Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Method Man and Redman, 2.0

By Evan Rytlewski
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Whether Method Man and Redman's 1999 collaboration Blackout! is actually a classic is up for debate, but as the only full length from the cult rappers turned unlikely Abbott and Costello comedy team, its status grew each year to the point that any formal follow-up was bound to be a disappointment. By almost every measure, though, Meth and Red's tardy sequel, Blackout! 2, is better than its predecessor, a tighter, fiercer update that retains the original's guy's-night-out swagger but cuts some of the goofball filler.

It's a remarkably fresh, modern record from two rappers who have sometimes been reluctant to update their sound. Auto-Tune colors the occasional verse, and the album stand-out "City Lights" surfs on a grimy, chopped-up Southern beat and UGK sample, building to a verse from Bun B. But the variety suits the duo well, and never comes at the expense of the no-frills, NYC mentality that defined the original Blackout! Nineties veteran producers Rockwilder, Havoc and Erick Sermon all contribute vital, striking beats, and even Pete Rock shows versatility, offering one of the most commercial grooves he's ever produced on the nimble single "A Yo."

As always, Redman is on his A-game, mining grins from pop culture references both obvious (R. Kelly) and unlikely (You Don't Mess with the Zohan), and though Method Man risks becoming the straight man to Red's overcaffeinated jester, he sounds as enthusiastic here as he has in years. Should the pair ever get around to recording a Blackout! 3 in 2019, it'll have high expectations to live up to.

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