Hes in there, the publicist says, motioning toward a black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows parked outside.
Several minutes of lobby loitering pass before the car door swings open and Method Man emergesall 6-foot-3 of himsporting a black tracksuit, ear-to-ear grin, and pungent aroma.
Method Man gets along with everybody, RZA once told me. Its a claim backed by history, as Meth was one of the only rappers to hop on tracks by Tupac and Biggie at the height of their hip-hop rivalry; and its a claim I can now co-sign, having witnessed firsthand the love, as the affable wordsmith warmly embraces every greeting fan on our way to the conference room where well be conducting our interview.
The 47-year-old MCs inherent likability is a big reason why hes managed to achieve success in a variety of mediums. In addition to his rap career, including solo albums, collaborations with Redman, and a key role in the greatest hip-hop group ever, the Wu-Tang Clan, Staten Islands finest has appeared in a number of memorable films and TV shows. Belly. Oz. How High. Garden State. The Wire. Trainwreck.
Hes currently starring in the HBO series The Deuce, filming a sequel to Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson, and hosting the TBS music-competition series Drop the Mic, which returns for its second season on April 15. The latter sees Meth and co-host Hailey Baldwin preside over a series of mock rap battles between celebrities, with the premiere featuring Shaquille ONeal vs. Ken Jeong and Jerry Springer vs. Ricki Lake.
The Daily Beast sat down with the one and only Method Man at our offices for an in-depth conversation on his life, career, and the state of the Wu.
Lets talk about Drop the Mic Season 2. What were some of your favorite moments from the first season? Halle Berry, in my opinion, was the standout.
Me as well. Id say Halle Berry and Randall Park. He reinvigorated the reason why I was even there. You never know, and that surprise elementthat was so unexpected, the fact that he wrote the majority of his rhymes and they were good. Another thing that stood out in Season 1 was the Danielle Fishel vs. Jonathan Lipnicki battle. It was like watching our little sis and little bro, as adults, battle each other. It was crazy.
Did you ever engage in any rap battles yourself?
Our battles werent like battle-battles. You say a rhyme, another dude say a rhyme. The closest we ever had to rap battles was this dude named Dusty, who was getting money around our waya drug dealer. He knew there was a lot of rappers around, so his way of giving back to the community was he would rent out this place called Park Villa in Stapleton and have these rap contests, and Cappa would win em all the time.
So you think Cappa would beat anyone in Wu in a rap battle?
Probably. Pro-ba-bly. Its a different skill set. Thats why he did so well on Wild N Out, on the Wu-Tang episode. Cap ishes an anomaly, an enigma, all of that. Cap on a great day is the most beautiful, interesting man in the world; on a bad day, you dont know what youre gonna get from Cappa, but hes still talented. Ill just leave it at that.
But with Roc the Mic, we just took something that was already being done, flipped it on its head, and made it a network show. Were not trying to make fun of battle rap or make a mockery of battle rapwe pay homage to these guys. If anything, a few of the battle rappers come in as writers and coaches on the show, so that validates some of the work were doing. But by no means are we trying to replace battle rap. This why some people get in their feelings about it, saying, What are they tryin to do? Were not tryin to make a mockery. Theres no way we can replace it because none of these people are Jay-Z that come on the show, so stop with the BS. This is just a nice little retreat.
Im a New Yorker and a hip-hop head. How do you feel about the current state of New York hip-hop?
I feel like we lost our identity but it was good for the unification of hip-hop as a whole. Atlanta is the new New York.
How do you think it became the new New York?
Down South is way bigger than just New York, and we were basing everything off just New York. I remember Andre 3000 at the Source Awards, they got booed and he said, All I know is that the South got something to say. I think that was like a calling to all artists down South to say, You know what? We dont need those muthafuckas up there. Theyre arrogant as fuck, and theres more of us down here. All of them knew each other and were connected because they were already doing shows on that circuit, so if you get that many numbersand fans along with itthe majority of the numbers is gonna sway that way. The South did their thang and they cannot be blamed for the state of hip-hop right nowno one can be blamed for that, these are just cycles that the music has to go through.
Rappers, especially in New York, also seem to get unfairly targeted by the police. They pull over tour buses all the time claiming that they smelled something.
Ill take it further than that: When youre pulling over tour busesbecause thats what they dothey go, well, were gonna see what else we can find. They have this thing, I forgot what its called but its between Alabama and something else, this alley, and I dont know if its entrapment or what, but we were victims of it ourselves. I wasnt on the bus and Redman wasnt on the bus, but they definitely pulled that bus over for a lame-ass reason, and the bus driver, being uninformed, let the cops on the bus, so people woke up at 4 a.m. with cops in their faces.
But when you talk about New York hip-hop, it lost its identity when the South rose upbecause we werent competin anymore, we were tryin to fit in. That was unheard of. Next thing you know, the lines were blurred and East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, South all sounded the same. Before you could tell when a song was West Coast because it had the G-Funk thing, and South had the screw. You cant hear a New York record and go thats a New York record anymore. Nowadays, when you hear a New York record they go, Oh, thats nineties. But the plus side of it is the color barrier broke down, and nobody notices the white rapper anymore, or the female that portrays a dude. Now, as far as a male doing it, that line hasnt been crossed yet. Like Young M.A., for instance: theres always been Young M.A.s in it, but they werent as out as Young M.A. is. But the other way around? Im not sure if thatll work, or how itll work, but you have dudes walkin the line, you know what I mean? And its scary for a lot of people that, one, do not understand, and two, dont think thats hip-hop.
Walkin the line between
Dressin like a female and dressin like a male.
Like Young Thug?
Yeah, certain people like that. But Thugits cool when one person is doing it, and you say, OK, thats his thing, but then when it becomes a trendTheyre basically doing what rock n rollers did with the fingernail-painting, the long hair, jumpin in the crowdthey want to be rock stars now. Be that, but dont call it hip-hop. I think its different, but it has its place. Would I rather sit there and listen to Rakim at a concert? Probably. I would love to listen to Rakim all day on my radio. But nowadays, if Im at a concert, Im gonna see Kendrick, Im gonna see Rae Sremmurd, Im gonna see these artists that turn up the way I would be doing if I was makin that kind of music.
Cardi B is making a lot of noise right now, speaking of New York hip-hop.
Cardi is an inspiration. Im rootin for Cardi B. Its funny, because every time I see a female MC come out, I find myself rootin for em all the time. I just want to see em win.
I do feel like a lot of the female emcees from the 90sthe Roxanne Shantes, Lady of Rages and Monie Loves of the worldwerent treated fairly.
They didnt get their just due. And female artists are veryexpensive, first of all. You got hair and makeup, wardrobevery expensive. So you have to sell a lot and bring a lot to the table for people to want to spend that much money on you. I salute Cardi B and am rootin for her, as I would any other of our female brethren in the game. I want to see her do well, plus shes from New York so shes reppin for us.
Shes no fake either. Shes Blood.
Well shes from the Bronx, and in the Bronx, if you go to Soundview? SuWoo! All day.
Wu-Tang was never affiliated with the Bloods, were they? The Feds seemed to think so.
Nah, Wu-Tang was never in any gang. We didnt have gangs. We grew up in the era where it wasnt Blood or Cripwe had cliques, you know? You had Paris Crew, BCC, Decepticonsthem niggas crazy. In fact Rock [of Heltah Skeltah], my brother nutter, he was a Decep. A few niggas in the game were Decepticons. But we were never into the color thing, because our vision didnt stretch that far. We didnt know anything about the gang culture until N.W.A. When those niggas came around, I was like oh shit. I was the biggest fan of theirs.
When I spoke with RZA, he told me Method Man gets along with everybody. And while Im sure thats not always the case, you were the one rapper able to bridge the East Coast/West Coast divide in the 90s as the only one who worked with both Pac and Biggie.
Wu-Tang was embraced on the West Coast, but yeah, I did. Thats true. Right place, right time. I think Im approachable. I dont think I have that kind of face where its like, Im gonna fuck you up if you approach me the wrong way, but then again I have that face where Im like, Im gonna fuck you up if you approach me the wrong way. [Laughs] But Biggie approached me after the New Music Seminar. Pac, on the other hand, came home from jail and its just like in the movie: he was goin from room-to-room jumpin on joints, and some of the tracks were already done with people rhymin on em. And Daz [Dillinger] was like, yo, I got the joint with Method Man and Redman. Next thing you know, Pac was spittin on it and I was like oh shit. At this point in time, there were people that knew what time it was, as far as the whole Death Row/Bad Boy thingit wasnt East Coast vs. West Coast until the magazines said it was.
My biggest thing was, Big was my friend and I hadnt even met Pac yet for my record, and they were playing that shit on New York radio. How would you feel if youre friends with somebody and they did a song with someone else where all of a sudden your so-called enemy is on the record and you knew nothin about it? How would you feel when you ran into that person? I remember the first time I ran into Big after that, I was like, Yo, you know that Pac song, son actually came home from jail, that was a Dogg Pound record, and he said, Nah, I aint trippin off that shit. He was really cool about that shit, with Pac and all that. Thats how I knew that if the knuckleheads hadnt got in the way, he would have sat down with Big and they probably wouldve been friends after that shit.
Who are the knuckleheads who got in the way?
The in-betweeners. Joe Budden can diss me, but in the eyes of the five niggas Im with, he dissed all of us. But Joe only knows me, he dont know these five other muthafuckas, theyre just floatin in the crowd, but what if they feel some kind of way one day? I dont even know why I brought Joe up, were cool as fuck right now. But someone says some shit, writes some check their ass cant cash in, and Ill shake ya hand, but Ill feel one way and my people will feel another. So Ill walk away and three other muthafuckas will come in the room and fuck you upand let you know where it came from. Cant control that shit. And those are the knuckleheads that got in the way with the whole Big/Pac thing because there are more stupid muthafuckas than smart muthafuckas, and when they heard the East/West thing they jumped on it fast.
There are all these Biggie/Tupac shows and movies coming outand even a Steve McQueen documentary on Tupac. But do you have your own theories on who killed them?
Oh, we know who did it. They told already. Everybody told on each other already. Orlando. Its not like Im snitchin, right? Everyone knows he did that shit, the one they said was the shooter all along and who looked like Pac. His uncle told on him, Keffe D [Duane Keith Davis]. He basically said, Yeah, he shot him. And Suges baby mama [Theresa Swan] basically told on the dude [Wardell Poochie Fouse] that killed Biggie. And theyre both dead. Theyre not here to defend themselves, but thats what the word on the street is. It grinds my gears though to hear these new cats start attackin people that arent here to defend themselves. The whole Tupac thing, I dont care how yall young niggas feel about Tupac and shit
Whos dumb enough to shit on Tupac? Oh, that Lil Xan kid
Yeah. And people were tryin to say, So what if hes not rockin with Tupac? He has a right to say that, and its like, no, he dont got a right to say that. The only reason he has a right to say that is because Pac did that shit first. Pac walked so they could run. These fuckin idiots. Thats like me tryin to shit on N.W.A. Its because of N.W.A that I dont got a sense of my fuckin curse words on my records and I can say fuck the police and get away with that shit if I wanted to. We held our OGs in high regard.
I wanted to talk to you about hip-hop OGs, because youre pretty much there. But your generation is really the first where the OGs are still A-list.
But theres a reason for it, and its like I said before: KRS-One and all those dudes walked so we could run. For real. They knocked down so many barriers without knowin they were even doin it. They were softening up the blow. If all those guys had just gave up, we wouldnt be here now.
I think it also had to do with radios anti-hip-hop bias. You had classic rock stations dedicated to the older generations of performers that granted them longevity, but you never had any rap stations that played the classics.
Thats a great point. That is a great point. Wow. I remember when hip-hop was only played on the weekends in New York. I remember that. And then somebody said, fuck that, lets play these kids all week. Its always somebody who takes that steptakes that chanceand says, lets ride out with these kids and see what they about. Thats my biggest issue with the newer cats: you dont even gotta pay homage to me, but dont shit on somebodys legacyespecially if youre uninformed of the role they played in the business. Theres a reason why we hold Tupac in high regard: Pac spoke in a way that a lot of us couldnt speak. We werent eloquent enough or educated enough to say the words that he was sayin but we felt them when he said it because that was the way we felt, we just couldnt put it in words. So theres nothin you can take away from that manor Biggie. I dont give a fuck who spit a hot 16. At the end of the day, what kind of person are you? Thats what really counts.
Im a longtime fan of the Wu. The first album I heard was Wu-Tang Forever, since I was 12 when it came out. A Better Tomorrow was my favorite track off it. So I gotta ask, what the fuck is going on with Once Upon a Time in Shaolin? The Feds have it?
I believe the Feds confiscated it.
Its become a fucking sideshow.
It has. It has. And thats what made me hate it even more. I thought it was a dope idea at first, but I figured that we were going to be giving the music away. I thought people were going to be able to go into a museum and listen to it, and I thought, Oh, thats a dope fuckin idea, and then all this other shit started happening, so then I was like, You know what? If it was me, I would just say fuck it and give it away for free. But then all the time and effort that went into it, that [producer] Cilvaringz put in, that doesnt help him since hes got a family to feed also, so I distanced myself from it. I wanted to know little to nothing about it.
Im sure you know about how it got sold to Martin Shkreli, this comically evil ass.
But you know, I think he was playing a character. I mean, that was his character, but with Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, he was definitely trollin.
Were there attempts made by the Wu to rescue the album from him?
Yeah, some people were tryin to buy it from him, but he was asking for too much. I guess when it goes back on the open market well see what happens.
It really is crazy to think about, though: Wu-Tang made the most valuable album in history and its locked away in a room somewhere guarded by the Feds.
Yeah. And Harvey Weinstein is free. Its a strange world. What the fuck. But I havent heard anything on the albumonly the songs I did, and I didnt hear anybody else on em because they only sent me instrumentals. I definitely know Im on three joints. But honestly, just give the shit away free. Its like with Black PantherIm glad I seen it early, because I would have been very disappointed with all the hype. So I tell people, You know, its not as good as all the hype, but its a great movie, and I like what it stood for. I knew what the comics stood for when it came out. Stan Lee was way ahead of his time with that. They had a few mishaps with Luke Cage and the whole blaxploitation thing, but with Black Panther they got it right.
You know, I remember copping Tical 2000 as a kid and theres that brief Trump interlude on it where hes saying to go buy the album. It sounds like someone put a gun to his head.
That was Russells [Simmons] friend. I dont know Donald Trumpnever met the manbut I was on my second album, I wanted all these cameos, and every cameo I asked for, I got. I had Chris Rock, Janet Jackson, a few cameos here and there, and at the end of the day, that was a surprise because I hadnt asked for that one. He did it on the strength of Russell asking him.
Do you regret that its on there?
I dont care. It was a different time, a different place. What hes doing in the White House concerns all of us; at the same time, people voted for the muthafucka. What are you gonna do about it? Hes in there now, so cope with it.
Hip-hops always had an interesting relationship with Donald Trump. Hes mentioned in a lot of raps, and was cast as a paragon of wealth.
Yeah, he is. We fell for it too. We fell for it too.
Tupac didnt. Theres a great MTV interview from 1992 where he calls out Trumps greed.
Wow. Wowwww. Pac was way ahead of his time. Pac could tell you in a heartbeat whether anyone was a snake or a salesman or not.
U-Gods memoir recently came out, and it doesnt put RZA in the greatest light.
You know, those are U-Gods truthsthat dont mean that theyre true. Perception is crazy. He even wrote a lot of stuff about me, and he mentioned something about my mother-in-law that I know for a fact aint true; something about his son that I know for a fact isnt true. Its always been a tumultuous relationship. Think Vince McMahon and all the stuff hes put up with over the years with all his wrestlershes always the focal point of the blame. Its the same with RZA. Im not sayin it isnt warranted, because some of it is warranted. We were all young and learning on the job.
Like putting his brother [Mitchell Divine Diggs] in charge of Wu management.
That, and we kind of fed into the fact that they threw him into the leadership role, and he took on the leadership role and he did a good job with it, for what its worth. But you cant learn that stuff on the job, and some things are going to fall by the wayside, and some people are going to be unhappy. Heavy is the crown. So hes the focal point of a few people, and some of it is warranted, some of it is not, but U-God has a lot of other things he has to answer for outside of the RZA comments because he mentioned people around our way who had nothing to do with Wu-Tang Clan at all, though they were probably part of his life, and some of these guys have open cases and his truth isnt their truth. Were talking about gun violence, murder, drugs, all kinds of shit, and you cant do that to people. People remember things differently, and somewhere in between lies the truth. From my perspective, he got a lot of shit wrong. He got a lot of shit wrong, and you cant do that. He might as well be like that guy on Oprahs show [James Frey], where he fabricated a lot of shit. A Million Little Pieces of Shit.
So whats the state of the Wu right now?
Are you kiddin me? Hell be on tour with us later. Wont be no sweat off nobodys brow.
But U-God stuff aside, what is the state of the Wu as a unit?
I was hoping everybody would grow. By the time we got to this age, I wanted to see everybody in a suit and tie, working in some shape, form or fashion in the industry at an executive level. That was the plan, at least. I can only speak for myself when it comes to the crew. I know Im solid, and if theres a Wu-Tang project Im already in without being asked, but when it comes to touring, whole different ballgame.
Is it because of the pay splits?
Thats some of it. They wanted to do a tier system, which I thought kind of draws a line in the sand if you ask me and alienates a lot of people. And in the same sense, you can look at it as you have some individuals who make a certain amount as an individual, but when theyre with the group theyre makin three, four times the amount that they would make. Then you have some individuals who make a certain amount when theyre by themselves, but when theyre with the crew they make lesssometimes half of what they usually get.
Youre clearly talking about yourself.
[Laughs] No, I meanbut you know. Then it becomes a problem where, if that person whos used to making a certain amount is getting half of what he gets and he wants his whole thing now, something else has to suffer. So when those individuals making three to four times what they actually get have a problem with losing maybe a quarter of that, thats when its like, Oh, so it doesnt work both ways? If youre makin three to four times the amount and someone isnt getting their just due, boom, Id have no problem giving it. But the reality of the situation is, Nah, Im just as important, which is true, they are; and in the same sense, those same promoters you went to I can go to and get that amount without going on the road with you guys.
Youve been involved in a lot of iconic shit. In addition to Wu-Tang, your solo records, and the Biggie and Pac albums, youve been in a ton of great movies and TV shows. The first time I saw you onscreen was in Cop Land. You threw Peter Berg off the roof, and hes now a big-time Hollywood director.
Yeahhh. And thats what started it for me. And I missed one call from the guy, and now hell never hire me. I love you, Peter! Im sorry I didnt answer the phone that time. He cursed my ass out in a voicemail. Always return those calls, because you never know. I was a dickhead, I should have fuckin called him back, but I didnt. He just wanted to chat, and I had no idea what kind of moves he was makin but it didnt matter at that point. I should have been a fuckin gentleman and called the guy back. Sorry, Peter. Lesson learned.
Bellys become something of a cult classic too.
I think a lot of that has to do with the performancesmainly X. X carried that movie.
Still one of the cooler opening sequences ever. Hype killed that.
Yeah. But then it got amateurish when they got to DMXs crib right after they did the robbery. Trained actors wouldve known how to transition from that to that, because when they got to the house theyre takin off their coats and relaxin, and you dont even see the fuckin money. I dont know what Nas was doin and X was actin like what they just did never happened. They were on a whole nother day but these niggas just robbed the club and killed the fuckin lady! Then, if that was Xs house, what happened when I tried to kill his chick? Was it a different house? You know what Im sayin? So there were little things here and there but Im not knockin Belly. Hype [Williams] had to fight for every bit of that shit. They were tryin to shut him down left and right, and he fought really hard for it. We did some real pirate-y shit on that one. And for what he had, he did a good job. And X carried that movie. But when that lady came around with that baby oil though? I was like, Yo, back up. I want no part of that. X went for that, Nas went for that. You see how greasy they were lookin and shit? That lady went crazy. I dont know what look Hype was lookin for.
You know, I always thought you and Redman could host a variety show.
Me and Doc could definitely do a variety show but it would turn me off after a while because theres something about being in peoples faces all the time. I like being goneand then I pop up again better than ever. TLC used to do that. I remember, after their first album with the boy clothes and shit, it had been a few years and they still hadnt had new music out, and then they came with the Waterfalls and they were lookin right. They had a whole team behind them. I never had that. I look at Cardi B now with the stylist, hair and all thatI never had that. Wu-Tang just started gettin shit like that and still aint on that level. But Ludacris, X, they used to take care of those dudes where everything was laid outoutfits, wardrobes, you name it. We never, ever had that shit. It kind of pisses me the fuck off. I wish I would have had that same care, man.
Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com