I AM THE WEST
It’s been 15 years since Method Man and Redman linked up for Blackout!, their first collaborative LP, and Red is still one of the most underrated MCs in the game. With more than two decades of raw, funky raps under his belt and a string of nearly unparalleled gems that began with his debut solo album, 1992′s Whut? Thee Album, you’d think that Red would be secure in his status among the biggest rappers on the planet. But he’s never quite been celebrated on the level of the Jay Z’s and the Snoop Dogg’s of the world.
Not that he’s bothered by that. These days, Redman is still one of the funniest, most creative MCs in hip-hop, and he’s at a point in his career where he can pretty much do anything. He’s long been talking about crafting sequels to some of his biggest projects—Muddy Waters 2, now both a mixtape and an album, are apparently on the way, as well as Blackout! 3 and a followup to the classic film How High, which is still rumored to be floating around—and he just returned from touring in Europe alongside Meth. He and his Wu-Tang running mate are set to headline the Smoker’s Club Tour this Fall, kicking off next month in Rhode Island that will take him around the U.S. another time. He’s got plenty of respect built up within the hip-hop community, but still can fly under the radar outside of it. In many ways, it’s the best possible place to be in.
With the Blackout! album turning 15 years old yesterday (Sept. 28), XXL spoke to Redman about the LP, its 2009 followup, his new projects in the works and much more. The Funk Doc is still in the building.
XXL: What’s going on, man? You been in the studio?
Redman: Well, I’ve just been banging out in my home studio, my own shit. I’ve been working the past six years, seven years on my own shit.
You just got back from Europe, right? How was that?
Fabulous. Fabulous. I’ve never been over there during the summertime; we usually go when it’s cold, so it’s always grey and raining. But this time we got to experience it in the summer when it’s hot and I actually got to see some beaches. A little different vibe of overseas, so it was a great run this summer. It was a great tour.
What’s your favorite part about touring in general?
I don’t know; it’s gotta be the people. How they still enjoy that ’90s sound, really. Overseas they still appreciate it more, to this day. Every artist can actually say that, that the overseas community appreciates the culture of hip-hop more, really, rather than over here. So it’s fun to perform there.
Now that you’re back, what are you working on?
Muddy Waters 2 the mixtape and Muddy Waters 2 the album for next year, and then Blackout 3 and How High 2 possibly, maybe. Got a lot of things in the works, man.
You said on Twitter the other day that Muddy Waters 2 was gonna be all original music. Both the mixtape and the album?
Yeah, both of them. All original. Because usually when I drop a mixtape it’ll be some original and then some over other people’s beats, but this one is gonna be all original so I can distribute it and get the mixtape heard more. You know, with mixtapes, a lot of people hear it but I still wanted it to circulate more so that more people hear it.
That means no P-Funk samples?
Not on the mixtape. I’m trying to do that for the album, the Muddy Waters 2 album for next year. We know Uncle George directly, so he gives us music to sample, all we gotta do is tell him directly and we can use it.
What’s your relationship like with George Clinton?
Oh man, it’s wonderful. I went to his house in Florida and met the family, he always be out in Cali at my boy Joseph’s spot, we hang out in Cali. He’s just a cool guy, man. He’s still relevant to us in our rap community. He’s always performing still, I think he performed in Brooklyn recently at a festival. I heard he tore it down.
It’s the 15-year anniversary of the original Blackout! When you think back, how did that come together for you and Meth?
Wow. The first Blackout! just started out with us doing the first song, “How High”—I guess it was “How High”—and then it just took off from there. It just kinda made sense for everybody, and it worked out. And the best thing is when you got two guys who have no egos with each other and just know that they have their separate careers and when they come together to do something, to create a new career, why shoot it down? Why hate on it? Why not emphasize on it? That’s how we looked at it. And our mindframe from then was what kept us going for so long. Of course, we coulda did the music, and of course we coulda pleased everyone. But we had to be men about ourselves and say, you know what? We gotta do this with no animosity and no egos and go get this money. And that’s just what we did. That’s how most crews break up.
What sticks out to you about making that album, and how the finished product came out?
Hmm. What I loved about it? It was new. It wasn’t nothin’ new to me to work in the studio, ’cause ever since my first album I had 90 percent of building it, from skits to everything, so I was very equipped to build an album going in. But it was just something new, something new to do with a partner. And it was really easy. It was like, wow, I don’t have to spit three 16s in each song? I can do one, or one and a half? And editing it, cutting it with little skits here and there, it was great. Then we got LL to come in, Ja Rule to come in and do their verses. It was a big energy from the label to have us up in the studio and say, “Wow, Method Man and Redman is working on an album, wow, I wonder how it’s gonna sound.” And motherfuckers were callin’ us left and right wanting to be a part of it. We basically just kept it family with RZA and E on the beats, Rockwilder on the beats, we had Jamal on it, Young Zee from Newark, so we kept it family, and then Def Jam family. So it was fun.
Do you have a favorite song off that album?
Oh man, there’s so many. [Laughs] But basically every one, even the intro.
When you hear that intro you know what you’re in for.
Exactly, exactly. And then number two off it [sings the melody of "Blackout"], I mean every one of them. “Mi Casa,” I mean if I picked one it would be unfair. One of my favorites though is… [sings the bassline of "Maaad Crew"] That’s not “Cereal Killer,” even though that’s one of my favorites. “What’s up my nigga…” It’s “Maaad Crew.” [Laughs] Yeah.
You and Meth have worked together so many times. Are there any collabs you guys have done that really stick out to you?
Yeah—”1, 2, 1, 2.” ‘Cause we was back and forth, man. We was just back and forth, and it really distinctively told a tale of each of our styles, what makes us win. Because you know, we both got lyrics and flows, but it really just showed what side we really hold, you know? I’m more of the punchline and gettin’ into what people know and Meth flows a lot better. And it just really told that and it was just great, I love that track. Even though we don’t perform it at shows, we need to. “Rockwilder” was pretty easy. “Y.O.U.,” I love “Y.O.U.”
What was different between the first one and the Blackout 2?
The second one was still hard as hell, I love the second one. It was more of maybe the time difference, the timing. We still had hard beats on there and it was still a hard album but we didn’t get the promotion that we should have got. That’s when Def Jam was on its way to, you know, I’m not gonna say downhill, but losing their sense of how to treat each artist up at Def Jam. So we just got caught in that rap, no promotion, and we still did good.
“Mrs. International” was probably my favorite song on that one.
Yes. Yes. Everybody loved that joint. Even “Ayo” was dope as hell, man, come on.
You have so many classics in your arsenal. Do you ever feel underrated?
Yeah, sometimes I get into the underrated motion. But you know what? If everybody was super, then who’s super? You gotta have some cats that make… I had to look at it like, if I wasn’t in the same position that I was, I wouldn’t be as comfortable moving around the world as I am. I love my comfortableness moving without bodyguards, or without this or without that, or I can go and bring my kids places without bodyguards, or be with my family without all the nonsense. I get noticed as an artist that has 50 million sales, but it’s more of a, “Yeah, you that nigga, Red.”
And I have to appreciate that more. That people know that, yeah, I’m that nigga. Rather than going out and saying, “Yeah, I’m that nigga, fuck that, look at all the work I did.” No, people know. They already know. And I’m like a Maidana or something. Maidana was one of those fighters that was feared, and nobody wanted to fight. They knew he could box, but he just never had that big shot to be in that big circle realm. And actually when I look at it, and look from the outside looking in, I don’t wanna be in it. I’m cool. I’m cool the way I am. As you can see, I still have goals to progress in, I haven’t reached the top. I still have a couple of levels at my age that I can try to reach before I’m too old to reach them.
You kind of got a little bit of the best of both worlds going on.
Yeah, exactly. And we still moving and on the road like we in the ’90s. So I can’t complain, man.
You’re so associated with funk music, so I always wanted to ask you this. What is the funk?
Funk is a feeling. Funk is a way of life. Funk is… [pauses] It’s actually a nucleus that you have to be born with. When I got down with E Sermon and EPMD, he helped me advance my funkness. He is such a big fat funky muthafucka, man, and he knows how to make those beats so sloppy, and [starts growling], and that’s funk. I mean, that’s funk. And not too many people is equipped with it. Pete Rock is equipped with it. Pete Rock got that funk. That muthafucka know how to make some funk. Dre know how to lay that funk down. There’s only a couple people [who can].
Like I said, it’s a feeling that you get in the music, you know? That’s what I think a lot of new producers now today is not doing. A lot of producers are using programs, and all they have to do is line things up, line it up, line it up. Back in the day, we learned how to do beats without [that], and that’s what helped that funk come out. Like with George Clinton and Parliament back in the day, everything wasn’t always on time, it was all live played; you couldn’t loop or mix a George Clinton record together because it would go off time, no matter if it’s the same BPM. They always get kinda slower in the song, or make it faster and slower, and you know that funk when you feel it. LIke I said, it’s a feeling, and it’s a way of life.
For the next couple months do you have a timeframe of when you wanna release these projects, or are you just working for now?
I’m just working in the studio right now. I’m trying to get Muddy Waters 2: The Mixtape out by the end of October, and the album next year, around April.