Method Man

Real Name: Clifford Smith
D.O.B.: April 1st, 1971 Long Island, New York

Label: Def Jam Recordings

Method Man became the super group most recognizable shining star as an emcee. The gruff, gravelled bellowing vocals became his signature attraction. He had a way with words, an imaginative and descriptive lyrical flair that painted the grimy soundscape to his music. He developed a unique persona with black & white contrast to his character, swinging from an off-beat urban menace to larrikin-like joker with anecdotal, stoned humour through his recordings. This dynamic was easily transformed into big screen feature film characters. Meth, also known as Tical, Johnny Blaze, Hott Nikkels, MZA, and Iron Lung stands today as the most successful member of Wu-Tang and one of New York's brightest talents in hip-hop culture. M-E-T-H-O-D, Man!

The Early Years

Method Man grew up as Clifford Smith, a youth who was shuttled between a delinquent father in Long Island and a mother on Staten Island, New York. In fact, Staten Island — dubbed "Shaolin" by the Clan — was where he met the men who would eventually become the Wu-Tang Clan. Smith grew up in the Park Hill projects with his mother and two sisters, one younger, one older. At various times he has claimed to have dropped out of high school in the ninth and eleventh grades, and sold and experimented with drugs. "Reality smacked me in the face early. That's why I don't like to talk about my childhood," Meth told Rolling Stone in late 1998. He then added, "I don't ever want anybody to feel sorry for me because of the way I came up. There are a lot of people who have it a hell of a lot worse than me."

During those years, Smith rapped and hung out with Robert Diggs (Prince Rakeem, aka the RZA) and his cousins Gary Grice (the Genius/GZA), and Russell Jones (Ol' Dirty Bastard). Years later, after Prince Rakeem and the Genius had suffered setbacks in the recording industry in the early '90s, the two gathered up Meth, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and newcomers Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Raekwon to form the Clan. The eight pooled their resources and recorded a single, "Protect Ya Neck/After the Laughter," on Wu-Tang Records in 1992. It sold 15,000 copies, leading to a unique deal with Loud Records, then a fledgling rap imprint for RCA. The label signed the group, while allowing its members to sign separate solo deals. "We have too much talent," Meth later observed. "You can't sign the whole Clan and just give them $300,000. That's worth one brother right there."

Recording Career

  • Tical
  • Over the course of 1994, Enter the 36 Chambers went on to sell a million copies. By then, however, Method Man had released his first album, Tical. It was recorded and mixed over 1993 and 1994 at four New York City studios: RZA's 36 Chambers Studios in Staten Island, as well as the Chung King, Firehouse and Platinum Island studios in Manhattan. RZA produced the album in its near-entirety - except for "Sub Crazy" and "P.L.O. Style", co-produced by 4th Disciple and Method Man respectively - leading Jason Birchmeier of All Music Guide to refer to the album as "a two-man show". As with rest of the first round of Wu-Tang albums, RZA would recreate the distinct "Shaolin" sound while tailoring it to the featured rapper. On Tical, his production was especially dark and murky, complementing both Method Man's distinctly smooth-yet-rugged voice and his raps of cannabis smoking ("Tical"), project love ("All I Need"), and traditional hardcore hip hop lyricism ("Bring The Pain"). In those early days of the Wu-Tang Clan the RZA was the sole provider of beats for eight talented emcees, who he would have battle over the rights to record over them. This approach to quality control would result in Tical's "Meth Vs. Chef", a recording of one such a battle between Method Man and Raekwon. "Meth Vs. Chef" was recorded in 1993 before RZA's 36 Chambers Studios was flooded, destroying reportedly fifteen beats per Wu-Tang Clan rapper. Many of the beats for Tical would be hastily recreated and mixed, resulting in a decrease in sound quality.

    In 1994 the lead single "Bring The Pain" (backed with "P.L.O. Style") was released. "Bring The Pain" was an RZA-produced track with an understated but funky groove, capped with the ragga vocals of Booster. The single would reach #45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Dance chart. The follow-up single, 1995's "Release Yo' Delf", was a more upbeat track - at least by RZA's standards - and featured Wu-affiliate Blue Raspberry singing a B-Boy interpretation of Gloria Gaynor's disco anthem, "I Will Survive". "Release Yo' Delf" reached #98 on the Hot 100, failing to match the success of "Bring The Pain"; Tical however remains the only Method Man album with two singles reaching the Billboard Hot 100.

    To continue the album's promotion, "All I Need" was remixed and released in the summer of 1995 as "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By". There are two versions of this Mary J. Blige duet: Puff Daddy and the Trackmasters' Poke's version, featuring a sample from The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Me & My Bitch", and the more famous remix by RZA (the "Razor Sharp Mix"), with accompanying video, the song would reach #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well number ones on the Hot Rap, Dance and R&B charts, later going on to win a Grammy Award in 1996.

    Thanks to his gravelly voice, ultra-cool persona and knack for metaphor-laden rhymes, Method Man quickly became one of the most popular MCs of the mid-'90s. He appeared on a plethora of tracks by other artists, including those of the Notorious B.I.G. ("The What"), Shaquille O'Neal ("No Hook"), and Boyz II Men ("Vibin'"). In August of 1995, he teamed up with fellow Def Jam artist Redman for "How High," a surprise hit that dented the Billboard Top 20.

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