The intro to this project is wild great. Right away, these off-the-wall rap professionals lay out what we’ll experience in their back-and-forth dialogue laced with ganja and bars. Blackout! is this duo’s interpretation of life in 1999, and throughout, Redman and Method man (or Meth & Red, or Red & Mef, or John Blaze & Funk Doc, or Funk Doctor Spock & Johnny Blaze) perform as ultimate entertainers. Both artists hail from the East Coast and crafted their talent in separate crews: Mef in the Wu-Tang Clan and Redman in Def Squad.
The two first started collaborating in 1994 after meeting at a studio album release party for fellow artist Kriss Kross. Blackout!’s development began four years later and is packed with producers like Erick Sermon, RZA, Rockwilder, Reggie Noble (another one of Redman’s aliases), Mathematics, Gov Mattic, Clifford Smith (Method Man’s alias), and DJ Scratch. After only a year of development, Def Jam Recordings released the record and it became an early 2000’s hip-hop musical masterpiece.
When these two solo stars combine spirits and craft, listeners get exciting flows meshed with comical ad-libs and a sense of positively ‘highhh’ energy. And if that wasn’t enough, a quarter of the album’s 16 tracks (later 19 tracks) feature other talented artists. The 5th track, titled 4 Seasons, is a head-bopping highlight of late 90’s emcees with Red, Meth, L.L Cool J, and Ja Rule all performing together. My only concern with the song comes at the end of the track, where the beat cuts and we hear a live-recorded announcement by one of the artists, “Where all my ladies at?” The album then jumps to Cereal Killer which can speak for itself, but the cut is definitely jarring. I feel like it’s all part of the fun these young MC’s were having while slinging their talents though, so it’s easy to stay in love with the pulsating rhythms and musical madness. The generous geniuses bring hit after hit, and punctuate those tracks with hilarious skits like Where We At, which recaps who’s on the mic and what Blackout!’s all about.
Promo and supporting materials for this album were strong. The Island Def Jam Music Group put out multiple visuals (like a mini-movie called P.I.G.S.) and commercials (old school context included) that would have caught the attention of any hip-hop/rap fan. Additionally, a handful of creatively directed music videos for Y.O.U, Da Rockwilder, and Tear it Off were released. And all of that doesn’t even include the movies and shows the duo would go onto co-create and star in as their careers expand. These guys are so much more than rappers! Just a few months after getting back from the Blackout! World Tour, they made How High, a cinematic experience representing their lifestyle in school with a cannabis-filled plot twist. A few years later, Method Man and Redman even had their own show on Fox. But enough of this side material; let’s get back to the music.
Run 4 Cover is another exhilarating feature track that stars both Meth’s label mate, Ghostface Killah and another affiliate artist, Streetlife. The bars on this song mean business and flood our ears with living lyrics and absurd adlibs. As the beat slowly fades, the track ends with a victim warning us, a victim we can tell crossed these artists in the streets and is letting us know Blackout! is no joke (as if there was ever a question).
Dat’s Dat **** is the final feature track and brings Mally G to the Mic on the first verse, along with affiliates of the duo, Jamal & Young Zee, on the chorus. Their strength in these bars makes me believe we’re all capable of taking a lot more raw shit than we give ourselves credit for. “My recitals is worth ten titles.” As we ride the wave that is this entire compilation, it’s easy to get lost in the thick thoughts captured by the fantastic duo. Funk Doc & John Blaze bring it continuously and come right at us.
In addition to the 16 main tracks, three others were included on the CD release. We all Rite Cha and How High (Remix) are two of those and pull the album together for everyone who’s already jammed with Method and Red for over an hour. The project feels like it was made to be performed live and makes me wish I had been in the crowd for one of those shows. At the time, I was only four, but when I imagine Redman stage diving, I can’t help but yearn for the whole experience. This project made its impact on me almost two decades after its release. Sadly, I can only dream of the vibes and scent their audience must have enjoyed. Regardless, new fans can still discover true-banging lyrics and pure, genuine groove years after they blessed the music industry with energy and charisma on the beat.