Your careers won’t be lasting long
It’s getting hard to remember now, but Method Man started out as the breakout star in the hardest, scariest group in rap. And it’s not like he’s forgotten how to rap; his new single, “Things They Say,” proves that much. “Things They Say” is as great a song about frustration as I can remember hearing, a soft acoustic lope with a lilting Lauryn Hill sample and words about how one guy feels like the world’s written him off. Method Man has a new album coming out, and he’s got a lot to say. I talked to him in a midtown hotel suite, and you could smell the weed halfway down the hallway.
So I guess my most pressing question is: Are you on season four of The Wire?
Yeah, I’m on season four. The character’s name is Cheese. He’s back, out of jail. He still ain’t shot no fucking body, though. That’s the crazy shit. I’m waiting for them to put a gun in my hand. I wanna shoot some fucking body.
Do you get shot again?
Nah, I ain’t get shot this time. Hell no.
Can you talk about anything else that happens on it?
Can’t tell you. Y’all gonna have to watch. I’m not giving it away. But know this: the season is popping off. It’s gonna be hot. It’s gonna be real hot.
When you go down there to Baltimore, do you ever see Cappadonna?
Sometimes. I did a show, Cap came through. That’s my man. He back in Staten Island now. I like B-more. I like it out there. It’s dirty as a bitch, though. It’s like the hood out here.
I talked to Ghostface a little while ago. He told me that you read a lot of comic books.
I used to.
You don’t keep up?
Not anymore. I ain’t got time to. They used to keep boxes for me. But I’d be gone for long periods of time. I’d just come back, and all my shit is in order, bagged up, waiting for me. After a while, a month turns into two months, then three months, and then dudes would come in and want the books that I had in my thing. They’d sell them shits to them. I just stopped coming after a while. I’ve got about five thousand books that I ain’t read yet that I purchased over the last six years. Dropping by my old comic book store, I could go there right now and they’d have some books there for me, bagged and ready to go.
How’d the Wu-Tang reunion tour earlier this year go?
It was cool. Started off slow, but it picked up after a while, started clicking again. The brothers started feeding off each other again. Vibes got better and better as the shows went on, even after being shitted on, criticized to death by just critics, man. I hate those motherfuckers.
Yeah, that was another thing I wanted to talk about. “Things They Say,” is that song directed specifically at rap critics?
Anybody that criticize Meth, yeah, like I can’t rhyme and shit. That shit is directed at everybody that’s had any bad, sideways, fucked up shit to say about me because I know damn well I’m one of the hottest that ever did it.
Has anyone ever said you can’t rhyme, though?
Yeah, man. They said Meth can’t spit no more. They said my verse on Ashanti’s shit was wack and shit, just a lot of propaganda. But when I go in the street and talk to people, I don’t hear that shit. I only hear it from industry motherfuckers that never liked me any fucking way.
All I’ve heard off the new album so far is “Things They Say” and the one with Styles P and Fat Joe on it. What else do you have on there?
Besides the Lauryn Hill sampled joint and the “Yah Mean” joint, most of the production is by RZA and Erick Sermon. I got a Scott Storch joint. Artist-wise, it’s myself mostly, Wu-Tang members, Redman of course. I have a song with Genuwine, produced by Denaun from D12. I wish you would’ve heard more shit because I could’ve really used your opinion on what you heard, make sure I’m going in the right direction. I think I am, though.
Is that something you’re concerned about, people thinking you’re going in the right direction?
Only because of the perception that the media’s been giving of me lately. I don’t think it’s fair, people’s assessment of my skills and what I do. Somewhere along the line, they got it twisted. I don’t know where exactly, but somewhere along the line I let something slip through, and it’s fucking me up.
I read an interview where you said that you felt like the media programmed people to underestimate you.
I think it started a lot with that ego trip shit; ego trip had said some sideways shit about me way back when, something about being a underachiever or some shit like that.
But do you feel like it’s possible for the media to program people like that?
Yeah, especially with certain artists. You being a artist, you help it by dropping shit that sounds like you trying to grow. I like to call it that: when a artist do different shit, he’s trying to grow. When you try shit like that, people are so critical of you now because of what this one motherfucker said or these two motherfuckers said. Now they got the motherfucking magnifying glass and they looking at every fucking thing, like nothing rides no more. And then they start convincing themselves that you wack. But I know I’m not wack.
With the internet, it’s like people hear who you might be working with, and then they have an opinion on it before they hear it. I know when I put in my thing that you’ve got a song with Genuwine, somebody’s going to have an opinion on it.
They gonna definitely say something like that, you say something like that. What the fuck is Meth doing? I see shit on the internet like if it ain’t got RZA tracks on it, if RZA don’t do the whole album, it’s gonna be trash. It’s like, well goddam, man. Have I ever spit something that you wanted to repeat, or have you ever quoted a line from one of my rhymes like you was talking in a casual fucking conversation? Give me a fucking break here. I be in that studio racking my brains to make two words rhyme together as well as say some shit in between those two words that make sense. And then, on top of that, transition between those two words to forming words into a sentence that has something to do with what I just fucking said. You know how much work go into that shit? And then to be understood over all that? You know how much work it take to do all that shit? That’s why I’m like, yo, if you can’t write no motherfucking rhymes, you shouldn’t even be trying to tell me I can’t bark. Saying he just doesn’t make good songs; I’ll go for that shit because a lot of dudes can rhyme they ass off, but they don’t rhyme to make songs. But don’t just outright say a dude can’t spit. Because then it’s like, oh, you not feeling where I’m coming from? Fuck you.
One thing I wanted to ask about was your writing process. Like when it’s time to write a song, do you just sit down at your desk with a pen and just do it?
Well, first of all, I ain’t got a desk. I get my son’s little radio, my little CDs. People be giving me beat CDs, and I just sit down and start writing, whatever I’m feeling at that time. But then you get sidetracked with a lot of other shit. There’s shit like homework, and then there’s video games and shit. Other shit too. My son like to fuck with me when I’m writing. But when you got it, you got it. When that pen start flowing, ain’t nothing going to stop it. With the “Things They Say” record, that’s the simplest shit right there. It was like I’m going for what I’m feeling right now rather than just trying to finesse the words. I’m going to throw my little cliches and things of that nature in there but at the same time keep it simple. Now, if people judge my writing skill based on that record, my lyrical skill based on that record, I’m not going to be totally mad at them, but know this: I’m way better than that.
But it’s a great record.
Yeah, but as far as finessing, I taught a lot of motherfuckers how to rhyme indirectly, and what I mean by that is flow-wise. You can’t all sound the same. And sometimes when singers write to music, they write melodies. They hum a melody first, and then they put words to it. It should be the same way when you write your motherfucking rhymes. You should never spit the same on every joint. I remember Lord Finesse had a album out, and Lord Finesse was that dude. But after a while of playing that album over, it was like damn, he rhymed the same on every fucking song. It got to the point where you get tired of it. Das EFX, same shit. And I’m not saying Lord Finesse ain’t dope or Das EFX ain’t dope because I love both them. But you got to switch that shit up. I should teach Flow 101 because a lot of motherfuckers can’t flow. And transitions? Forget about it. Dudes don’t transition at all. They fucked up; they all over the fucking place with it.
So you do the thing where you figure out the cadence first?
Exactly. The cadence and the sound before I put the words to it. I may hum a few lines to myself. Any real dope MC does it like that. But then there are times where you don’t have any music, you don’t want to write any music, you just want to put your thoughts down. That’s a whole different level right there. And then there’s the Jay-Z way of doing it where it’s all inside the head. When you on that level, it’s like you a martian. Straight up and down, you a alien, motherfucker. You killing them.
Do you ever do it like that, inside your head?
Nah. I smoke too much weed for that shit. It’s like when I’m writing the rhyme I forget the last rhyming word sometimes. I got to jot it down on the side and make a note of it so I don’t forget it.
Now Redman: it seems like Def Jam’s kind of forgotten about him. I haven’t seen his name on a release calendar in a long time.
No, they haven’t forgotten about him. I thought they forgot about me and shit. But I don’t know, it’s like when you get the changing of the guard and the artist has been there eight or nine years, things tend to happen like that, especially when you got new people coming in and it’s all this new blood. I mean, they know you from when they were like sixteen years old. It’s ten years now, they twenty-six and they working at the label now. To them, you’re old school. And they’re not as enthusiastic about your shit as a younger artist who’s just coming through and has a bigger buzz. You’re not as high profile as them. But they’re not taking nothing away from Redman because the streets love Red and they always will. They know they need him; that’s why he’s still there.
Are you doing a video for “Things They Say”?
I don’t want to, but yeah, I think they’re going to do a video.
That’s not up to you?
You don’t run from a hit record; that’s what I learned in this business. And if a record is a hit, you go for it, see how it pan out for itself.
Do you think it’s a hit?
Apparently the record label does. Yeah, I thought it was a hit when I did it, but I didn’t think it was a first single. It’s a certain pattern that a lot of labels, in New York at least, go through when it come to albums. They don’t always go for the radio joint. It’s a lot of other heavy shit on the album, but they always seem to go for that radio joint. I hate to say it, but it’s killing us.
Do you feel like it’s a misrepresentation?
Not exactly because you wrote it and it represents you, but you can’t come out of the gate with stuff like that. You got to, I hate to say it, but you got to give people something that they can shake they ass to, and then you let them think about it afterwards. It’s like certain R&B artists, they always come out with the upbeat shit, and then they hit you with the love ballad on the second joint. It’s just how it works. I don’t know why it’s different now, but I just felt like this one should be a little bit further down the line. I thought it was a potential Grammy winner, or Grammy nominee at least. But it caught on, and the reason it did was because it was leaked, and I know why it was leaked.
That’s the song that the label wanted to release, so they leaked it. I’m not mad at them, though. It’s definitely a blessing in disguise. If you’ve been out of the loop for so long, it’s good to say something that mean something. A lot of people respect the record.
Do you think there’s going to be a new Wu-Tang album?
I hope so.
That’s what everyone says.
We need the right representation, though.
You feel like that’s not something that you have now?
No, or else we wouldn’t be where we’re at right now.
Back in the beginning when everyone signed to separate labels and it was really unique at the time, this thing that had never been done, do you think it caused fractures within the group?
Of course, it’s like being with a bunch of solo artists trying to get back in the group thing, going on the road by yourself and then trying to blend your show with nine other people now. It was a gift and a curse, like Jay said. Not too many people can say they changed the game, but we really did change the game. After that, people were asking for Wu-Tang deals. But shit, man. The results are right in front of your face. You see for what it is right now. I mean, Ghost gets all the praises, and the rest of us get shitted on.
How do you feel like that came to pass?
Well, consistency is one thing. He didn’t miss a step. Even if he didn’t have the RZA beats, he had dudes that made beats that sound like RZA shit. And whether you knew it or not, Ghost never had a machine behind him. It was what he felt, the vibe, so that’s why the earlier albums are like that. But the later-on albums, when he had the machine behind him, he sold less records. On the earlier albums, he sold more records. Now he’s selling less records because he got the machine behind him. It’s, like, being tainted. I don’t know how it happens, but it does. You become your own worst enemy.
Do you think that’s happened across the board, people getting machines behind them and doing things differently than at the beginning?
I don’t know, man. Shit, The Jeffersons used to be funny as hell when it first came on, but after a while, the shit got corny. Same thing with Good Times. They just take the flavor out of shit after a while. But people just get used to you or tired of you. I hate to say it.
I saw you do a show a couple of months ago, the Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey with all the rock bands. You were the only rapper on the bill.
I know, and I had to go out there and earn it. Those are some of the hardest crowds, especially when it’s just rock and roll. But those were the hair bands. These new hair bands. You see these fucking fags? Man, these dudes walking around with the eyeliner, the blush, the gloss, the hair. Anyway. What was you going to say?
Well, it seems like you’ve done a few shows like this, and shows at colleges. It seems like you’re reaching outside your comfort zone.
Yeah, definitely. And that’s because a lot of down South shit has taken over now; it’s hard for us to get shows. When your first choice is these dudes, they gonna go get that money. I ain’t got no problem with that; that shit is real. I commend them for coming up. Me on the other hand? Shit. I’m going where the dough at too. I love to perform. I just gotta push these records out faster.
Voice review: Dream Hampton on Method Man’s Tical 2000: Judgement Day