August 29, 2007

Method Man & Redman - Blackout! (September 28, 1999)

In 1994, the marketing minds at Def Jam promoted October as the "Month Of The Man", ostensibly to market two separate artists with the word "man" in their names, but it also served as a cost-cutting measure, since one ad in The Source to promote two separate albums was less expensive than taking up two ad slots. The problem with this idea was that it indicated "Month Of The Man" was the name of an actual album by Reggie Noble and Clifford Smith, which left hip hop fans confused. Considering that, at this point, Meth and Red hadn't even collaborated once together, it was a leap of imagination for anyone to consider a collaborative effort, but after the soundtrack to the hip hop documentary The Show hit the streets, fans took a second look at the ads and demanded an album by America's Most Blunted (their words, not mine).

I remember seeing these ads in The Source myself, and I don't recall there being any mention of the actual albums being promoted, Tical and Dare Iz A Darkside, two albums that, on first listen, sound completely different, but after a few spins connect very nicely with their lighthearted raps and dark production. Def Jam pulled off a very savvy move; it essentially promoted an album five full years before its release, and let the momentum build, with their "How High" from The Show, and then with guest appearances on both their own albums and on other people's records. This partnership would prove lucrative for the two artists, who are actually good friends in real life, and that friendship is what made How High (the movie), Meth & Red (the TV show), and Blackout! believable and entertaining.

Blackout!, their first (and to date, only) collaborative effort (the soundtrack to How High doesn't count), sold over one million copies in less than three months, paving the way for the movies and TV shows, and inadvertently killing their solo careers for the short term. The next albums by both rappers both sounded awful, and their sales and marketability suffered; were it not for their collaborations with their respective groups (Wu-Tang Clan and Def Squad, for the uninitiated), they may as well have fallen off of the face of the planet (and in the Def Jam offices, they actually did fall off the planet, or at least, off of their release schedules). The instant success of Blackout!, followed by their defeats (poor album sales, Meth & Red being cancelled), brought everything into full, albeit hazy, focus for the two biggest potheads in rap, and this newfound focus allowed them to create new, critically acclaimed albums in 2006 and 2007 that, once again, failed miserably on the charts, but now the rappers are in the position of living legends who have earned their respect in the game. And that's always a good place to be.

A word of caution: Red and Meth decided to fuck with consumers inside the album booklet. All nineteen tracks are listed with their credits, but they are all out of order. The tracklisting provided below is in the correct sequence. I bring this up because I just noticed that my Windows Media Player is listing the tracks in the order they appear inside the booklet.

1. A SPECIAL JOINT (INTRO)
Rap album intro. Yawn.

2. BLACKOUT!
A better way to introduce your album, with a bouncy Erick Sermon beat and imaginative lyrics.

3. MI CASA
The camera sound effects integrated in the beat sounded goofy in 1999, but now they sound alright. Too bad the chorus sucks.

4. Y.O.U.
I actually really like this song, with the so-called "Electric Relaxation" vocal sample (actually from an interlude between "Electric Relaxation" and "Clap Your Hands" on A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders) and the bouncy beat from E-Double. By the way, that Erick Sermon production thing? Pretty consistent throughout the album. I know, right?

5. 4 SEASONS (FEAT JA RULE & LL COOL J)
The only way I can rationalize why James Todd Smith and fucking Ja Rule appear on this album is that (a) they are both Def Jam artists, just like Red and Meth, (b)as such, Def Jam probably forced them to promote both Ja and LL, and (c) Erick Sermon had produced tracks for all four artists involved at some point. If you skip Ja Rule's verse (which is conveniently placed last), the song isn't horrible. Mr. Smith proves himself admirably.

6. CEREAL KILLER (FEAT BLUE RASPBERRY)
Funny. This doesn't sound like a Rza beat, but it's right there in the credits. Huh. Redman's first verse is freaking hilarious. You just have to hear it to understand; just typing the lyrics wouldn't do justice to his delivery. Meth being outshined by Reggie over a Rza beat can't be a good thing for the suits at Wu headquarters. Take that however you like.

7. DA ROCKWILDER
The song that jump-started Rockwilder's career as a hip hop producer, which lasted for exactly twelve minutes. (Where's he at now? Did that Christina Aguilera song kill off his buzz? Because that song wasn't horrible.) I still love the shout-out to Cypress Hill at the end of this short track, as Cypress have passed their blunt torches to the Cheech and Chong of rap, and disappeared from relevancy. (Where are they at now?)

8. TEAR IT OFF
I believe this was the first single, which sounded like every other Erick Sermon-produced track in 1999, so back then I pretty much ignored it. Listening to it now, it has a nostalgic late-nineties feel that is sorely lacking from any Erick Sermon track released today. Vanglorious.

9. WHERE WE AT (SKIT)
Redman's solo albums always come with multiple skits, so why shouldn't Blackout! do the same? I guess cassette tapes were still readily available in late 1999, sice Reggie introduces listeners to "side 2" of "the Blackout! tape" here.

10. 1,2,1,2
E-Double tags in DJ Scratch and sits out this round. With this opportunity, Scratch produces a track that could easily be confused with a Sermon beat in a Pepsi Challenge. And wow, that Buddy Lee reference is dated. Does anyone even remember those commercials?

11. MAAAD CREW
Not content with sitting on the sidelines, Erick Sermon returns for an 'encore' of sorts, before sitting out the rest of the album (the final three tracks are Erick Sermon productions, but they are all taken from previously released albums.) Probably the weakest Sermon track here, and Meth doesn't sound especially good over slower tracks like this.

12. RUN 4 COVER (FEAT GHOSTFACE KILLAH & STREET LIFE)
A depressing listen, in that the second of two Rza productions adopts his "digital orchestra" bullshit sound instead of dusting off some beats from the 36 chambers. To the amazement of nobody, Reggie proves he is able to rhyme to almost any beat, even something by The Rza, so he comes off well here. And Meth should receive kudos for finding a way to get his weed carrier Street Life on this album. Oh, and Ghost is on here, too.

13. THE ? (FEAT MISSY ELLIOT)
Redman decides that he can produce his own fucking songs, thank you very much. Missy's appearance isn't much more than her saying "Hey!" once, and Reggie looping it into the beat. Not bad, but I could have done without the Ja Rule vocal sample, since now I want to slice my ears off with a potato peeler.

14. DAT'S DAT SHIT (FEAT JAMAL a/k/a MALLY G & YOUNG ZEE)
Former child rapper Jamal (formerly of the short-lived duo Illegal, with Mr. Malik) turned Def Squad weed carrier appears along with Cheech and Reggie on a Mathematics beat that sounds more Wu than any Rza track here. An uncredited Young Zee (of The Outsidaz, a/k/a Rah Digga's baby daddy) provides the hook, and since I've liked Young Zee ever since his appearance on The Fugees's "Cowboys", I actually like this song, even with the same word misspelled twice in a row in the title.

15. CHEKA
Reggie's boy Gov Mattic provides a great beat for Red and Meth to spit over. Meth sounds reinvigorated here, providing his best vocals for the entire album.

16. FIRE INA HOLE
Meh.

17. WELL ALL RITE CHA
This song is actually a loaner from Redman's Doc's Da Name 2000, a solo album which I haven't gotten around to reviewing yet. If Def Jam's idea was to take a track from both Red and Meth that featured the other artist, I would have personally gone with "Do What Ya Feel" from Reggie's Muddy Waters, which is a better song, even if it is produced by Pras (of all people). Taken as is, though, this song is catchy enough.

18. BIG DOGS
Conversely, this song is borrowed from Meth's Tical 2000: Judgement Day. I already wrote about this track in my review for that album, so I'll just say this: I've heard better from Meth, and Reggie steals the show as always.

19. HOW HIGH (REMIX)
The album credits say "remix", but this is really just the album version taken from The Show soundtrack. Remember when I wrote about The Show, and complained how the version of "How High" on the album wasn't the same as the video version? Yeah. That song. Still a good song, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS: For a Wu-Tang solo album, Blackout! is fucking awful. However, for a Redman album, it's not bad. Wu heads were angry upon this album's release because it sounds more like a Def Squad album then they believed it should. Well, nearly half of the tracks were produced by Erick Sermon, so you shouldn't really be surprised. I was disappointed that The Rza only saw fit to provide two tracks, neither of which sound like Wu-Tang, but if you look at this like a Redman side project and not one for Meth, you'll walk away a better person for it.

BUY OR BURN? Redman lives up to his self-professed "eleventh member of the Wu-Tang Clan" moniker, so based on that alone, you should pick this album up. If you're a bigger Method Man fan than Reggie, you'll be shocked to learn that you'll switch sides after a few listens.

BEST TRACKS: "Y.O.U."; "Cereal Killer"; "Da Rockwilder"; "Blackout!"; "Cheka"; "Dat's Dat Shit"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Method Man - Tical
Method Man - Tical 2000: Judgement Day
Redman - Whut? Thee Album
Redman - Dare Iz A Darkside

10 comments:

  1. wierd how you've basically went through the whole review saying how great redman is and then in the conclusion you imply that his solo albums are largely shit. I completely disagree. Muddy Waters & Dare Iz A Darkside are classics. And all the rest are solid to the core excthe newest one, which is garbage.

    Mind you I'm biased, I played this album to death for about 6 months when it came out so I won't have a bad word said against it.

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  2. ay nice post...good breakdown of the album...i like that one a lot...anyways, thanks for the add and comment on the blog, i hope you enjoy it and i live up to your expectations

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  3. I came home from work when i first heard their blackout single, i put the carspeakers to the max and sat in front of my garage till the song was done, neighbours probably thought I was going berserk or sth ...
    I liked about half of the album but was a bit dissapointed in the Erick sermon produced tracks (except the single) they sounded all mediocre and too polished , too neat, too clean, you know ?
    I did like that cerial killer track and offcourse the rockwilder and checka .
    Had the same feeling about "doc's da name" too, nice songs here and there, great lyrics and flow but productionwise ... not that feel from the older stuff from E double, all too clean, don't know how to describe it really ... any ideas Max to help me out ? lol

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  4. Great review, Max. I enjoyed this album. I was very disappointed to learn that the original version of How High was not on this album. I had to end up getting the How High soundtrack.

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  5. Good album! I loved it. Cereal Killer being my favourite track on there.

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  6. AnonymousJuly 22, 2009

    ur a dumb shit arent u, i listened to the album alot of times and ur telling me that method man sucked big time here?????? shut the fuck up

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  7. method man sucked ass here?? do me a favor and cut off your ears, seriusly you internet reviewers make me laugh alot

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  8. Ja rule killed 4 seasons and so did ll, dude dont be fucking hater

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    Replies
    1. Ja Rule sure did kill it, dead. Track is worthless thanks to him

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  9. AnonymousMay 03, 2014

    Some motherfuckers have absolutely NO business writing rhymes.

    Such as fucking Ja Rule.

    Would fit perfectly with the YMCMB Posse. Seeing as they too can't rhyme to save their irrelevant fucking lives.

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