Artist: Method ManTitle: Tical 0: The PrequelRating: 3 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Branding his 2000 sophomore effort with the title Tical 2000: Judgement Day may have been a bit premature for Method Man. In actuality, the release of the long-delayed and heavily speculated Tical O: The Prequel is shaping up to be the true day of reckoning for Johnny Blaze. Wu-Tang Clans ever-loyal fan base has seen the Ticallion Stallion focus his pupils on director's cameras rather than setting studio booths ablaze the past four years. It seems as if Meths back is against the wall these days, with many doubting if he will again be considered a full-fledged MC rather than simply a hip-hop celebrity. In a 2004 rap climate powered by both Southern rowdiness and the slow resurgence of consciousness, can Method Man's current dosage of blunted rap successfully remind fans just who held the game in a Def Jam Vendetta-like chokehold not too long ago?
The answer to this is unclear after listening to The Prequel. Ironically it feels as if Meth was aware of this question while crafting the disc's 17 cuts. An eclectic mix consisting of radio-friendly tunes sprinkled with occasionally grimier moments has replaced both the overall blunted rawness of his 1994 solo debut Tical and apocalyptic ruggedness of the aforementioned Judgement Day. Loyal fans of Meth may not be as content with this creative decision as Def Jam Records would hope, especially after suffering through the album's painfully contrived opener, the Missy Elliot and P. Diddy assisted "Say What", a song reeking of "I need a hit" intentions.
The Prequel does have it fair share of sure-fire winners, such as the sinister party-starter "What's Happenin" featuring Busta Rhymes, and the hook-free lyrical barrage "The Show." Nashiem Myrick supplies Meth with moody and pounding percussion on the album's roughest entry, the battle-ready "The Motto." This call-to-arms aimed at any skeptic doubting Johnny Blaze's skill level should show that he still possesses the fire within to oppose his lyrical foes. Wu-Tang die-hards looking for reassurance that the Clan is still intact may be disappointed to find that Ticals latest offering features a mere two Wu-associated collaborations. Labelmate and Shaolin brethren Ghostface goes back-and-forth with Meth on the uptempo "The Afterparty", while Raekwon brings the '94 out of our host on the no-frills "The Turn". "The Turn" is vintage Killa Bee music, courtesy of the album's lone RZA creation and Method Man bars like, "Its the Wu Tang, 36 Chame, what you smokin'?/ Got you in the game chokin', like Van Gundy is coachin'".
However, hen Meth aims for wider listening audiences The Prequel suffers from a lack of real structure and plays like a audio grab-bag rather than a cohesive listen delivered by a veteran MC. Ludacris joins the festivities on the gimmicky "Rodeo", a bouncy yet awkward track where Meth sounds out-of-place alongside the rapid-fire spitting of Luda. "Never Hold Back" is a particularly uninspired selection, plagued by Gilla House's blatant Erick Sermon-esque production, while the romantic taunts heard on "Baby Come On" impress even less than the annoying Kardinal Offishal-serviced hook.
Even though Method Man's apparent experimentation is successful in spots (Denaun Porter's funky speaker-damager "We Some Dogs", with Snoop Dogg and Redman, and the hypnotically seductive "Tease" are both worthy of repeat playing), an album as crucial to his future musical success as Tical 0: The Prequel should have been handled with better consistency. The overall satisfaction felt on his previous albums is not felt once Tical 0 comes to a close. While Meth does prove that he still has the lyrical chops to please, efforts to broaden his appeal unfortunately take away from the albums scattered highlights.
If this is "The Prequel" to what Method Man has done in the past, one can only hope that next time around he goes "back to the future" Marty McFly style in order to regain the anti-commercial attitude he once displayed.