May 20, 2009

My Gut Reaction: Method Man & Redman - Blackout! 2 (May 19, 2009)

I know, Max ran out to pick up a Wu-Tang Clan-related album the week of its release? How shocking! But you all saw this coming, anyway, so you two just need to play along.

Ten years after releasing their original collaborative effort Blackout!, Method Man and Redman (finally) bring us the long-awaited, awkwardly-exclaimed Blackout! 2. Unlike the first album, which at least pretended to be a Wu-Tang Clan/Def Squad presentation (with the ball falling into Reggie's court more so than Meth), Blackout! 2 doesn't include any Rza involvement at all. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if The Rza wasn't aware of this recording until he walked into Best Buy yesterday morning on his way to the grocery store to pick up some more honey to dip his blunts in.

Anyway, Def Jam Records reintroduces Clifford Smith and Reggie Noble, two elder statesmen of hip hop, into an environment where nobody really gives a fuck about either rapper. They have their fans (like myself), but they reenter a rap climate that has changed drastically in the past decade (which was also my complaint regarding Eminem's Relapse). This may help explain why Def Jam's marketing department decided to release three singles from the project at once: "Mrs. International" (the song for the ladies), "City Lights" (the track for the stoners), and "A Yo" (the song purportedly for "real" hip hop heads, featuring production from Pete Rock, himself a hip hop elder as well). The liner notes all approach My Bloody Valentine 3-D territory, which I don't really mind, since that movie was hilariously awful, but the fact that, underneath the CD tray, the label markets the fact that you can buy ringtones of all of the songs involved on Blackout! 2 scares me more than a little.

Fingers crossed!

1. BO2 (INTRO)
Red and Meth spit a verse apiece over this Allah Mathematics beat, making this the only semi-Wu instrumental on all of Blackout! 2. Good to see they got it out of the way. Reggie outraps his smoking partner, as he usually does anyway, but Meth sounds rejuvenated, excited by the prospect that his rap career may actually pick up again, and his attitude is contagious.

2. I'M DOPE N---A
I thought the stupid title was going to foreshadow a horrible song, but guess what? I loved this shit. Havoc's beat is the best thing I've heard from the non-imprisoned half of Mobb Deep in a long time, and both Red and Meth rip it to shreds. This would make some dope entrance music for either rapper. Or even for myself.

3. A-YO (FEAT SAUKRATES)
The Saukrates hook leads me to believe that Nate Dogg, an obvious influence, was simply unavailable. Upon its release, "A-Yo" never really impressed me, regardless of the pedigree of Peter Rockingham behind the boards, but within the context of the album, I still don't like it.

4. DANGEROUS MCEES
Standard Erick Sermon instrumental work, although it still sounds good. The hook sucks (seriously, whenever I wrote about a rap song, which is about 90% of the time, you should just assume that the chorus is terrible, unless I say otherwise), but it's good to hear both Red and (especially) Method Man ripping shit as if it were still the mid-1990s. Ah, those were the days.

5. ERRBODY SCREAM (FEAT KEITH MURRAY)
I give credit to producer Swiff D for trying something different, but no matter how hype the lyrical delivery of the three emcees sound, the slowdown during the hook is unsettling. Anybody else think it was a bit awkward for Def Jam to acknowledge Keith Murray (he of the "allegedly assaulting the Def Jam street team" infamy) and his contribution?

6. HEY ZULU
I liked this song, up until the lame-ass chorus. Reggie and Meth sound energized, though. With this kind of hustle, they may just get How High 2 greenlit yet, regardless of studio involvement. At least the soundtrack would probably be decent.

7. CITY LIGHTS (FEAT BUN B)
Sounds very much like Big Boi's "Kryptonite (I'm On It)": it took me a bit to separate the memory of the old song with the existence of this one. Especially since they're both about the same subject matter. Method Man sounds entirely out of his element, which will make listeners uncomfortable, but Reggie manages to adapt well, and Bub B (from UGK) is right at home: the contributions from those two help negate Clifford Smith completely, making for an enjoyable listen. Pimp C, rest in peace.

8. FATHER'S DAY
Method Man clearly had something to prove on Blackout! 2, as he pulls the rug right up from under Reggie lyrically. This song starts off sounding like an out-of-place interlude, but everything falls into place rather nicely. As long as they don't shoot a video dressed up as Robin Williams and Billy Crystal, we're good.

9. MRS. INTERNATIONAL (SKIT) (FEAT TANISHA GREEN, MICHELLE PINCKNEY, & SAUKRATES)
Kind of goofy, but like all skits involving Reggie Noble, I can see this becoming less funny with each listen.

10. MRS. INTERNATIONAL (FEAT ERICK SERMON)
Maybe I'm just not remembering correctly, but I don't recall the original Blackout! requiring a song for the ladies. I don't know whose idea it was to have Erick Sermon (a) not produce the track, and (b) actually sing on the hook, but the gamble works. This is wholly pleasant, in a "I probably wouldn't listen to it often, but I wouldn't change the station if, somehow, Meth and Red pulled off the impossible and managed to get on the radio in my neck of the woods" kind of way.

11. HOW BOUT DAT (FEAT READY ROC & STREETLIFE)
Did Icarus and Redman have a falling out that I'm not aware of? That's the only reason I can think of that justifies Ready Roc's new position as go-to weed carrier and kidney donor alongside Meth's longtime candle warmer Streetlife. This is not to say that he sounds bad, though: this shit is actually pretty enjoyable, thanks to the focus of all four rappers involved. The hook is a bit corny, though. I laughed out loud when Reggie shouted "I'm the boss!", though, thanks to the goddamn Lonely Island CD. Come to think of it, Blackout! 2 would probably go nicely with a bottle of Santana DVX.

12. DIZ S IZ 4 ALL MY SMOKERS
I picture an all-star pothead remix of this laid-back track, performed possibly to raise funds to post bail when Tommy Chong eventually gets arrested again. The sudden change of pace during the hook is jarring, but otherwise, this isn't bad.

13. LOCK DOWN (SKIT) (FEAT DJ KAY SLAY, C.O. ELLIS, & READY ROC)
...

14. FOUR MINUTES TO LOCK DOWN (FEAT RAEKWON & GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
The only song on Blackout! 2 to feature other members of the Clan and they couldn't even find a leftover True Master beat to rock over? This was kind of majorly fucking disappointing. The rappers all lack commitment, Raekwon's narcoleptic ass especially. (Anyone still looking forward to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2? Because, sadly, I still am.) Meth's line "next to Rza, ain't no n---a bigger than the group" is interesting, especially since he makes that point on a song featuring two members of his group who publicly complained about The Rza during the recording of 8 DIagrams (an album I still like today).

15. NEVA HERD DIS B4
Once again, Reggie refers to himself as the "eleventh member of [the] Wu-Tang [Clan]". It must be an honorary title, kind of like the "Ph.D in Bloggerology" I received from Arizona State University last year. Let me tell you, that thing gets you out of maaad speeding tickets, yo.

16. I KNOW SUMPTN (FEAT POO BEAR)
Redman is one of the few rappers I like who can attempt a club banger and not have to compromise his flow. (Even when he works with Christina Aguilera, with a song that is a guilty pleasure, and not just because of her assless chaps, he still comes off as Reggie fucking Noble.) King David's beat fit the man like a glove, and Meth sounds, well, at least he saw fit to show up that day.

17. A LIL' BIT (FEAT MELANIE RUTHERFORD)
Good to see Reggie throwing his Gilla House studio singer some work. The production proves that hip hop hasn't really been missing Rockwilder's sound (he co-produces this track with Chris n Teeb, two other producers that you'll probably never hear from again), This is easily the worst song on Blackout! 2, but considering the fact that this is also the last song on Blackout! 2, the pain subsides faster than you would think.

THE LAST WORD: I'm not sure who Def Jam thinks the audience for Blackout! 2 is, but this album is deserving of one. It's nowhere near as consistent as Blackout!, but it hits many high points, thanks to the professionalism of both Redman and Method Man. One wishes the production was on par with the talent that Reggie and Clifford still possess (today's rappers could learn a lot from these two stoners: maybe all the weed keeps them focused?), but even still, I enjoyed this throwback to a golden era more so that Relapse. This disc is destined to be overshadowed by Marshall Mathers, but you should still go to the store and support the arts. There's a two-disc version that includes a DVD or something: that version was sold out when I hit the stores, so I couldn't tell you what appears on it, but either way, Red and Meth have garnered enough goodwill in the past two decades to earn your money.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Wu-Tang Clan posts? Def Squad write-ups? Max has them.

15 comments:

  1. Definitley a more enjoyable listen than relapse.

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  2. wtf?? 4 Minutes for Lockdown was definitely one of the best joints off the album! matter of fact, i liked the whole thing from start to finish... maybe your standards are too damn high if you ask me. lol

    btw: don't waste your time with that new Busta Rhymes album. definitely a let-down except some tracks... =/

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  3. I'm no hip-hop expert and I'm definitely a novice listener, but I thought this shit was awesome.

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  4. I agree for the most part, except I really wasn't feeling I'm Dope and I felt 4 Minutes To Lockdown was better than you said although I will agree with its energy problem

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  5. im still lookin forward to cuban linx 2. supposedly its coming out august 11, but i won't believe it until im unwrapping it and putting it in my cd player

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  6. Also felt like 4 Minutes was pretty solid and I think the beat is a pretty nice throwback to standard Rae/Ghost material.

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  7. RingpeaceMay 21, 2009

    I like some of the songs on the album, but I don't know...It doesn't really FEEL like Red&Meth, and that auto tune...not feeling it at all

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  8. How many times did you link to Amazon in the context of this post?
    8 or 9...

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  9. This is a smoothie, the more you listen to it the better it gets imo !

    As far as I know the two disc version just included Black out cd from 10 years ago , Max. Don't think there was a DVD included.

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  10. Best album of '09
    please tel me if im wrong

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  11. o snap, 4got Ecstatic technically dropped in '09
    MA BAD!!! ^_^ Blackout!2 still goes hard tho ^_^

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  12. This was a surprisingly good album.. i think it's very under-rated.. and it's true when critics say the album sounded as if it was released after the first blackout! my favorite tracks "City Lights" & "4 minutes to Lockdown" i think deserve recognition on todays mainstream radio and video outlets. Honestly that prolly won't happen. The only tracks i really feel like they should have thrown away was "Mrs. International" and the last 3 tracks. Overall a 4/5 album.

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  13. I shall bury Meth & Red by watching How High and listening to... Well, How High. And some other songs.

    It's impossible for me to find ANY respect for ANY artist that has used auto-tune, as Red & Meth now have. Which is sad because Red & Meth have always been up there for me. I shall shed a tear at some point for them.

    Well, at least we still have the old shit. No need to pay any attention to auto-tuner bullshit.

    Now playing: Wu-Tang Clan - Method Man

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  14. I thought this album was pretty great. everyone seems to be complaining about the auto-tune, which i usually hate, but i gotta say it sounded pretty good on reggie in "city lights".

    Unrelated, but I dont know if you guys ever listen to devin the dude, because if you dont, u should check his shit out and do some reviews. Another awesome stoner rapper. "Waitin to inhale" and "Just trying to live" are probably his best albums

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  15. smoking copious amounts of weed makes you a better musician, not just rappers (Red, Meth, 2pac, Krayzie Bone, Cypress Hill etc.) can attest to this but many musicians e.g. Beatles, Korn, Deftones, Stone Roses, etc.

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