies in its first week on the charts . Critics and fans both heralded it the best album of 2009. Receiving accolades from: Times Magazine, iTunes, Complex Magazine, The Source Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, Hip Hop DXX, Canada’s Exclaim Magazine and countless online music sites.
With a renewal rarely seen in the music industry, Raekwon has experienced a career resurgence few have ever witnessed. With an ever-growing fan base, Rae’s music has managed to place him back on the forefront of Hip Hop’s elite. Having been featured on countless features in 2010, Rae has lent his talents to fellow musicians: Kanye West, Bun B, Fat Joe, Justin Beiber and participated with is Wu Brothers, Ghostface and Method Manin the highly anticipated, Wu Massacre.
Never one to go back on a promise, Raekwon promised fans the fabled Shaolin vs. Wu Tang, as a response to RZA’s 8 Diagrams album. To be delivered on March 8, 2011, the album which features the likes of Rick Ross, Lloyd Banks, Nas, Black Thought and Jim Jones, with production by DJ Khalil, Sean C and LV, Scram Jones and Eric Sermon, the album ushers the beloved Wu Tang sound into the current decades, leaving fans reminiscent while excited about the freshness of the sound.
To date, Raekwon is expanding his empire. He has established Ice H20 Canada, with the hopes of presenting to the world some of the untapped talents of our neighbors to the North. In addition, he has also developed 3783 Media, a collective based in Los Angeles, which serves as a full service production, digital and management company. There are several multimedia and entrepreneurial endeavors on the rise. Raekwon has moved into the next phase of his career, and he has no intention of slowing down.