Weed and energy. It’s a combination that drives most, if not all, contemporary hip-hop shows. And although you don’t necessarily need the former to have a good time, you certainly need the latter. Especially when you’re dealing with the class clowns of hip-hop: Method Man and Redman. The two’s performance on the Mohawk’s outside stage last Tuesday, proved to be wildly fun and entertaining. Which is to be expected from the dynamic duo that created one of the greatest works of film a part of the 21st century: How High.
Before the twosome took the stage there were several different rap groups/solo rappers that served as openers. There was the LNS Crew, whose production was sleek and well-crafted, but rhymes lacking in delivery and conviction (although Cory surely stood out during the group’s short and sweet set); Phranchyze, whose energetic and hook-based rhymes kept the audience engaged; Zeale, whose indie rock-sampling repertoire certainly made him the “black sheep” of the night’s performances (but he still won over the crowd. Also, shouts out to Kid Slyce, Zeale’s DJ), and two rappers apparently affiliated with Method Man and Redman. (In terms of precision and technicality, they were incredible. As performers, not so much.)
In between each performance was what’s expected to be at any “real” hip-hop show: someone wearing A Tribe Called Quest T-shirt; someone wearing a Wu-Tang T-shirt; five inch-long blunts; bottles of malt liquor; and DJs switching between Biggie’s “Juicy,” Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks,” 2Pac’s “I Get Around” and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour.”
Finally, Method Man and Redman’s DJs took the stage: it was time. First to appear was Redman, whose mischievous smile was simultaneously reassuring and laugh-inducing. It seems heavy-handed to say Redman “fell off,” but the fast-changing pace of hip-hop toward the late 2000s surely left many rappers behind–Redman being one of them. However, his smile seemed to indicate that he was doing just fine (and arguably better than ever, considering most of his and Method Man’s tour this year has been near sold-out).
As Redman low-fived people in the crowd, Method Man made his way onstage. He too, has arguably seen better days. (Fortunately for him he’s got several festival appearances with the Wu to look forward to.) So it made sense that for approximately an hour and 15 minutes, Meth and Red revisited those “better days.” Better days that, depending on who you ask, are defined by an assortment of characteristics. Lyrical dexterity, intricate production–basically anything that goes underneath the umbrella that hip-hop purists call, “real hip-hop.”
And Meth and Red adhered to that for most of their performance. They played the hits: some from Meth’s Tical, some from Red’s Whut? Thee Album, some from the two’s collaborative efforts Blackout! and Blackout! 2, and even some Wu-Tang material. They bounced across years but primarily kept their focus between the ’90s, and early 2000s.
With age the two have only gotten wilder. Jumping off of speakers, crowd-surfing, standing on top of the audience, requesting moshpits. Their set felt more like a punk show than a hip-hop show at times. And there were those small instances when Meth and Red reminded us of their almost-natural knack for comedy. Reciting “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” voicing their approval for pot and disapproval for crack (“F**k crackheads” was Meth’s response) and doing semi-choreographed dances, the duo had us laughing as much as they had us reciting rhymes.
There were some off moments such as Red bringing out his cousin (you know him, the cousin that was asleep on his floor during Red’s MTV Cribs segment), who rapped lazily over a bad “trap”-step instrumental. Or Meth dropping new material that kind of worked, but just didn’t feel right. But overall the class clowns of hip-hop had done their job. They ended with the ever-popular “Da Rockwilder” and stood onstage a little while after, signing stuff and meeting fans.
Of course Meth and Red put on a great show. Sometimes it’s great to be reminded of once was, and how that shaped a certain time period. It would be great to see Red and Meth adapt to the times, but even if that doesn’t occur, at least we have their memorable performance to cherish for years to come.