December 14, 2008

Method Man - 4:21... The Day After (August 29, 2006)


Method Man's third solo album, Tical 0: The Prequel, was met with some of the harshest criticism in the man's entire career. The disc was trashed six ways from Sunday, with complaints ranging from the horrible beats, poor (and odd) choice in guests, and sheer laziness on the part of the artist. However, it wasn't in Method Man's nature to give up completely. (Besides, he was still under contract with Def Jam: they wouldn't have let him go so easily, even if he wasn't making the money for the label that he used to.)

So, Method Man set about recording and releasing his fourth opus, 4:21... The Day After, named after the day after April 20, or 4/20, which is the national weed smoking day in certain circles. (No word on why the title of the album seems to be about a certain time of day rather than date.) Per Meth, the day after April 20th usually coincides with a moment of clarity, and it was in this mindset that he recorded a disc that had the Interweb bloggers throwing around the word "comeback" like a Nerf football.

4:21... The Day After almost seems to be the polar opposite of Tical 0: The Prequel, with many more contributions by The Rza (both behind the boards and on the mic) and some stepped-up lyricism from Clifford Smith himself. However, although a number of tracks were met with praise after leaking to the Interweb, none of the singles managed to chart (I can't even recall if Meth shot a video for any of these tracks), and the disc bombed almost as badly as Ishtar, although Def Jam was primarily to blame, since there was hardly any marketing budget utilized (remember, this was released around the time Jay-Z was still president of Def Jam).

Oh well. Maybe next time.

1. INTRO
When I went to that advance Pineapple Express screening I wrote about in May, the theater was playing the same documentary ("Marijuana", from The Educational Archives: Sex & Drugs, which was narrated by Sonny Bono in the most obvious case of court-ordered community service I've come across this week) that is sampled during the beginning of this rap album intro. (If you can track it down, the documentary is funny as hell, especially when you're stoned.) Meth then segues into an actual rap song, where he sounds as comfortable behind the mic as he did when the first Wu-Tang album dropped. This shit is just nice.

2. IS IT ME
And then we're quickly presented with this shit. Granted, this Scott Storch-produced turkey could have been a lot worse, but as it is, it won't ever be anybody's favorite Method Man song.

3. PROBLEM
I wasn't that impressed with this Erick Sermon-produced cut, either. I'm starting to question why I ever felt that 4:21... The Day After was a decent comeback vehicle for Johnny Blaze in the first place.

4. SOMEBODY DONE FUCKED UP
Havoc, of Mobb Deep, brings Meth an instrumental that is significantly lacking, but Meth's lyrics return to prominence (while he was never the best rapper, he's always been a good writer, and his delivery is undeniable when he's inspired). My favorite line, regardless of how fucked up it sounds, is "There ain't a pedophile that could fuck with the kid." Since "the kid" is obviously himself, this shit is hilarious. Also, creepy as fuck.

5. SHAOLIN SOLDIER (SKIT)
...

6. FALL OUT
Sounds like a rejected song from Tical 0: The Prequel. Which, considering how poorly that album sounded, means that this song is fucking awful. I'm talking Meth's-Jamaican-accent-in-The Wackness terrible here.

7. DIRTY MEF (FEAT OL' DIRTY BASTARD)
I always found it weird that both Erick Sermon and Wu-Element Mathematics share production credit on this track. Together, the two, along with Meth, work around some previously recorded Dirt McGirt lyrics (which also appeared on Dirty's Osirus, his posthumous mixtape, albeit in an incredibly fucked up fashion), and the end result sounds like a song that Dirth and Meth did together in the first place. The energy level is infectious, and Dirt's lyrics sound so much better over some name brand production.

8. 4:20 (FEAT STREETLIFE, CARLTON FISK, & THE RZA)
This shit is fucking epic in scope: it's easily the best song on the album, by far. It contains just the right amount of creepy (Rza's distorted vocals at the beginning and on the hook) and awesomeness (Rza and Kinetic's beat, which recalls early Tical; the guest spots from Streetlife and Carlton Fisk, which also recall Meth's debut album; Method Man's lyrics dancing around your ears like fucking Axl Rose). Hell, everything about this song is perfection. Yeah, I said it.

9. LET'S RIDE (FEAT GINUWINE)
I'm starting to believe that this album was sequenced by the order these tracks appeared on the engineer's iPod in 'shuffle'. How else can you explain the placement of a shitty love rap right after a hardcore weed song? Especially one with as generic a title as "Let's Ride"? Come on, Meth, you fucking know better.

10. THE GLIDE (FEAT RAEKWON, U-GOD, & LA THE DARKMAN)
The Rza reworks his own beat for the unreleased Ol' Dirty Bastard track "Skrilla" (off of the as-yet-unreleased A Son Unique disc), and almost as if he were throwing in an aside to the Wu-Tang fanatics, he lays in some ODB crooning onto the track itself, although the crooning didn't actually appear on "Skrilla". Anyway, while this isn't the best Wu-Tang posse cut on here, it still sounds good, as it should, since Wu-Tang posse cuts are traditionally the high points in these write-ups. Raekwon sounds slightly cognizant of his surroundings (read: he sounds awake), and La the Darkman handles hook duties, but the best part about this song has to be the fact that U-God has a short verse, but fails to receive any credit in the liner notes. He's not mentioned at all. Hilarious! Seriously, though, were things that bad between him and The Rza that Golden Arms would get fucked out of his publishing?

11. KIDS (SKIT)
...

12. GOT TO HAVE IT
Meh.

13. SAY (FEAT LAURYN HILL)
I never cared for this song when it originally leaked to the Interweb, and nothing has changed since. This track (produced by Erick Sermon) doesn't really feature Lauryn Hill: her vocals are taken from one of her lesser-known songs, "So Many Things To Say", not unlike what Kanye West did with the original version of "All Falls Down". Method Man seems to have reached a new level of bitterness, and yet, he is completely in the right: when you listen to his lyrics, you'll find yourself agreeing with his point of view more often than not. Except for when he tries to defend Tical 0: The Prequel. He'll probably lose my two readers after that point.

14. YA'MEEN (FEAT FAT JOE & STYLES P)
This song sounds like it would never appear on a Wu-Tang solo album under normal circumstances, and it turns out there's a reason why: shortly after 4:21... The Day After was released, Meth revealed that he never intended for there to be guests on this track, but after the disc was mastered, he found out that Def Jam had placed both Fat Joe and The Lox's Styles P onto the track without his permission. (Remember when artists used to collaborate in the studio, and not through the mail? Yeah, me neither.) Fat Joe tries to channel Eminem, of all people, for the majority of his verse, which is more than a bit unnerving, since Eminem isn't that great of a rapper anymore. Holiday Styles, however, manages to not embarrass himself, which is nice.

15. KONICHIWA BITCHES
A pretty uninspired Rza track serves as a verbal playground for Meth to fuck around on, with pretty decent results. The title, which was borrowed from one of the Gza's lines on Chappelle's Show, is hilarious, and remains so, even though Swedish pop singer Robyn had already used it as a title for one of her own songs prior to the release of this album.

16. EVERYTHING (FEAT INSPECTAH DECK & STREETLIFE)
This Wu-Tang posse cut works better than "The Glide", but it still isn't the best posse cut on here. Streetlife's hook is almost insulting in its stupidity, but the combination of Meth, Deck, and Street on verses make up for it in a big way. Curiously, in Deck's second bar, he seems to promise an appearance by Masta Killa, but Elgin never shows. I wonder what happened to his verse. Meth, any answers?

17. WALK ON (FEAT REDMAN)
Although it has happened in the past, Method Man and Reggie Noble rarely disappoint, and "Walk On" is a step in the right direction. Oddly, it took three separate producers to get this song to work (The Rza, Erick Sermon, and Versatile): considering the sound of this track seems to be pretty basic, I'm not sure why there were so many cooks in the kitchen (unless Rza and Sermon simply recorded their respective group member's lyrics and Versatile did the rest). Reggie, unsurprisingly, does not walk off with the song, since he has a tendency to see posse cuts as a group effort whenever he's working alongside the Wu or his Def Squad brethren.

18. PIMPIN' (SKIT)
I actually found one of Meth's lines on this otherwise useless skit pretty funny, See if you can guess which one.

19. PRESIDENTIAL M.C. (FEAT THE RZA & RAEKWON)
Now that's more like it! Rza provides yet another Tical-esque backdrop for Meth, (a sleepy) Rae, and himself to rip shit over, and the results are beyond outstanding. Where is that Method Man solo album that was supposed to be fully produced by Prince Rakeem? You know, the one that was allegedly completed but then Def Jam went in another direction for Tical 0: The Prequel?

20. 4 EVER (FEAT MEGAN ROCHELL)
This song has the stink of "Def Jam contractual obligation to be met prior to any consideration for an album release" all over it. The radio-friendly elements of the beat contrast greatly with the overall darker tone of the track, with disastrous results, but for what it is, it isn't bad, since Meth was always pretty decent with the love raps anyway. Hell, the guy won a Grammy for one of his love songs, so I guess he's comfortable with them.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 4:21... The Day After is not quite the return to form for Method Man as the Interweb may lead you to believe, with a pretty fucking awful set of songs during the first half, and Meth's propensity for making weird production choices doesn't help. Unlike his last failure of an album, though, 4:21... The Day After picks up on its second half, and there are enough genuine bangers on here (along with a couple of classic Wu songs that deserve their place in the canon) to help eradicate the memory of the bad ones. Overall, this was much more entertaining than his last disc. You can go ahead and call it a comeback.

BUY OR BURN? While it is far removed from the Wu-Tang sound of old (save for two songs), this shit is actually worth your money. There are a good number of songs on here that are worthy of a listen, and Method Man would surely appreciate the Def Jam residual checks.

BEST TRACKS: "4:20"; "Presidential M.C."; "Walk On"; "Everything"; "The Glide"; "Intro"; "Dirty Mef"; "The Glide"; "Konichiwa Bitches"

-Max

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4 comments:

  1. I dont know if you did this because of my request for this review on the side box about a month ago, but either way thanks, it was a good read.

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessDecember 15, 2008

    I have similar feelings about this album. Definitely a stark improvement over his previous release. I'm gonna jump on the bandwagon and say that Meth continued the improvement on through 8 Diagrams, where he was back to being witty and saying clever things in a basic way.

    Grand Puba? Ya ever heard of him, Max? Apparently he's one of Fred Flintstone's closest associates and is quite competent at rocking the microphone. I really just want you to review 2000, (perhaps some numerically titled stunt blogging?) but I won't get mad if you follow the format and start with Reel To Reel. Probably not, anyway.

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  3. good album! one of the best from 2006 IMO... or maybe i'm just saying that since i'm a huge Wu fan and all. lol i always felt that track with Ginuwine was kinda forced though.

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  4. i agree, better than previous album ( which was impossible to surpass in cornyness btw) but still not what we want to hear from Meth ... TOO MUCH COMMERCIAL SONGS STILL FORCED ONTO THIS DISC HERE , ... time for Meth to give Def Jam the middle finger and return to the grimey shit 100%

    PS If any of Max's readers lives nearby that guy that produced "fall out", then please pay him a visit ... I recommend a can of gasoline and a box of matches as a Xmas present for this "producer" !!!

    ReplyDelete