NEW YORK — Conventional wisdom dictates that a person can't achieve success unless they're able to learn from their mistakes. But if you ask Method Man for the secret to his success, the Staten Island hip-hop icon will admit that much of his musical success came despite his mistakes.
"I was unfocused. It's like ignorance was bliss for me in those years," remembered Method Man, looking back on the days of his first solo album, Tical (1994), and his group the Wu-Tang Clan's first album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993). Nearly a decade later, a more mature Meth sits at the soundboard in Daddy's House recording studio, where he is working on his latest album, Tical 0: The Prequel, and acknowledges that he had some real problems back in the day.
"I didn't know what was at stake when I did that first video 'Bring the Pain' [and] came to the set dusted," the rapper confessed. "That's why I looked crazy like that ... N---as was high! Not just weed high. Dust. Angel dust high.
"The second album [1998's Tical 2000: Judgement Day] was unfocused," he continued. "My head was in the clouds somewhere. I was like, 'Yeah, I can do this. This ain't nothing. I can do this by myself!' That's the mistake a lot of us make."
According to the 1995 Grammy winner, it was Tical 2000's disappointing sales that served as his wake-up call. And along with that misstep came a new battle with self-doubt.
"What was bringing [me] down was the drugs, the partying, the drinking and the
fake love kept me blinded for a long time. [For example, people said,] 'You're already established, you ain't gotta work hard.' That type of fake love."
But while Meth, a.k.a. Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. Tical, has traded in his hard-partying ways for the natural high of working on Tical 0, his memories of the "good ol' days" aren't all bad. In fact, the title of his upcoming third solo album actually speaks to the more lighthearted atmosphere of Meth's life before he first cannonballed into the spotlight.
"I ain't trying to go back to my youth or nothing like that," he explained, "but [rather] the mentality that I was in ... I'm basically trying to have fun again. Let's make it fun while we do it."
Meth's first step toward reviving rap's fun factor was a physical change. He decided to record his new album in P. Diddy's midtown-Manhattan studio rather than in the more predictable space of the Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers Studios. And he replaced the traditional rowdy Wu entourage with a one-man music consigliere, Bad Boy vice president Harve Pierre.
"I'm happy to be working with different people," Meth said about his unusual choice for Tical 0's executive producer. "It feels like I'm going against the grain, like, 'Oh, he's f---in' with Bad Boy now?' But it's not even like that.
"I'm coming into this head clear, no evil thoughts, no thinking about what they gonna think about this," Meth added. "It's just uggghh! My time."
While rumors of a Method Man defection from Def Jam to Diddy's camp can safely be squashed, the pairing of Meth and Pierre has resulted in a slew of Tical 0 tracks. The album, which is due for a spring release, features such tracks as "Reasons" (produced by Chicagoan No I.D.), "Rodeo," (featuring Ludacris), "Afterparty," (featuring fellow Wu-Tanger Ghostface and produced by Quaran, a former member of the group Da Youngstas) and the RZA-produced "The Turn" (a collaboration with Raekwon).
For many hip-hop fans, the collaborations with Ghostface and Raekwon would seem like encouraging evidence that another Wu-Tang Clan album is on tap. When asked about his longtime rap supergroup, though, Meth only offers his favorite motto and new version of "no comment" — "Um, I got kids" — making it clear that the group's status is still up in the air.
For now, it seems Meth is purely focused on Meth. And with an upcoming album, several movie roles — he recently wrapped "My Baby's Mama," with Anthony Anderson and Eddie Griffin, and "The Other Side of Simple," with Vince Vaughn (see "Method Man To Star In Crime Thriller With Vince Vaughn") — and a documentary on exotic dancers that he's directing all in the works, Method Man's plate is nearly overflowing. But this time around, Meth seems determined to keep his music on the front burner.
"You don't know the relief I get, after I spit out three 16 [bar verses of lyrics], because that's one in the bucket for me. The hard part is done. I got out all that sh-- that was in me," he explained. "I take my time with everything that I write because for every person that's not listening there's three people that are. And I don't ever want it to be said that I f---ed the game up."