Method Man was born Clifford Smith on April 1, 1971, in Hempsted, Long Island; he split his childhood between his father's Long Island residence and his mother's Staten Island home. It was the latter locale where he met his future Wu-Tang cohorts RZA, Genius/GZA, and Ol' Dirty Bastard; when they set about forming a Hip Hop collective in the early '90s, Method Man was one of the first to sign on. Meth was heavily featured on the group's classic late-1993 debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), even getting his own showcase track with 'Method Man', which certainly put him out front in terms of name recognition.
Thanks to the Wu's innovative contract - which allowed individual members to sign solo deals with whatever label they chose - Method Man inked a contract with Def Jam, and in 1994, approximately one year after Enter the Wu-Tang's release, he became the first Wu member to release a solo album, Tical. Highly anticipated, the album entered the charts at number four and quickly went platinum, while singles like 'Bring the Pain' (which just missed the pop Top 40) and 'Release Yo' Delf' made him an even bigger name in the Hip Hop community. He began making numerous guest appearances on other artists' records, and in the summer of 1995, his one-off single with Mary J. Blige, 'I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By', soared into the pop Top Five, giving Meth his first major mainstream exposure. Shortly thereafter, another duet - this time with Def Jam labelmate Redman - on the compilation track 'How High', climbed into the pop Top 20.
Wu-Tang Clan reconvened in 1997 for the double album Wu-Tang Forever, and about a year later, another round of solo projects commenced. Method Man issued his sophomore effort, Tical 2000: Judgement Day (ironically), in late 1998 and took a more expansive approach this time out, filling the album with between-song skits and a variety of guest rappers and producers. Tical 2000 was another hit, entering the charts at number two. Meanwhile, in addition to recording the album, Meth had spent much of 1998 getting his acting career off the ground; after landing a few bit parts, he made his first prominent big-screen appearance in Hype Williams' Belly. In 1999, Meth partnered up wit Redman to form a duo act that hit the road with Jay Z's Hard Knock Life tour; they also entered the studio together to record the collaborative album Blackout!, which entered the charts at number three that fall and received highly complimentary reviews.
The Wu returned in late 2000 with the lower-profile The W. After completing the record, Meth refocused on his acting career; in early 2001, he put in a month's worth of appearances portraying a young gangster on HBO's gritty prison drama Oz and teamed up with Redman for the Cheech & Chong-styled stoner comedy How High, which hit theaters toward the end of the year, around the same time as the fourth Wu-Tang album, Iron Flag. After numerous delays, the MC released his third solo album, Tical 0: The Prequel, in 2004. He allegedly finished off 20 tracks with RZA as the producer, but Def Jam opted to release a version that featured only one of those cuts. In 2006, Meth issued 4:21... The Day After, which featured appearances from many Wu-Tang members, including a posthumous verse from ODB. A steady stream of mixtapes, live albums, and concert videos appeared before Method reunited with Redman for the 2009 album Blackout! 2.
Words: Steve Huey
The first Wu-Tang Clan solo album to follow the seismic impact of Enter the Wu-Tang, Method Man's Tical similarly delivers an otherworldly wallop, one that instantly sets the madcap MC apart from his clansmen as the collective's shining star. Not only is Meth madcap, both in terms of mentality and delivery, he's also incredibly witty and wordy. Here he inspires hilarity as well as astonishment, and the way that he fires off his rhymes with such seemingly spontaneous ease compounds this sense of wonder. Just as Meth is quite clearly leagues above practically every other rapper in 1994 sans a small handful, if that, so is his producer, Wu-Tang abbot RZA, who produces the entirety of Tical: from the antiquated flutes and kung fu flick samples that open the album, to the pulse-accelerating beats of "Bring the Pain" and the fist-pumping ones of "All I Need" (the b-boy version rather than the radio-geared one featuring Mary J. Blige), to the rallying, warlike horns of "Release Yo' Delf." Despite a few outside contributions, most notably from Raekwon on the rowdy spar-fest "Meth vs. Chef," Tical is strictly a two-man show, Meth bringing da ruckus and RZA the swarming soundscapes, and that's precisely what further makes this album such a treasure amid the many Wu-Tang gems. Where most of Meth's clansmen delivered guest-laden albums that sounded more like group efforts than solo ones, Tical strictly spotlights the group's two stars and does so with refreshingly straightforward flair. There's none of the epic overreaching that mars so many rap albums of the era; rather, there's just over a dozen tracks here, and they're filled to the brim with rhymes and beats and little else -- no pop-crossover concessions nor any heady experimentation for the sake of experimentation, just good ol'-fashioned hip-hop, albeit with a dark, dark deranged twist.
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Method Man's third solo work, following 1998's uneven Tical 2000 (and released a month after Ghostface's superior-in-every-aspect Pretty Toney Album), arrived with many conflicting rumors and circumstances attached to it. On the M2 program Spoke 'n' Heard, Meth informed journalist/host Touré that Tical 0 is his best record, and alluded to being boxed in when working with one producer and one sound. Around the same time, the official Wu-Tang website reported that the MC was not pleased with the version Def Jam opted to put out, due to its scant number of RZA productions -- one single cut, when an entire record's worth was allegedly put together throughout the past couple years. Whatever the circumstances might be, there's no doubt that Tical 0 is even less penetrating than Tical 2000, a record that at least had its ambitions to retain interest during the lulls. At its best, this one offers brief bursts of okay-to-decent tracks. The most energizing moments typically come when Meth's supported by the likes of Busta Rhymes ("What's Happenin'") and Ludacris ("Rodeo"), but the productive conveyor belt of guest spots -- which chucks out well over a dozen of them, including Missy Elliott, Raekwon, Kardinal Offishall, Chinky (not Chingy), and soon-to-be fellow sitcom star Redman -- also weighs down the whole process.
Words: Andy Kellman
Unlike Method Man's straightforward debut, Tical, which was a simple yet brilliant MC/producer collaboration, and a classic one at that, his follow-up, Tical 2000, is an epic undertaking, involving a long list of collaborators and a conceptual scope. In many ways, it's a more interesting album than its predecessor because of its ambitions. There are 28 tracks in total here, most of them featuring some sort of guest, mainly fellow East Coast hardcore rappers like Redman and Mobb Deep but also surprise guests like Chris Rock and Janet Jackson. The 28 tracks furthermore feature an abundance of producers rather than just RZA like last time. Some of the more notable contributors include Rockwilder, Erick Sermon, Prince Paul, Havoc, and the Trackmasters as well as in-house Wu-Tang beatmakers RZA and True Master. This large cast navigates its way through a loose narrative about a so-called Judgement Day that seems to liberally take its inspiration from the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. All of this makes Tical 2000 a daunting venture that is occasionally entertaining (the many skits), intermittently brilliant ("Dangerous Grounds" and the climactic title track), but unfortunately too often ill-conceived (the overly calculated "All I Need" sequel "Break Ups 2 Make Ups," this time featuring D'Angelo rather than Mary J. Blige) and also tiresome (again, the many skits).
Words: Jason Birchmeier
Ever since the release of the somewhat disappointing Tical 0: The Prequel, Method Man has been trying to prove that he really is the MC he was on his fantastic 1994 solo debut. So maybe the fact that he decided to name his fourth record 4:21...The Day After has less to do with marijuana (though of course that is never completely forgotten) and more to do with moving away from all the comparisons to his first album, Tical (and the subsequent Tical-themed titles that came after). And while 4:21 may be an improvement over his previous releases, Method Man's not quite the funny yet insightful rapper he was on his debut. To his credit, however, there are still some pretty good tracks on the album, including "Say," with a Lauryn Hill-covering-Bob Marley sample; "Dirty Mef," which has a verse from deceased Clansman Ol' Dirty Bastard; and "Walk On" featuring cohort Redman, and when Method Man spits out "Me and my soldier, we're taking over/taking payola from all those stations and record labels" over a beat by RZA and Erick Sermon (both of whom appear multiple times), you almost believe that he's going to make a comeback.
Words: Marisa Brown
Hip-hop fans have known for years that Method Man and Redman are two of the top MCs in the field, and their tour together not only proved the fact, but also showed they rap incredibly well together. Their deliveries are similar and the flow never falters, but the hint of gravel in Meth's voice makes them easily distinguishable. Now, with Blackout!, the duo's first album together (though both guested on each other's 1998 LPs), listeners have the proof on wax. Skating on top of spare, hard-hitting productions by Erick Sermon, Wu-Tang's RZA, Mathematics, and Redman himself -- under his Reggie Noble alias -- Meth and Redman trade off on hardcore rhymes and freestyle over each other. There's barely room for breath, but the rhymes are tight and inventive throughout. There are only two guest appearances (for Ja Rule & LL Cool J on "4 Seasons" and Ghostface and Street on the hilarious Blair Witch Project send-off "Run 4 Cover"), and the focus on just Meth and Redman makes for an even tighter, more combustible LP. Even with the high expectations that come along with a project of this magnitude, Blackout! rarely disappoints.
Words: John Bush
With each having individual obligations all over the place, it took ten years for Method Man and Redman to record a follow-up to 1999's beloved Blackout!, but one listen and you'd think it had only been ten days. Interplay during the intro proves that none of the chemistry is lost, then the slow-grinding "I'm Dope Ni**a" declares that happy and horribly high days are here again, with mentions of Club Nouveau plus Tango & Cash putting a date stamp on the duo. Their fine vintage is displayed two tracks later when "Dangerous MCees" spits "Even Herbie Hancock know where to Rockit" over a beat that's identifiably Erick Sermon. It's topped by the Phyllis Hyman loop Pete Rock cuts for the preceding track, "A-Yo," a superior weekend anthem featuring Saukrates from Redman's Gilla House group. With the sound of the South having exploded since the first Blackout!, the hypnotic highlight "City Lights" with guest Bun B plus a UGK sample is identifiable as post-2000. Also of its time is the dreaded Auto-Tune device, which corrects some pitch here and there, although its polish is negated on "I Know Sumptn" by the very Redman lyric "Check my bowel baby/This is the mother load." Mentions of riding jet skis on land and all sorts of other absurdities sit next to innovative viewpoints on sleaze, then "Dis Iz 4 All My Smokers" does the weed song right as the blunt brothers roll over a DJ Scratch track that sounds heavily influenced by RZA. Speaking of Wu-Tang members, Raekwon and Ghostface appear on the key cut "Four Minutes to Lock Down," an intense barrage of Shaolin lyrics that helps anchor an album that's often just a party on wax. The original deserves the top spot, but think of this as the Godfather Part II of reckless boom-bap rap and you've got an idea of how well this Blackout! satisfies.
Words: David Jeffries
Wu-Tang's Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon convene to chop it up during a brief session, a one-off. Despite the half-hour length, there are a number of producers on board, including RZA, Allah Mathematics, Ty Fyffe, Digem, Emile, and Scram Jones. Jones’ beat for the closing “It’s That Wu Sh*t,” which samples Fantasy Three's 1983 electro single “It’s Your Rock,” is the only track to not carry that dusty, nostalgic soul crunch. Otherwise, the trio’s collaborators take their cues from the RZA playbook, giving the set a uniform sound. Meth, Ghost, and Rae are not in top form, but they do tear into everything and are not outdone by any of the several guest verses. This is not an indispensable part of the Wu legacy, but it's a consistent, duly rugged, and satisfying one nonetheless.
Words: Andy Kellman
Def Jam's How High soundtrack comes close to being another Method Man and Redman album, a follow-up to the blunt-smoking duo's successful Blackout! album from two years before. But about halfway through, the soundtrack segues into previously released Def Jam material such as DMX's "Party Up (Up in Here)" and Ludacris' "What's Your Fantasy." As for the newly recorded Meth-Red material featured here, most noteworthy is "Part II," a version of the duo's signature song "How High." Erick Sermon produces this update, which prominently features Toni Braxton on the hook. It's a catchy song, one of the duo's better smoking anthems. Additionally, Meth and Red hook up with Rockwilder and Cypress Hill for an update of War's "Cisco Kid."
Words: Jason Birchmeier