"I still got a dark cloud over me," Method Man announces. "Shit is fucked up, man."
The Wu-Tang MC has had a rough year. Along with the career doldrums he's been stuck in lately, his trademark bejeweled ice pick broke; other pieces of his jewelry were stolen; and his Mercedes got jacked. Even worse, as Meth tells it, his Benz was stolen by a friend. "Motherfucker sold it for me and kept the money. I known him for like twelve years," says the Wu-Tang MC. "All I can do is shake my head. I even invited him to my wedding."
On an even more serious note, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat it into remission -- but now Meth is feuding with Wendy Williams after the New York radio personality made light of his wife's illness on the air. The rapper showed up at the station earlier this month to counter -- only to discover that Williams would not have him on her show. "My wife is one of the strongest people on the planet," says Meth. "I just want to make Wendy Williams aware of exactly what it felt like to be sitting in that hospital room, watching them pump this poison into the one you love."
But putting his troubles aside while rolling the 29,000th blunt of his life, Meth a.k.a. Tical a.k.a. Iron Lung shakes his head, shows glowing enthusiasm for his new album, 4:21 . . . The Day After, which drops August 29th.
While his last effort, 2004's Tical 0: The Prequel, was by no stretch a big seller, Meth attributes that shortcoming to P. Diddy's production, which he calls a bad fit. "I wasn't with Puff, I just got put with Puff for a second -- which was a mistake, 'cause Puff do what he do," he says. "He does records that make the world dance and sing, and I respect him. But as far as Puff messin' with Method Man -- nawww." For 4:21, the rapper's backing away from radio-friendly dance tunes. Handling the boards this time around are Erick "Green-Eyed Bandit" Sermon, Wu-Tang patriarch RZA and hitmaker Scott Storch, while guest shots come from Fat Joe, Ginuwine and (of course) Redman.
The stripped-down single "Say" (featuring Lauryn Hill) rips those who'd knock his last release. Meth croons, "The last album wasn't feelin' my style/This time my foot up in they ass/Bet they feelin' me now." Hill plays the three mellow guitar chords she knows, leaving plenty of room for the Ticallion Stallion to shine lyrically. It's actually quite soothing -- like listening to a Meth therapy session scored by Babyface.
At the other end of the album's spectrum is "Ya'meen" (featuring Styles P and Fat Joe), a goofy trunk-banger more in the realm of what we're expecting from Meth. It's big, crunchy digital organs and hand claps with the MC getting braggadocious. He's clearly having fun -- but the track slaps hard enough that it maintains some grime. He raps, "These trash talking artists is nothing/Niggas is garbage/When Meth strikes his target/Leave it dearly departed/This flow is clearly the hardest." It's classic battle rap -- but he's chuckling his way through the death threats.
Meth is all about this swing between the heavy and the comic. In a moment, he can go from writing a song about boycotting socks to dubbing the war in Iraq a precursor to World War III. But maybe Johnny Blaze, both the terrifying Wu-Tang rapper and the star of such frat-house fare as How High and Soul Plane, actually thrives on this, gets his humor from the dark side. On a dime, he turns from apocalyptic prophet to born salesman, playing a kind of hip-hop televangelist: "Would you like a personal relationship with Christ? Would you like to talk to Jesus Christ, I mean right here and right now? If you buy my album, 4:21, you could have a personal relationship with Christ!"
The Jesus jokes have him feeling more upbeat. What else is making him feel fine is the fact that, for whatever reason, a foolish young journalist has just challenged Method Man to an arm-wrestling match -- and lost.
"That's what men do!" he says like a champ. "We get beat down like Russell Crowe in Gladiator, and then we come back. Raaaoooowwrrrr!"