Set against a solid red banner, The Blind Pig looked unusually minimalist Wednesday night. The stage design was sparse: a couple of Sutter Home-covered turntables, a bucket of bottled waters and a stockpile of blunts thicker than DJ Mathematics’s wrists. In short, the setting was perfect. Method Man’s gruff, effortless style and menacing-yet-charming stoner/thug persona thrives without ornamentation.
Fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Inspectah Deck and Masta Killa made an effective opening and supporting cast. They warmed up the Pig with a sampling of their solo work and classic Wu-Tang-era rhymes, including Deck’s notorious “C.R.E.A.M.” verse.
Over chants of “make marijuana legal,” Meth swaggered in with “Method Man,” the 36 Chambers track that was instrumental in building hype for his solo career. From there, Meth stomped and swayed his way through a spat of familiar Tical material – from the pulsing, vicious “Bring the Pain” to the oddly threatening romance of “All I Need.” – into pieces of his latest release, 4:21. The Day After.
Then it happened. We hoped it wouldn’t, but it did.
If you’ve seen an interview or listened to any of Meth’s lyrics in the last year, you know he’s in a “contemplative” stage. Unfortunately, contemplation for Meth is reduced to undernourished claims that the media is brainwashing the public to hate him.
Between “Ya’Meen” and his critic-bashing single “Things They Say,” Meth managed to work in a stream of savage, affirmation-hungry rants.
“No matter if some magazine gives me two mikes, three mikes, the streets give me five.”
“Fuck all that shit you read . They been shittin’ on a kid for two years.”
“Things They Say” is basically a rhymed version of these sentiments set to a pleasant Lauryn Hill sample. (“They writin’ that I’m Hollywood, trying to tell you my shit ain’t ghetto when they hardly hood / come on man / till you guys can write some rhymes keep that in mind when you find yourself reciting mines.”)
Even while introducing a fiery rendition of his renowned verse from The Notorious B.I.G.’s “The What,” Meth couldn’t restrain himself from pointing out that he was the only guest appearance on the monolithic Ready to Die.
Meth’s concerts would be nearly perfect if he did what he refuses to do on his albums: Let his rap speak for itself. He’s clearly at his best in front of febrile, seething crowds like the Pig’s. His voice directs the audience like a conductor’s wand. Eyes expand and the collective adrenal rush pumps as he unleashes verse after graceful verse.
He’s clearly at his worst when he’s trying to act crucified. Entertain us, Meth, and we will love you. Plead, and we’ll be turned off.
Fortunately, Meth moved fairly fluidly to the requisite Ol’ Dirty Bastard tribute. The “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” cover was credible, highlighting some fascinating contrasts between the two rappers.
ODB’s jagged, chaotic lifestyle contributed to a tragic and untimely death. What’s interesting is that his creative legacy survived largely intact. Conversely, Meth began a languorous descent into the bland (Tical 2000), blander (Tical 0), and confusing (“Meth and Red,” Right Guard ads). Meth still gives a great concert. A really great concert. But in fifty years, who are music historians going to respect more? The smart money’s on Dirt.
In place of an encore, Meth returned to the stage to grab a female fan. “You know you’re coming with me,” he said. And she did. If only that kind of confidence were more present in his act, he could spend a little less time on the insecure bitching and a little more on what makes him one of the foremost MCs alive: ecstatic, visceral rap.