NEW YORK — Method Man says he's seen way better days.
In the few years since his last LP, Tical 0: The Prequel, dropped, he's read unfairly disparaging appraisals of his skills in magazines, had his pride tested, gotten his car and most of his jewelry stolen and seen his wife battle a severe illness.
"There were a lot of things that needed to be changed in my life and career," Meth said Tuesday at New York's Electric Lady Studios. "Everything! I needed that moment of clarity."
The title of Meth's new album focuses on that clear-headedness: 4:21 ... The Day After.
"Four-twenty [April 20] is the national weed-smoking day, according to those who chief," he explained, sitting on a piano bench. "I basically said '4:21' because I'm the day-after dude. Plus, four [and] two [and] zero only adds up to six. '4:21' gives you that perfect seven. So this is sort of the day after, a moment of clarity, so to speak. When you're waking up from that night of partying and sh-- like that, what goes down."
4:21's street record, "Yah Mean," features Fat Joe and Styles P. and is the kind of pavement-embedded record one would expect from Meth. The album's first single, "Say," includes a sample of Lauryn Hill's vocals from her 2001 performance of the Bob Marley classic "So Much Things to Say" on MTV's "Unplugged." The track finds Meth at perhaps his most pensive, talking about people who say he may not have it on the mic anymore, among other things.
"See, it was 'Clan in the Front,' " he raps over an acoustic guitar. "Now they just gon' front/ Like my joints is on Proactiv and they just don't bump/ Then n---as gonna say I lost my skill/ When in fact they all been programmed and lost they feel."
"I hate the way mutha-----s was talking, like I was the worst thing to happen to MCing," he said of the inspiration for the song. "And there's n---as out there doing way worst sh-- than I ever did in my life.
"It's like finally getting the joke and figuring out everybody is laughing at you — 'All this time, I ain't know' — but still having that power to strike back at 'em," he added. "Like 'I'm gonna reverse the joke. The joke is on y'all, 'cause I get it now.' "
Another moment of clarity arrived while Meth was figuring out who he was going to work with on 4:21, his fourth solo album. Kwame and Scott Storch both supplied beats, and RZA is back on board as well (see "RZA Happy To Once Again Be The Peanut Butter To Method Man's Jelly").
"On the third LP, it was suggested to bring in Harve Pierre and P. Diddy," he began to explain about exactly where The Prequel went wrong. "Who am I to argue? Puff knows how to sell some records. But that wasn't the direction to go in, and I know that now.
"I didn't know that when people look at me, they didn't just look at me as a performer who goes around and has fun all day," he continued. "They want me to say something. I got [so] caught up in the other hoopla that I stopped saying anything. I just got wrapped up in trying to make hit records and SoundScan. ... I just wanted to get my album out. Def Jam was going through their transition, and I felt that if I didn't get my album out, I wasn't gonna be at the label."
Now, looking back, Meth says he sees that he needed to look inward to find the right direction.
"I wasn't true to myself [on The Prequel] for the simple fact that, look at who I was working with," he said. "I'm not trying to take nothing way from Puff, he's the biggest artist on Bad Boy. But Puff with Meth don't mesh. We don't party the same way."
4:21 ... The Day After is due July 18.