The Meth Lab (to be released August 21, 2015)
Method Man might be the greatest rapper to never give us a classic solo LP.
Now I’d never question Mr. Meth’s legacy — his voice has been part of some of the greatest rap records ever recorded. Along with his Wu-Tang Clan brethren, his lyrics revolutionized hip-hop in the 90s, giving us game-changing landmarks like Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Wu-Tang Forever. And that’s not even counting endless guest verses on rap and R&B records, along with his collabos with fellow buddha brother Redman.
The man’s credentials are unmatched, but besides his strong debut Tical, Meth’s solo discography has always left a lot to be desired. The Meth Lab, Meth’s first solo album in nearly a decade, doesn’t aim to be a modern day classic though, instead it seems to simply cement Meth as one of NYC’s elite MCs.
And that’s fine. The problem is, we don’t hear enough of Meth.
On the album “Intro,” Meth makes the album’s intentions clear — this is a showcase of Staten Island talent, recorded in SI and speaking for SI. Over the albums 19 tracks (!!!) Meth shares the mic with nearly two dozen artists, mainly longtime cohort Streetlife and Hanz On (aka, the guy who punched out Joe Budden for Raekwon).
That doesn’t mean Meth gets overshadowed. The second he makes his presence felt on the threatening title track, he proves that NO ONE rides a beat like the Iron Lung. “All that pretty boy rap ain’t where I’m really at,” Meth spits on “2 Minutes of Your Time,” the only solo offering on the album. There’s no emo beats here — and not once will you hear MUSTARD ON THE BEAT HO. It’s wall-to-wall gritty boom-bap.
And, as I mentioned before, Meth has lots of help here. The Wu is in the building for “The Purple Tape,” where Rae and Inspectah Deck turn the clock back to 1995, with Deck dropping and especially fiery verse. Redman proves he’s still got a Hefty bag full of punchlines on “Straight Gutta” (“everything dirty, wear a rubber for the come-up”) and of all the new voices scattered throughout the album, I thought iNTeLL showed the most promise on “Intelligent Meth.”
Still, the album’s main drawback is its massive scope. The ever-present gritty production starts to wear thin about midway through the album, that’s why the aggressive guitar on “Soundcheck” and the Asian feel of “So Staten” is such a welcome departure. Even the sinister yet soothing “Water” maintains the dark mood without sounding like Hood Mixtape Beat #345. Also, the crushing number of guests — most tracks feature at least three features — bogs down the flow, especially when some guests can’t keep up with the star attraction.
And speaking of the star, Meth’s star power really shines on every track. For instance, “What You Getting Into” nearly lulled me to sleep until Meth pops up to bombard the beat as only he can. He’s still got it, there’s just not enough room on The Meth Lab for him to showcase it more.
Meth ends The Meth Lab with a promise that his long awaited Crystal Meth album is still on the way. Maybe that will be the solo album Meth truly deserves.
Best tracks: “Straight Gutta,” “Water,” “Soundcheck”
3 stars out of 5