Method Man is fed up. Maybe he's been carousing the message boards, reading what the suburban kids have to say about (in their opinion) the floundering state of his career. Maybe he's been strolling the street with his trademark swagger and the love's not coming back the way it used to. Most likely, he's still reeling from the debacle that was his last album.
In 2004, fresh off a valiant but ultimately failed jaunt as a sitcom joker on the prime time "Method & Red" and in the midst of a low level Wu-Tang revival (Ghostface's The Pretty Toney Album left the heads wanting more) Meth dropped Tical O: The Prequel, much to the chagrin of fans and critics alike. Defending the project as doomed from the beginning, Mr. Mef was left with no other option than to apologize for an admittedly sub-par album that had all the Wu-Tang die-hards shaking their heads and wondering: When is Meth finally going to drop the flawless solo album he's capable of making? And what the fuck is P. Diddy doing on a Method Man record?
Fortunately, the Ticallion Stallion is back, and he's got a score to settle. Using a carefully selected and varied array of producers, Meth runs the gamut, banging out a radio-ready joint with Scott Storch ("Is It Me") and then hitting up Erick Sermon for the grimy "Problem" on the very next track. Speaking of grime, RZA is back, playing a bigger role on the boards and making his presence felt on some of the best tracks on the album. "4:20" is reminiscent of "Mr. Sandman" from 1994's Tical, bringing back Carlton Fisk and Streetlife to drop some hard verses that hearken back to the golden age of the Wu.
Aside from brief guest verses by Fat Joe and Styles P and a pre-recorded Lauryn Hill loop on the mega-catchy single "Say," the supporting players here are all Wu-Tang affiliated, which should keep the hardcore fans happy. "The Glide" is a genuine RZA beat: dark, orchestral jabs with dirty bass lurking in the background. Raekwon proves he is back in fighting form by kicking it off, and U-God and longtime Wu associate La the Darkman do justice to the tail end. While these Wu Fam appearances are peppered throughout the album, the most lively guest work comes fairly early in the proceedings. When ODB busts in slurring "fuck you" on "Dirty Mef," you know it's on. Seemingly back from the dead, it's compelling to hear Dirt McGirt share a mic one more time with Johnny Blaze.
The weakest track here is "4Ever," a love song that goes through the motions as it jacks its chorus from an old Atlantic Starr jam. Luckily, it's tucked away at the end of the album and comes off as a completely forgivable indulgence considering the verbal barrage that precedes it. The production slips sporadically throughout the album, but Meth is always quick to pick up the slack and retain the feel before the album loses focus. As usual, the rhymes are reliable, with Method Man showing us why he is the go-to guy in the Wu and one of hip hop's most sought after guest artists. The important difference here is his refined fury, a focused energy that surpasses the thematic elements of his previous efforts.
While this is arguably still not the end-all-be-all solo album that hopefuls have been waiting for Meth to pony up since the original Tical (an extremely underrated album), this is as close as he's going to get. It's not '94 anymore, and the hip hop landscape has changed. Method Man has changed. Considering everything that he has been through in a full and tumultuous career, this album should be considered a spot-on reflection of a man who's place in the game should have been secured a long time ago. If his standing wasn't locked down in some doubter's eyes previous to this, 4:21 should serve as the record that will force them to wise up.