In honor of collaboration, XXL spoke with some of rap and R&B’s top artists about the making of four hip-hop soul smash hits. Double up.
Method Man’s “I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By,” featuring Mary J. Blige (1995)
Mary J. Blige: This was around the time, I think, we were in the middle of recording the My Life album. I was in the studio, and Puff was like, “Method Man wants to do a record with you.” I was already a fan of Wu-Tang, but I had become a bigger fan of Meth when he was by himself, so I was excited when I got that call.
Immediately I was familiar, and I was all the way in because “You’re All I Need” was one of my favorite songs as a little girl. I used to play that song over and over and over again because it meant so much to me. And, of course, listening to my parents play it, it was like, okay, you know, anything that your parents listen to was good. So I was definitely familiar.
I didn’t know Meth at all. The night we did “You’re All I Need” was the very first night I met him. And he was one of the nicest people that I had encountered since I had been in the music business. I was like, “Wow, this is refreshing.” He was nice. He was supportive. He made me feel like I was his little sister immediately. It was great. I was so happy to be a part of it. [The night we recorded,] I was in the studio already, and Puff was like, “Meth is gonna come by, and you guys are gonna do the song.” I remember being in the studio and him coming. It was him and Ol’ Dirty Bastard and a couple other people. After I did the record with [Meth], Puff sent it to me, and we listened to it. It was like, oh my God, a match made in heaven. It was perfect. The chemistry was just too perfect. Not too perfect, but you know.
Lyrically, Meth is saying some incredible things. He’s saying the things most of us want. We want someone to love us whether we’re rich, poor, fat, skinny, and before all this fame and the hair and makeup, the jewels, that’s what he’s saying. That this person loved him before he was Meth. And that meant a lot, because that’s the type of person I am. I’m with you before everybody knows about you. I’m gonna stay with you forever. I’m gonna rock with you to the end. And that’s why I believe everybody can relate to it, because there are a lot of people out there like that, whether we know it or not, people that really want the best for you, not just because you are a superstar or because of what you can give them, but because they genuinely love and care for you. And that’s why the song, it’s a love song. You’re saying to the person, “I don’t need anything else in this world but you.” It reaches out to all generations, from six to 60, because you got the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell nostalgia for the old stuff, and then you got Meth, who is us, and you got me, who is R&B. And you can’t miss. It’s a home run.
I had never won a Grammy before, and to win it for that song, it was the most amazing thing that could have happened to me at that time in my life, because there were so many negative things happening around me at that time. Although me having a career was positive, that was one of the most positive things that could have happened. It was positive for me. It was positive for hip-hop and R&B. It was amazing, important.
RZA: We were working on [Meth’s solo LP] Tical. At the time, Wu-Tang was on top of the game. Me, as the producer, always liked to have a few songs on the album that had something that the females could get into, as well, but kept it rough. I always had the idea that Method Man was the kind of artist that could attract females, even though he never wanted to be that kind of artist, ironically.
The album was [out], probably close to platinum, and we wanted a new single. We did the hardcore thing. “Bring the Pain.” “Release Yo’ Delf.” I was like, “Yo, let’s do the song ‘All I Need.’ Let’s make it a single.” Meth was like, “Hell no, hell no. I don’t want no song like that.” He don’t want no song about him talking about girls, ’cause he didn’t wanna be a sex-symbol-type rapper.
And so I was like, Lyor [Cohen, president of Def Jam at the time] wanted it. I wanted it. We were gonna remix it and everything. And he was like, “Nah,” still. So we had to make a deal with Method Man. We had to promise him I’d get Mary J. Blige on it, and I promised him we’d get him a new Lexus. And it was the new Lexus that finally tilted him over, and he agreed to do it. At the time, me and Puffy was cool. We’d been cool for years, and I reached out. And he was like, “Yeah, let’s make it happen.” The album version was more hard and gritty. Then we did the P. Diddy remix, then the RZA remix, the one seen in the video.
What inspired me to have Method Man do the song was, at the time, we both had our girls, and I was a little older than him, so I had a baby, had a girl, had a crib and shit, and I was kind of like an older example. I had a girl that would cook and clean, and they come over my crib, and they got dinner and stuff like that. And he had what he called a shorty at the time. They was getting closer and closer and closer. And they was really a beautiful couple to me. I always kinda admired their relationship. I seen it as an early form of my relationship. I remember telling him, like, “Yo, do this song, yo, you know, for your wiz. And, like, it’ll really be special for her, be special for all women.” We wrote the song. We would talk about the ideas and what kind of words to put in to make it feel strong for women, as well as keep his cool. And I think lyrically he did that, yo.
Everybody knew we had a hit on our hands. At the time, our egos was immaculate, anyway, so it was like it was no doubt about what the fuck we was doing. The only thing was convincing Method Man that he is definitely one of the grittiest rappers, and shit like that. He is “Bringing the Pain,” and, you know, his husky voice, but letting him realize, like, “Yo, women and children love you, baby. The thugs love you, but the women and children is mad over you, and feed them.” I think that song changed his life, really, in all reality. He became a sex symbol, yo.—Compiled by Carl Chery, Jesse Gissen, Anslem Samuel and Taiia Smart Young
For more of the Duets article, make sure to pick up XXL's August issue on newsstands now.