When recalling Hip Hop's great duos - and there are a few - it cannot be denied that Redman and Method Man [click to watch] have earned their spot near the top. Whether you point to Funk Doc and Johnny Blaze's creation of the smoker's anthem "How High," their high-octane debut album Blackout!, or their reputation as being two of Hip Hop's elite performers, it's very easy to understand why any Rap fan, especially those who enjoyed the culture in the '90s, would be excited that these two are at it again. But nostalgia's a tricky thing, particularly when it comes to music. A decade is a lifetime in music - probably two in Hip Hop. Today's artists are here today and gone tomorrow, a testament to how rare longevity in this game really is. So with Blackout! 2, Red and Mef seek to show that they can still party like it's 1999.
Redman and Method Man introduce the listener to the album with an audio clip from one of their heralded live shows, and waste no time making claims to the throne: "It's Mef and Doc, nigga, back on that shit, homie / Back on the strip how many women wanna strip for me? / This nigga spit, don't he? / My flow is heavy as Katrina when she broke the levies /...you better get to know me/I'm top notch, got a thing for the top spot, to hot for you to hold me / When it gets ugly you gotta cut me a dime / Lil' Asian honey is funny she love me long time/Get this money if you don't mind, got money on my mind," rhymes Method with his trademark impeccable flow.
The first full track on Blackout! 2 sets things off to a dubious beginning. It's hard to believe that the plodding mediocrity on "I'm Dope Nigga" is anywhere near the best that the consistently excellent Havoc [click to read] had to offer. Fortunately, the Pete Rock [click to read]-laced single "A-Yo" [click to listen], which features a memorable hook from Canadian artist Saukrates, follows. Things get even better on "Dangerous MCees" [click to read]. Over vintage-sounding Erick Sermon [click to read] production, the song sounds like it could have been recorded during the original Blackout! sessions.
Red and Meth keep it late '90s when Def Squad-er Keith Murray [click to read] joins in on "Errbody Scream," which features slick rhymes, but an awkward pace-changing beat. It'd be remiss to not mention "Diz Iz 4 All My Smokers," which bar-none has the best production on the album. DJ Scratch's sinister violins, whether sampled or real, provide something lovely for the two emcees to wax about their favorite topic. Also not to be missed is "Four Minutes to Lock Down" [click to listen], a posse cut where Raekwon [click to read] and Ghostface [click to read] join to make it a Wu-Tang affair.
Ultimately, there aren't any glaring weaknesses in Blackout 2! - sadly, there aren't too many amazing ones either. There's certainly nothing of the caliber of "Da Rockwilder" or "Y.O.U." This can be attributed to production that's usually serviceable and only excellent on occasion. But the biggest surprise is the lack of energy displayed by the duo. Now, this is by Redman and Method Man standards, so everything's relative, but there's definitely a sense that the two either aren't having as much fun rhyming as they used to, or are no longer up to the task of consistently making high-energy music. Still, they pack in the punch lines (points to anyone who catches Redman's Mortal Kombat reference), and more often than not it's not a problem.
Although very few people expected Blackout! 2 to measure up to its predecessor, it would be a reasonable expectation for the album to be on the level of the two emcees' most recent solo projects - Method's 4:21...The Day After [click to read] and Redman's Red Gone Wild [click to read]. It doesn't quite operate on the same plane as either of those efforts, and that is decidedly a disappointment. Still, Red and Meth clearly made this album for the fans, and the fans should be more or less sated. They may not be as ferocious as they once were, but very few ever have been. So with that in mind, Blackout! 2 is definitely worth a spin - and not just for nostalgia's sake.