This ‘Method Man’ article was written by Sam Bennett, a GIGsoup contributor

4*Veteran MC Method Man needs no real introduction. The Wu-Tang Clan rapper has one of the most consistent track records in the game, and one of the most distinctive and recognisable voices on wax. The Meth Lab is his fifth studio album, the first since 2006s 4.21… The Day After, and is released through Tommy Boy Records. At 17 tracks (excluding the intro and outro), only one is a solo cut, with appearances from a selection of regular Meth collaborators, as well as Cory Gunz and Uncle Murda. Considering The Meth Lab was first mentioned back in 2014 as a mixtape to be released in preparation for Meth’s Crystal Meth album, the extensive list of features definitely contributes to the album’s underground driven sound.

The Ron Browz produced Straight Gutta, which features Wu-affiliates Streetlife and Hanz On, who both feature heavily across this album and have quality solo albums in their own right, as well as Redman, is an early highlight. The gritty, soulful production allows Streetlife and Hanz On to drop their street-smart lyricism on two memorable verses, and Red and Meth go back to back, each with a cocky 8 bar appearance; the chemistry they bring to the track is instantly catching. 50 Shots, featuring Streetlife, Cory Gunz and Mack Wilds, is comprised of an upbeat instrumental laced with funky guitars; it’s a pretty lighthearted cut, although Meth shows his skill with a smooth, melodic flow and precisely delivered and expertly structured writing.

The convincing and soulful 2 Minutes Of Your Time, with infectious string runs and classy sampling, is my favourite track from The Meth Lab. Method Man’s slow paced and ultra-cool flow, percussive delivery and complex rhyme schemes make the track a real standout. The problem is much of this project seems a little underwhelming; sure the guest verses are impressive on the whole (Uncle Murda’s recognisable tone and believable attitude is a winner on Worldwide), and the production is professional and suitably raw (the sinsister Water, which features Staten Island spitter Chedda Bang, is a noteworthy example), but compared to Meth’s early solo work, and the stellar projects being released by fellow Clan member Ghostface Killah, this one lacks that special something.

It’s not until The Purple Tape, which features Raekwon and Inspectah Deck, that a classic feel starts to infect The Meth Lab. The raw, gritty piano laced instrumental, courtesy of Brown Bag Allstars producer J57 provides a perfect backdrop for the masterful verses crafted by some of New York’s finest. It’s great to hear a J57 beat on this album; he’s long been one of my favourite underground producers, keeping a thoroughly east coast flavour throughout his body of work. This confident presence and raw lyricism continues on Intelligent Meth, which finds Masta Killa, Streetlife and Intell also contributing verses over a crisp, hardcore beat produced by 4th Disciple, a longstanding producer for Wu-affiliates and founding member of the Killarmy group.

The marching Symphony is a really effective posse cut; the whole album feels like one, but as Meth and a host of other gritty New York MCs trade verses over a slow moving, anthemic sounding instrumental with impressive flows and a cohesive collaborative sound, the track is definitely one to revisit. The textured, menacing Another Winter is another highlight, with authentic, hard hitting verses and great production.

Amidst some pretty middling content, there are some indisputable bangers on The Meth Lab. The album suffers from a huge amount of features; there should be more Meth on his own solo album, especially considering we’ve waited for one since 2006. Still though, the album has an inherent Staten Island vibe to it, and if nothing else it’s a chance to hear a bunch of dope New York rappers bringing heavy verses over cohesive and gritty production. Meth does state that ‘The Meth Lab is closed; Crystal Meth coming real soon’ on the project’s outro, so perhaps the best is yet to come.

‘The Meth Lab’ is out now on Tommy Boy

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