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  Meth battles with a bout of schizophrenia ...



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  Method Man admits that the drugs, partying and 'fake love' compromised his music ...



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 Method Man: Through The Years








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-- by Abbey Goodman, with additional reporting by Minya Oh

Method Man hasn't changed. You have.

Or at least that's what the Staten Island rapper born Clifford Smith would like for you to believe.

"I'm still me. I ain't changed a bit," he said. "I mean, everything around me has changed except me. So what does that say? Oh boy, it's crazy."

It's not only crazy — it's flat-out wrong.

It's been five years since Meth's last solo album, and twice that since his crew, Wu-Tang Clan, broke onto the rap scene with the urban classic Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). And while what Method Man is trying to convey is that money and success haven't changed him, that notion seems somewhat naive. We've all seen how true it rings for J.Lo.

  "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By"
Tical
(Def Jam)
Let's start with the obvious: Shrouded in an oversized grey hooded fur coat and a belly-button length medallion swinging from his neck, Meth seesaws between his old persona — a gritty, street-savvy interview subject who commands attention by piquing curiosity with his now-you-see-me-now-you-don't get-ups — and a more secure, mature Meth who doesn't rely on gimmicks to get noticed. He wears what he's got with the subdued grace of someone born with natural style and charisma, though he stays blingin'. This is in contrast to the old, crazy-looking Method Man, the fresh-on-the-scenes scrapper and street poet who stood out from the crowd by wearing every soccer mom's greatest nightmare: gold fangs and a glass eye.

Oh yeah. Things have definitely changed.

But it's about much more than just fashion. As the first Wu-Tang member to capitalize on the enormous success of the supergroup by putting out a solo album, 1994's Tical, Method Man modeled himself as a grimy rapper, perhaps even to excess, to counteract the public's image of him as the Clan's pretty-boy frontman.

  Method Man Photos: Through The Years
Over the years, though, he's moved farther and farther away from that self-imposed grit and morphed into a half-playful, half-serious pop-culture icon. Yet you can still find him straddling the fence in his music. Appearing on ubiquitous projects with hip-hop's class clown, Redman (1999's Blackout! and 2001's How High), Meth still seems to embody all the things that made him Wu-Tang's most popular: his street-edged sense of humor, his charisma and sex appeal. On the flip side, when he collaborates with Wu brethren Ghostface Killah or GZA, for example, he often returns to his earlier trademark gutter roots.

As a result, his solo sound has always been a little schizophrenic: a hesitant mix of what he wants to convey and what will sell. And it didn't help that when Meth first struck out on his own, he got caught up in his newfound stardom, catching a glimpse of both its perks and its pitfalls.

"I was unfocused," said Meth, who won a Grammy with Mary J. Blige in 1995 for the duet "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By." "It was like, ignorance was bliss for me in those years. I didn't know what was at stake when I was going out on the road by myself to promote that first album or when I did that first video 'Bring the Pain.' [I] came to the set dusted. That's why I look crazy — n----s was high! Not just weed high, but angel dust high. Kids, say no. That sh-- is not for you."

 

NEXT: Method Man admits that the drugs, partying and 'fake love' compromised his music ...
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Photo: Def Jam

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 "Break Ups 2 Make Ups"
Tical 2000: Judgement Day
(Def Jam)



 "Judgement Day"
Tical 2000: Judgement Day
(Def Jam)



 Method Man and Redman
"Da Rockwilder"
Blackout
(Def Jam)



 "Riddler"
Batman Forever:
Music From The Motion Picture

(Atlantic)



 Method Man and Redman
"Tear It Off"
In Too Deep
(Sony)



 "Release Yo' Delf"
Tical
(Def Jam)



 "Bring The Pain"
Tical
(Def Jam)



 "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By"
Tical
(Def Jam)




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