Method Man has worn many hats since he jumped on the scene 13 years ago: actor, deodorant salesman, endorser of all things cannabis. Despite his full plate, the Ticallion Stallion will always be known best as a hip-hop auteur from the mean streets of Staten Island. Who would have guessed the more vocal and visual member of the seminal hip-hop troupe Wu-Tang Clan would still be delivering the tough rhymes with the smooth flow all these years later? He’s come a long way since his breakout from the 36 chambers, and if 4:21…The Day After is any indication, Big John Stud has no plans of slowing into an easy retirement.
4:21 seethes with rage and defiance—it’s the caustic sound of a man on the defense. Tical 0: The Prequel from 2004 garnered an unhealthy load of criticism; diehard fans, hardcore purists, and even mainstream observers viciously panned what they saw as a feeble attempt at a slick, commercial hit. Method Man loudly and regularly dismissed P. Diddy’s involvement, but a casual listen reveals the record to suffer more than just platinum-treated production. Everything about 4:21 sounds like Mef swinging a wrecking ball into that previous condemned mess: “Ya dumb enough to think that Method’s numba’s up,” he declares on “Is It Me.” Hip-hoppers spitting back at critics and enemies is old hat, yet Method Man brings a whole new round of barbs and intensity. He assures us that his “pockets so fat they need a tummy tuck.” If there was any doubt, he makes it as clear as the bling in his ear: “How could you say I was washed up when I was the dirtiest thing in sight?”
A bevy of producers lend the album a thick, rumbling weight that recalls the full-bodied pummel of ‘93-era Wu-Tang as well as Method Man’s first two albums. For the most part, this could be a long, lost record from the early ‘90s. “Is It Me” exhibits the template well: simple though punching percussion (usually kick and snare drums) with looped piano and guitar or horn line laced atop the stomping rhythm.
As with all of his releases, Mef enlists the talents and support of a slew of stars and cohorts. Many of his alma mater appear, including a too-brief potty-mouthed spew from the iconoclastic Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The catchiest moment in the track “Dirty MEF” comes in the form of the deceased rapper repeatedly howling, “Fuck You! Fuck You!” And Method Man already has been heard grumbling about Lauryn Hill’s sampled appearance on the album’s lead single “Say” (the album’s gentlest moment, itself yet another response to foes).
With the RZA, Fat Joe, Redman, Raekwon, Streetlife, Ginuwine, and many more, the album boasts plenty of variety, but, as would be expected from an album with 20 songs, there’s a lot of filler. “Konichiwa Bitches,” “Fall Out,” and “Got To Have It” feel like clutter that should have been left on the cutting room floor, and the inclusion of skits will continue to mar what could otherwise be powerful and cohesive hip-hop records. But plenty of songs here pack aneurysm-inducing punches: “Somebody Done F**ked Up,” “Ya’meen,” and “Walk On” all rank among Mef’s best work, and the dark, brooding “Presidential MC” might be the record’s finest and most unique moment.
Far from perfect, 4:21…The Day After still manages to effectively trounce Method Man’s previous record. He displays his ability to wax philosophic and flippant over a myriad of backing tracks. And while he doesn’t quite live up to his claim that we should “expect the unexpected,” he still dropkicks most MCs who have followed in his footsteps.