Method Man just dropped The Meth Lab, a posse record featuring young voices the rapper wants to bolster. "This is a record by Staten Island artists," he tells me from the Tommy Boy offices in downtown Manhattan, long home to fringe rap from New York's five boroughs. Throughout the record, Meth raps as deftly as ever, posing as a smirking elder with few regrets and still plenty of jokes: Wu-Tang compadres Raekwon and Inspectah Deck join up, as well as Shaolin start-ups and a few of his nephews. We had a quick chat about craftsmanship, inter-generational dialogue, and his upcoming comedy film, Keanu.
Some fans say you've never had a bad verse.
I would disagree. But I think it’s a matter of cadence, as opposed to flow. People misconstrue flow nowadays, so let’s say cadence. The rhythm of your words that go with the beat—that’s always been big with me. Anybody can rhyme over a beat, but if you can ride that motherfucker, ain’t nothing like it. Old Dirty Bastard used to do that shit a lot. He could ride the fuck out a beat, go off beat, then come back on beat. Then when you heard it live, he never said it the same way twice. I think it’s a beautiful marriage when you get the words in the right place and the cadence is crazy. Like what A$AP Rocky did on the intro of his album, off that At Long Last.
Do you think younger artists value writing and cadence the way you describe?
I think they do. Definitely. Especially dudes like him, Kendrick. That cadence, that flow. Even dude from the Migos, the one that’s really nice. Even though some people don’t get that [Migos flow]— nigga, that’s a flow. That cadence is crazy. I could never do it myself, but it’s fuckin’ crazy. Now watch the fanboys go nuts and shit. Why the older cats can’t like some of the newer cats, or dig something they did? You get crucified for that shit now. Fuck y’all, I like what the fuck I want to like. It’s a big divide, but that’s a statement for the music. Some people want to keep it in its purest form, and others want to let it evolve and grow into other things. I say, let it all go.
You and Wu-Tang were looked at the same way at one point. Something that was unfamiliar to fans at the time.
Yup, same shit. When we first came in, we thought we were going against the grain. Before us, hip-hop started dressing up. Like suits and all that. It didn’t identify with us anymore. It was in a whole different market of people that we couldn’t identify with because we was in the hood. But it’s always good to have that. You gotta have the flashy motherfucker, the Floyd Mayweather in boxing, to keep boxing interesting. And not only that, they’ll fuck you up. But they looked at us like, we were like rebels and renegades and shit. But in the same breath, it was, “Them dirty ass Wu-Tang niggas. Them niggas dirty.” But more people identified with that part of it. The era that we came from, that masculinity shit, it was real. There was a lot of misogyny going on. And if a female rapper did break in, she was sexualized after a while. This new era, it’s no lines, no barriers, no nothing. If it’s hot now, this is what it is.
It was dope to see The Meth Lab come out on Tommy Boy, an independent label with such a dope history.
This right here is a coup d'état. It’s not a sideline project, but this is a nice distraction from acting. That’s first priority. I never thought about it like that, but now that you put it that way, good job, yessir, hell yeah. That adds a little more meaning to it. Cause Koch even turned to E1. And Ruffhouse, I don’t know what happened with them. Sleeping Bag, remember Sleeping Bag? Shit. Yeah, I can go on and on. Longevity is a motherfucker.
What’s the latest status update on the Wu?
Dudes was overseas for a big tour, but I wasn’t present for that. I was shooting a movie. We wrapped on it—it’s a movie called Keanu, starring Key & Peele. It’s a funny movie. So I’m just waiting on that. Jason Mitchell, the guy who plays Eazy-E in the N.W.A. movie that’s coming out. Tiffany Haddish, she’s a stand-up comedian, funny as shit. Darrell shot Bodie on The Wire. Lois Guzman. Nia Long.
The N.W.A movie, Straight Outta Compton, is huge. Is anyone banging down the door trying to do the Wu movie?
RZA’s a director. Tell his ass do it. I got the perfect person to play me. He famous, too. He don’t know yet, but Imma tell him if we get greenlit. Joey Fatone! I need you. Fatone got chops, Fatone can act, man. Joey Fatone as Method Man. That’s my guy.
There's a lot of talk in rap about who writes and who doesn’t. Is that a make or break issue?
In rap? Nah. A lot of people in rap don’t write—they make good records. Hip-hop, it’s essential you write your own shit. Culture is a way of life; if you didn’t live that life, you vicariously living through somebody else's shit. But it doesn’t matter to me. I loved Dr. Dre for years, and he didn’t write his shit. B.I.G. wrote Junior Mafia’s shit, and helped out with the flows.
Have you ever helped someone else write their rhymes?
Nope. Nobody has ever written for me. Dudes have took my rhyme before—not took, I gave it to them. I mean, rhymes that are old that I wouldn’t say myself, so they took it. The first four bars of Ghostface's “Cherchez La Ghost.” That’s a song I had way back when I was 17, just the first four bars. And the Dirty one, “Dog Shit,” on the Wu-Tang album. I wrote that verse, but I didn’t write it for Dirty. It was a old verse from when I was in my teenage years that niggas always liked. At that point in time, I wasn’t saying them old rhymes. I would attest it to the same way Snoop did “Lodi Dodi” over. It’s not like Rick wrote that shit for him, but Snoop loved that song so much, he was like, let me pay it homage to Slick Rick, but this is how I would do it. But in hip-hop, it most definitely matters.