When a bumped phone interview with hip-hop legend and putf8um artist Method Man mushroomed into a proposed
backstage post-show encounter, I naturally jumped at the chance.
Being a devotee of the ultimately more funk-based grooves of Bay Area hip-hop, I tend not to pay
attention to the doings of NYC, and I can’t claim to have ever followed the Wu-Tang Clan in general or Meth
in particular, though I have always admired both from afar. Yet one needn’t follow the Big Apple's scene in
great detail to appreciate its impact, and with Meth’s successful film and TV career, most recently as a recurring character in this season of HBO’s cop drama The Wire, one needn’t even listen to hip-hop anymore
to appreciate his.
This situation is exactly what’s troubling Method Man. His very success in the cultural mainstream, he
feels, has been held against him by the hip hop-industry, a curious situation considering
mainstream success is the perceived goal and direct subject matter of most raps these days. Unlike the
recent fashion among rappers like Andre3000 to pooh-pooh their interest in music in favor of their
“acting career,” Meth wants to be known primarily as an MC. But Hollywood success has proved to be a
slippery slope, paved by Ice-T and Ice Cube -- each in his turn the most terrifying, authentic street rapper
imaginable -- to the end of your hit-making potential in hip-hop.
Couple this perception with Meth’s vocal challenges of the effect of corporate media consolidation, and it’s
not difficult to imagine why Def Jam released his fourth solo album, 4:21: The Day After, without a peep
at the end of August, as if the label had written him off despite his track record of one gold and two
Still, no one who’s heard the angry, defiantly shitkicking 4:21 (executive produced by the RZA, Erick
Sermon, and Meth himself) or saw the show Meth put on that evening (leaping from the stage to the bar and
running across it by way of introduction, later executing a backwards handspring from the stage into the crowd by way of ending) could possibly doubt his vitality as an MC. He put on a long, exhausting show,
heavy with new material, that utterly rocked the packed house.
Shortly after the show ended, I was brought backstage by Meth’s road manager, 7, to a tiny corridor of a
dressing room crammed with various hangers on. A man in a warm-up suit with a towel over his head was
sitting alone on a short flight of steps in the center of the room.
“That’s him,” 7 said, before disappearing to take care of other business.
It was like being sent to introduce yourself to a boxer who’d just finished a successful but punishing
brawl. The face that looked up at my inquiry was that of a man who’d retreated somewhere far away into
himself, requiring a momentary effort to swim to the surface. Quite suddenly I found myself face to face
with Method Man, whose presence immediately turned all heads in the room our way as he invited me to sit down
for a brief discussion of his new album and his dissatisfaction with his treatment by the music
SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN: I read the statement on your Web site [www.method-man.com] in which you
discuss your problems with the industry. Could you describe the problems you’ve been having?
METHOD MAN: My big problem with the industry is the way they treat hip-hop artists as opposed to artists
in other genres. Hip-hop music, they treat it like it's fast food. You get about two weeks of promotion
before your album. Then you get the week of your album, then you get the week after, then they just
leave you to the dogs.
Whereas back in the day, you had artists in development, a month ahead of time before you even
started your campaign, to make sure that you got off on the right foot.
Nowadays it’s like there’s nobody in your corner anymore. Everybody’s trying to go into their own
little club, for lack of a better word. Everybody has their own little cliques now.