Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 18: Method Man, "Bring The Pain"

Artist: Method Man
Song: "Bring The Pain"
Album: Tical
Year: 1994

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There is no arguing against the idea that the bigger a band or group an artist may have been a part of, the more difficult it will be for them to establish themselves as a solo performer.  Throughout the history of music, one can find countless examples of this idea, as in most cases, the buying public simply want more of the sound the artist in question made within the confines of their original group, and the solo material simply does not find the same success.  This is further complicated when in both historical importance and literal size of the previous group is taken to exponential heights, and one can see how this impacted nearly every member of the iconic hip-hop group, Wu-Tang Clan.  Following their breakthrough 1993 record, the hip-hop community waited anxiously to see what the next offering from the group might be, and strangely enough, it was a solo release from the one and only Method Man.  While each member of Wu-Tang Clan had their own personality, few of the others could compare to the raw talent and smooth sound of Method Man's rhymes, and all throughout his 1994 solo debut, Tical, every side of his amazing talents are on full display.  The album is filled with a diverse range in sounds and approaches, and yet there are few hip-hop songs that can hold their own against Method Man's superb 1994 single, "Bring The Pain."

While there is no question that "Bring The Pain" is a Method Man solo song, it is the fact that RZA handles the production which enables it to also fit perfectly in with the rest of the Wu-Tang catalog.  Yet it is also the fact that there is only a single emcee on the track which allows for a greater appreciation of his production talents, and this is one of the finest pieces of his entire career.  It is the way that from the onset of the song, "Bring The Pain" provides a fantastic, head-bobbing beat; and yet unlike a majority of hip-hop songs from the era, the way that the bass "knocks" is almost subtle.  This smoother approach to the orchestration mirrors the vocal style of Method Man, and it is in this connection where one can see the depth of understanding that RZA had when working with each individual member of his group.  However, it is also the choice in samples and loops that set "Bring The Pain" so far above other songs, and the way that RZA manipulates Jerry Butler's, "Mechanical Man" into the song gives it a presence that is completely unique.  In many ways, RZA achieves the ultimate balance between the more hardcore style in the way that the song remains gritty, and yet at the same time there is the more laid back flow to the music that helps it to appeal to a much wider audience.  It would be this combination of moods that would become the blueprint for countless later artists, and yet none ever achieved it to the level of perfection found here.

But while one cannot understate the fantastic musical arrangement on "Bring The Pain," it is the vocals and lyrics from Method Man that are the clear highlight of the song.  There is a constant force and presence within Method Man's voice, but unlike nearly every other emcee who takes this approach, the words flow naturally and easily from him, and they never sound forced or inauthentic.  It is also the way that this strangely smooth flow is made all the better by his slightly gritty voice, and one can point to his sound as the pinnacle of the "hardcore" hip-hop sound.  Yet it is due to his more restrained approach that many do not place Method Man into such a category, and it is his ability to avoid being pigeon-holed that has given him access to a far wider audience.  Simply put, one cannot help but be completely captivated by the voice and pace of Method Man's rhymes, and the way he performs on "Bring The Pain" may very well be his finest to date.  Furthermore, it is the clarity in his verses that vault him further beyond his peers, and once one inspects these words, there is an almost shocking amount of depth in his rhymes.  While they may seem playful at face value, one can interpret rather sharp social criticism within the song, as well as an amusing array of the more "standard" emcee boasting.  But it is the way that Method Man mixes together his ideas all under his unmistakable voice that help "Bring The Pain" to become an absolutely unforgettable hip-hop recording.

In fact, one can easily make the case that "Bring The Pain" stands as one of the most famous songs in all of hip-hop history, and since its release it has been used all across the word of popular culture.  Whether it was "borrowed" to title a now-infamous comedy special or it was being covered or sampled by other hip-hop artists or even heavy metal and "industrial" bands, the song has managed to touch ever conceivable part of the entertainment world.  Furthermore, after almost twenty years since it was first released, "Bring The Pain" can still blow away almost any other song being made under the term "hip-hop," and it is due to the raw, honest nature of the vocals and the perfectly unique musical arrangement that have helped the song to such long-term success.  All of this can be seen as the result of the unparalleled sense of confidence and cool that Method Man has exuded throughout his entire career.  Even on the first record from Wu-Tang Clan, there is no arguing that his voice did not shine slightly brighter than the others; and it is the way that he is able to take some of the darkest ideas and images and spin them into something mysteriously appealing that has turned him into one of the most revered emcees in all of music history.  While there is not a recording he has made that is anything less than superb, it is Method Man's monumental 1994 single, "Bring The Pain" that stands as his most powerful and impressive work, as well as one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time.

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