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He reps the Rotten Apple to death and doesn’t talk smack on DVDs

I was reading the Village Voice online yesterday and I came across a review of Method Man’s 4:21…The Day After. Miles Marshall Lewis begins his article with a simple—but key—question: “Who, exactly, is waiting on the new Method Man?” In other words, is Meth even remotely relevant to today’s hip-hop game?

I had to dust off my copy of the album (which had been serving as a coaster on my desk) and take a good, long listen. Mr. Mef has spent the last few months on a tedious press campaign that’s involved complaining relentlessly about the press to the press. His last outing tanked with the critics and fans alike, and the Shaolin soldier caught serious feelings. As Lewis points out in his Voice review, Method Man is using this release to put forward an extended argument for his own relevance.

The album is actually a whole lot better than I thought it would be. Meth is an exceptional rapper and that hasn’t really changed. If anything, his smooth flow and witty wordplay stand out more now in a market that’s flooded with mediocre trap star chant rappers. “Say,” which features a melancholy Lauryn Hill sample, is one of my favorite songs this year, and there’s a solid nine iPod-worthy tracks on this album—which is about seven more than most albums that dropped this year. “Dirty Mef” resurrects O.D.B. (rest in peace) to eerie effect; Ginuwine shows up to coo over the requisite girl record “Let’s Ride.” The Day After doesn’t have the magic of Meth’s earlier material, but I don’t think anyone really expects it to. All things considered, there’s a lot working in favor of this project.

But in today’s hip-hop climate, good music does not equal relevance. As I see it, there’s a number of obstacles in Johnny Blaze’s path. Here’s five reasons why I think people aren’t checking for him right now:

1. Hip-hop is a young man’s game.
The next generation is making a huge push to take over and claim their piece of the pie. (See Maino’s “Take it like a man.” Don’t know if Maino is an 80s baby, but if so, that movement might just have their first official anthem.) Also, when it comes to record sales, I’m guessing that young fanboys buy more music than the grumpy Hip-Hop is Dead dudes.

2. Hip-hop is polarized regionally, and the South is on top.
The South—who keep reminding us that they buy an awful lot of records—are fed up with being marginalized. Now that they’re on top, they’re going to support their own. New York, on the other hand, is mired down in bickering.

3. Hip-hop is obsessed with gossip.
In the days of blogs and hip-hop websites, heads require rap stars to stay in the news in order to stay relevant. And whining about the media for months at a time is not a riveting, headline-grabbing story.

4. Hip-hop is dominated by radio and the clubs.
Music nerds will shun radio in favor of mp3s and pod casts, to be sure, but most casual fans still take their cues from radio. And casual fans buy a lot of records. Really, you don’t even have to tune into radio to be influenced by it. It’s wafting out of car windows, playing in stores, blasting in restaurants. When you hear tracks over and over, they take on new meaning—the songs become infused with your own personal memories. And people often buy music for emotional reasons. As far as Meth goes, it looks like Def Jam is not doing much to promote his album. Plus, it doesn’t sound all that radio-friendly in the first place. Or club-friendly.

5. Hip-hop is fascinated with beef and violence.
Which is why some dudes have built entire careers out of taking shots at other rappers.

So, for Method Man—a New York rapper in his mid thirties who isn’t getting spins, making snap music, beefing or otherwise acting a fool—it’s going to be pretty tough to be relevant to the game. Regardless of how decent his album is.

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