Not a whole lot is known about the pre-fame life of Reggie “Redman” Noble and even less is known about Clifford “Method Man” Smith. Redman is from Newark, New Jersey and Method Man is from Staten Island, New York; aside from that, any details you want about their pre-hip-hop lives can only be found buried deep in their lyrics.
So I suppose this story begins in 1993, when Red and Meth met at a Def Jam Records industry party. At the time Redman’s Whut? Thee Album had been an underground hit for about a year and Method Man was about to, as they say, “blow up.” Method Man, the initial public figurehead of the Wu-Tang Clan, was – thanks to his charisma, husky voice, stature, look and ability – about to become the most talked about man in hip-hop. Before 1993 hit 1994, the Wu’s classic debut, Enter the 36 Chambers, was the record and Method Man was the emcee. Before that record even came out, Method Man had already signed a solo deal with Def Jam, and was thus invited to the abovementioned industry party.
Needless to say, Meth and Red hit it off quickly. Before 1994 was over the two emcees were traveling the country together in a van, playing shows in support of their two new solo records, Method Man’s excellent Tical and Redman’s Dare Iz a Darkside. The story goes that, while driving from show to show, they began writing a song together that would eventually come to be known as “How High,” one of the standout cut’s from Russell Simmons’ 1995 The Show soundtrack. Between this song, Def Jam marketing 1994 as “The Year of the Man” and their touring together, the two were instantly linked by the media and fans. They were linked so much that many just assumed that they were both members of the other’s collective – Meth’s Wu-Tang and Red’s Def Squad. Not the case.
It went on like this for years. You’d see photos of the two together, hear about them playing sets and guesting on radio shows and mix tapes together. The hip-hop media talked endlessly about them doing a record together. Around this time, due to their now signature track, drug anthem “How High,” the two took on a Cheech and Chong like status in the hip-hop community.
The talk never ended. Thinking back, I remember getting together with a high school friend, Justin, in 1999 to go to the now famous Hard Knock Life Tour. Justin was in it for the Jay-Z, Ja Rule, Memphis Bleek and, especially, DMX sets. Me? I was there for one reason: I’d heard that Method Man and Redman would be performing their sets together. Dream. Come. True.
And, as you can imagine, the Hard Knock Life Tour only made people talk more – oh, what could be. Then, in 1999, at long last, Meth and Red released Blackout!, a collaborative record that was, at the time, one of the most anticipated hip-hop records ever. At the time an IU student, I remember walking to TD’s CDs and LPs in Bloomington to buy the first 12” from that record, hit single “Da Rockwilder.” Like a lot of people, I bought the full-length the day it came out and kept it in the player through much of the fall season. It’d been a long time coming. Nice when things work out so well.
From there, things got even bigger for the duo. There were tours, singles, videos, talks of TV shows, radio appearances and more. In 2001 the two emcees starred in a hit stoner comedy called How High, which only made them bigger stars. After that they had a TV show. Then another TV show. Their joint charisma and chemistry oozed not just out of speakers, but from the screen as well.
Then, smartly, the two kinda/sorta went their separate ways. They worked with their respective collectives and released solo albums, always making guest appearances on each other’s songs. Method Man’s acting career took off (most memorably as Cheese on HBO’s “The Wire”) and Redman made a number of successful albums, further cementing his status as one of the underground’s all-time favorite mainstream emcees.
And, inevitably, talk of the two working together – reuniting – started back up around 2007. No longer were they just two emcees who people thought of as a duo, they’d somehow become a proper entertainment team – part of American pop culture. The key element for this collaboration, clearly, has always been humor and, well, weed. Redman has always been something of a humorist, which rubs off on Method Man – a very funny dude – when the two are together. Almost everything they collaborate on – be it TV, film, the stage or music – is lighthearted. Funny. Stoned.
Finally, in 2009, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the hugely successful Blackout! record, Meth and Red released Blackout! 2, a sequel of sorts to their collaborative debut. Not just that, they also announced that a script for How High 2 is currently in the works. And, once again, there has been more talk about a TV show. And probably other things, too.
Most importantly, Meth and Red have been on the road as of late, back where they started, playing shows on their very popular Still High tour. Supporting their second record, which not only debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard chart, but has already scored even better reviews than their first effort. And, once again, they have new mix tapes, videos, singles, T-shirts and more. They walk the line between underground sensation and mainstream staple as well as any credible duo of recent memory.
Do they still write songs together in the van while touring? One would have to assume that there are no vans these days. Maybe not even tour buses. Planes? Probably. More songs? Hopefully. Definitely.