By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
No telling how Dave Matthews and Little Feat both managed to end up on Method Man and Redman's recent collaboration Blackout!, except for the fact that both Men smoke more pot than most of the red-eyed fans at one of Matthews' concerts; the disc has more references to weed than a Cheech and Chong film retrospective. Guess it's no stranger than Puff Daddy strip-mining a Christopher Cross (!) song on his latest, Forever, or Stephen Stills showing up on a Public Enemy disc, but at least they hide the bodies: Good luck tracking down Matthews' and Little Feat's sampled appearances on Blackout!, since producers Erick Sermon (Redman's Def Squad cohort) and The RZA (Meth's fellow Wu-Tanger), among a host of others, hide the snippets until they can't even find them anymore. Not that you'd really want to discover Matthews jamming his way onto a hip-hop record.
Of course, Method Man and Redman don't have to rely on familiar samples to get the song over, because they can actually handle the mike, dropping rhymes instead of fumbling them. They do, however, borrow a few catchphrases from Cypress Hill and the Beastie Boys, but it comes off more as subtle tribute than karaoke night. Fact is, Method Man and Redman could make a Yanni sample work, because with them, their voices are the only sound that matters. They rarely need anything else: "1, 2, 1, 2" is made up entirely of two sporadic bass notes, one guitar string, and an insistent hi-hat. No reason to let the music get in the way of lines like, "You're a champagne ho with Kool-Aid money."
Meth and Redman have been teasing this alliance for years, appearing on albums and in videos together, most notably Redman's clip for "Whateva Man"; it features the duo as the new Blues Brothers, roles reprised on the opening track off Blackout!, "A Special Joint." (A much better fit for the parts, in more ways than one, than John Goodman and Dan Aykroyd in the big-belly flop Blues Brothers 2000.) The delivery of Blackout! is every bit as good as the wind-up; imagine Ice Cube and Chuck D recording an album in their prime with the Bomb Squad and Dr. Dre producing. Method Man may never come through with a song that rocks quite like "Bring the Pain" off his 1994 solo bow Tical, but with Redman's help, he's come up with a dozen that are close enough, especially the one-two crunch of "Da Rockwilder" and "Tear It Off."
If nothing else, any disc that can make LL Cool J sound relevant again (check his scene-stealing, scenery-shredding cameo on "4 Seasons") would have to be deemed a success. But perhaps the best thing about Blackout! is that they don't let the guest spots get out of hand -- one of the biggest problems, along with the ubiquitous skits, with recent hip-hop records -- limiting their use to three of the disc's 19 tracks. Other than that, it's just Method Man and Redman. And that's all you need anyway.