interview with method man / "instead of just being robots & following the program... they need to take their power back"

exclusive feature
Janelle Harris
The Liberator Magazine 6.1 #17, 2007


You hear him before you can see him. With that signature, ganja-induced raspiness, he interjects ad libs and background vocals from behind the 9:30 Club’s stage in Washington, D.C. Front and center, Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa are performing and although fans vibe through their medley of tracks and respect their rank as founding fathers of the Wu, it’s clear from the reaction of just hearing him that Mr.Meth is the man the people really want. He grunts--they scream. He coughs--they holler. “It’s the M-E-T-H-O-D Maaaannnn,” he teases, building up anticipation among the club’s near-capacity crowd. When he finally bursts out front, decked in a black bubble vest and Yankees cap, it’s hard to decipher who’s more excited--him or his audience. Two minutes into his high-intensity set, he’s already done a blind dive into the ecstatic masses and doused the front rows with a bottle of Dasani. “The energy that ya’ll give me, I’ma give that shit right back to ya’ll!” barks the Ticallion Stallion, prompting nearly 300 sets of frenzied arms to wild out in response. The crowd throws two-handed W’s into the air like it guarantees salvation, he initiates an emphatic chorus of “Fuck that shit!” that spreads from the balcony to the main floor, and it all makes for a magical night of real hip-hop and real live showmanship. Maybe Meth’s working overtime to disprove the string of critics who have used his last two albums as target practice. But something else says this dude just really loves what the hell he does. For his hour and a half segment of the show, he hops, jumps and twists his way through classics “What the Blood Clot” and “Method Man,” his verses in “Ice Cream” and “Rockwilder” and new joints off his August ‘06 release, 4:21, The Day After. “Nobody rocks a muthafuckin’ stage like I do!” he shouts. “Tell everybody when they come to see Method Man, they get a good show.” He ain’t never lie. His breath control is amazing–-no huffs, no puffs, no gasps for air that the six or so hypemen alongside him have to compensate for.

Not that it would matter, because his fans recite every word to every track like they have co-writing credits.

Then the stage darkens, lighters and cell phones flicker and Meth rips into a tribute to fallen Wu member Old Dirty Bastard--better known as ODB. “We’re here to celebrate his life,” he says, and commences to sharing fond memories of The Dirty One before taking another spontaneous jump into the onlookers below. The crowd is ill-prepared this time, perhaps caught up in the emotion of the ode to ODB, and the front rows bobble a little under the weight of Meth’s 6’4” frame. When he emerges from what is wisely his last crowd surf of the night, he thanks the white guy who broke what could have otherwise been an unfortunate leap of faith. “Nice catch, even though you got a Tupac shirt on,” he jokes. “My brother passed away, too, nah mean?” he adds, suddenly serious and gesturing toward the back of the club where Meth and Dirty T-shirts are selling for around $25 a pop. Everyone turns, some making mental notes to be first in line at the counter when the show is over. Later in the night, when mics have been rocked and the Wu Tang chants have been silenced, Method Man has transitioned into his post-performance persona. Cool. Subdued. Thoughtful, even. His laid-back demeanor doesn’t come so much from fatigue or herbal relaxation as it does introspection. A recipient of VH1’s latest round of Hip-Hop Honors, Meth is thankful for the fans who braved a bitterly cold night to see him, but admits he’s just a fan himself. He thinks the accolades were a bit premature. “It was cool, but I thought it was a little too soon for us. There was a lot of people that should have been honored first, like Grandmaster Caz, Cold Crush, Force MDs, EPMD, Naughty by Nature, De La. A lot of people, man. I think it was more of a ratings thing, just to let the kids know that this isn’t an old school show,” he says with a look of youthful admiration flashing across his own face. “I liked thinking it was an old school show because it educated them on people they never even heard of and let them know exactly where this music started and how much we owe these brothers for being innovative enough to put a drum with a snare and a lyrical poem that sounded on beat. We owe them a lot, so why not honor them and show them love before they die? I feel strongly about that.”

He’s passionate about quite a few things--his acting career, his community work, the commercialization of hip-hop--but most recently, he’s dealt out some verbal assaults to counter the rash of criticism he’s endured, from accusations of his “going Hollywood” to less-than-flattering album reviews. At the press of this button, the 13-year vet becomes animated all over again, this time out of agitation. “Everybody in the streets says I got a dope album, but if you read the top Hip-Hop publications, both of them gave me a bum review. I felt like that shit was personal,” he spat, “especially after doing a record like ‘Say.’ There’s no way they could big me up after saying what the fuck I said.”

He stops for a minute, shaking his head at a string of thoughts he keeps to himself. When he speaks again, he’s more relaxed but just as serious. “I just wish the people that read this shit know this instead of just being robots and following the program. They need to take their power back. I think these muthafuckers should put a disclaimer before each and every album review because that’s only one person sitting there pressing play, listening to the shit. And if he don’t like you any fuckin’ way, he’s not gonna to give you a break at any fuckin’ time.” He leans back in the plush bench seating that lines one side of his tour bus, looking smug. “You shoulda seen this shit. This muthafucka tried his best to shit on my album. But it’s all good,” he says. Onward and upward. With the exception of certain staff members at certain music magazines, those of us who love real hip-hop can’t help but love Method Man too. Remember the crazy white eye in the “All I Need” video? The insane, just-a-little-too-vivid skits he conjures up that add a personal touch to his and Wu Tang’s albums? Meth himself may not have a concrete vision for the new year– “I’m not sure,” he thinks aloud. “I know I’ma get my [high school] diploma. I might take a class in multi-media arts. Fuck it. I’m still going to do my music. I’m hoping to get another album out next year if Def Jam will back me, throw some change my way,” he says. One thing he can expect, though, in 2007 and the years to come, is the devotion of fans who are willing to pack sweaty little clubs in sub-zero wind chills to shout his songs and lift him up, physically and professionally. “There’s so much out here in this game,” he says, eyes wide and intense as hell. “That’s why I’m not letting them push me out. It’s not gonna happen.”

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