When you’ve been handed as many industry backhands as Method Man and Redman have, it’d be easy to just roll a blunt and call it a day. Once revered as Def Jam’s dynamic duo, the partners in rhyme can’t seem to catch a break these days. Recent hit albums from label mates Rick Ross, Ludacris, and Kanye West were hard to ignore thanks to tireless promotion, a key ingredient to success that Meth and Red haven’t received since the days of their first joint effort, 1999’s Blackout! Meth’s underrated 2006 disc, 4:21… The Day After, was dumped on store shelves with little visibility, just as Redman’s equally good Red Gone Wild: Thee Album was a year later.
Nevertheless, with an undying camaraderie, rap’s Cheech and Chong have reunited against all odds with Blackout! 2 (the latest in hip-hop’s obsession with sonic sequels and forced nostalgia). A union of lyrical beasts that was an event a decade ago, the modern day Meth and Red tag team is surfacing in a less excitable commercial scene, which is unfortunate because Blackout! 2, while uneven, is admirable for its insistence on sticking to the fan-pleasing script. The production is comfortably rugged throughout, and the subject matter rarely veers from marijuana-laced shit-talking and the sporadic party crash, all executed with the veterans’ fluid pass-the-mic chemistry.
As it should, Blackout! 2 sounds like a defiant middle finger aimed at rap’s status quo. “We can ship gold, fuck one million,” the duo says together on the album’s celebratory opener, “B.O.2 (Intro),” and that’s exemplary of the album’s proceeding creative decisions. The Keith Murray–assisted “Errbody Scream” knocks like a classic Def Squad production, inspiring a particularly scathing Meth verse (“I try to keep it hot like the pilot in the stove/While these rappers lose power putting powder in their nose”). The requisite weed songs in Redman’s past discography are saluted with “Dis Iz 4 All My Smokers,” a dose of dusty, string-heavy soul that brings the best of Red’s chauvinism out: “You can smoke with the bro if you got ass and nice tits/But fuck you with that ‘I’m high off of life’ shit.”
The mood shifts to Afrika Bambaataa–era good times on the rambunctious “Hey Zulu,” a single in waiting that shows the duo in carefree experimentation mode. Blackout! 2’s best example of tone tweaking, though, is the smooth “Mrs. International,” where Buckwild’s retro guitars and horns sync up a soulful backdrop, while the pair show no bias, spittin’ sweet nothings for “fat, skinny, Black, or White” ladies. Equally enjoyable is the album’s bouncy first single “A-Yo” featuring Saukrates on the hook and the duo volleying lyrics back and forth on the verses. Once the disposable and lifeless posse cut “How Bout Dat,” stricken with witless cameos from Ready Roc and Street Life, comes around, Blackout! 2 devolves into a hit-or-miss affair. “Neva Herd Dis B 4,” with its slew of irritating robotic synths, finds Redman at his laziest (“Name ain’t Justin, but I rock Timberlands”), while the screeching sonics on “I Know Sumptin” sounds like a Neptunes throwaway.
For the majority of Blackout! 2, Meth and Red touch upon the strongest staples of their past work (“Four Minutes to Lock Down,” with Raekwon and Ghostface, is this album’s always reliable Wu-Tang cipher). The uninspired filler that litters this reunion’s latter portion, though, spoils the overall taste. Those with a hardcore case of the munchies for vintage Meth and Red goodness should feel satisfied. Just expect to be reminded more of past, stronger highs, rather than any lasting, in-the-moment buzz. —MATT BARONE