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Ranking the verses of Method Man on 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)'

It’s nearly impossible to single out a breakout star on Wu-Tang Clan‘s seminal debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Whether it was the gonzo in-your-face expressionism of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, the wickedly clever turns of phrase from GZA, or the bombastic and gut-busting verses from Raekwon, all of the members got their chances to shine on 36 Chambers.

But one member returned, time and again, to subtly dominate the album. That would be Method Man, the gruff voice MC who could be Wu-Tang’s hook singer, clown prince, or gritty realist whenever the time called for it. While other members had their specialities, Method Man appeared to excel at everything: violent street poetry, over-the-top comedic means of torture, nostalgic flashbacks, and heartfelt odes were all within his arsenal.

The real magic in Meth was that all sides of him seemed genuine. You could never get vulnerability out of ODB, for instance, just like how you could rarely get anything but wonk mysticism from RZA. But Meth always seemed like he was in the proper guise, whether it was as a precise ninja, an offbeat stoner, a street thug, a scrappy upstart, or an insightful elder. All the while, his immediately identifiable voice carved out a unique place among the group: tracks could get crowded, but you always knew when Method Man stepped up to the mic.

The other members knew it too, and RZA utilized his skills prominently on Enter the Wu-Tang. Method Man is only absent on four of the album’s tracks, and he has the most prominent role of all members thanks to being the only member with an eponymous track. Meth often found himself slotted as a second or third verse specialist, keeping the energy of a track high when attention spans might start to slip.

Method Man also has an uncanny ability to conjure up hooks, being the chorus vocalist on two of the album’s tracks. Although he doesn’t sing, his delivery is lyrical and melodic in its own specific way, often conjuring up the earworms that we would normally associate with a singer. Memorability was at the forefront of what Meth did, and although most of the verses on Enter the Wu-Tang were improvised in initial battle raps, Meth always seems incisive and exacting in his word choice.

To honour his birthday, we’re collecting the most memorable Method Man moments from Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and ranking them based on factors that Meth excelled at: memorability, cleverness, lyricism, and Wu-Tang lore. All parts will be tallied on a 1-5 scale, and the rhymes with the highest scores will be slotted to the top of the list. It’s a thorough dissection of everything Method Man, all collected in one place.

All of Method Man’s parts on ‘Enter the Wu-Tang’, ranked:

11. ‘Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber’ – Intro

The intro skit for ‘Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber’ is the roughest time for Meth on the entirety of Enter the Wu-Tang. First, he loses Raekwon’s tape, which is a total party foul. Next, he has a reaction so boneheaded to a recent murder that the other members start making fun of him for it. It’s the only part of the album where Meth gets the piss taken out of him, and it’s likely the low point for him on all Wu-Tang records. All in all, ‘Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber’ is a tough beat for our man Meth.

Memorability: 1

Cleverness: 1

Lyricism: 1

Wu-Tang Lore: 2

Total: 5

10. ‘Shame on a N*gga’ – 2nd Verse

It’s a bit of a false start for Method Man on Enter the Wu-Tang, as his first appearance comes from a less-than-memorable verse on the album’s second track ‘Shame on a N*gga’. It’s not all Meth’s fault – he has the misfortune of following Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who comes firing in with a raw and uncut verse that makes Meth’s seem tepid by comparison. Things improve exponentially for Meth from this point on, but for someone with his own damn track, Method Man gets off to a rather inauspicious start.

Memorability: 2

Cleverness: 3

Lyricism: 3

Wu-Tang Lore: 1

Total: 9

9. ‘Method Man’ – Intro

I’m not sure about cleverness, but the intro skit to ‘Method Man’ sure is creative, with Meth and Raekwon going back and forth with increasingly ghoulish methods of torture. It’s certainly memorable, or at least hard to forget, and its grossness usually works in its favour. That is except when the song comes on shuffle with anyone you don’t know extremely well in the room. Extra bonus points off for the fact that Raekwon basically wins the gross-out competition, overshadowing Meth in the intro to his own song. It’s hard to get worse than that spiked bat.

Memorability: 4

Cleverness: 3

Lyricism: 1

Wu-Tang Lore: 1

Total: 9

8. ‘Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber’ – 2nd Verse

Like I said earlier, ‘Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber’ is a bit of a tough beat for Meth. But he brings it together on a reference-heavy verse during the track. The brief snipped isn’t really much on its own, but the verse definitely gets elevated by the pure amount of Wu-Tang lore that Meth stuffs in a brief runtime. The Wu-Tang Sword, shout outs to RZA and the PLO style, plus Meth referring to himself under his other nickname, Tical? It’s a verse that gets raised thanks to a little Wu-Tang 101.

Memorability: 2

Cleverness: 2

Lyricism: 2

Wu-Tang Lore: 4

Total: 10

7. ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ – Chorus

Method Man was sneakily good at laying down hooks, and the fact that his chorus on ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ is so low isn’t because it’s not memorable. In fact, that’s what it has going for it the most. It mainly comes down to the fact that Meth isn’t really given a lot to do – he’s got a great earworm, and that’s it. Meth sells it for all its worth, though, and the solidifying of the Killa Beez is essential to making Shaolin an entire world all its own.

Memorability: 5

Cleverness: 2

Lyricism: 2

Wu-Tang Lore: 4

Total: 13

6. ‘Method Man’ – Bridge and Chorus

Again, high marks for memorability, but what Meth really does well here is dip into his seemingly bottomless well of lyrical flow. Meth isn’t a singer, but he has an innate sense of rhythm and melody that comes through in some of his best songs. It’s not like ODB’s wild off-key attempts at singing – it’s still rap, but with a keen sense of pitch and dynamics. The brief chorus and bridge to ‘Method Man’ show this off perfectly, even if neither lasts very long in an otherwise jam-packed song.

Memorability: 4

Cleverness: 2

Lyricism: 5

Wu-Tang Lore: 2

Total: 13

5. ‘Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit’ – 3rd Verse

Meth’s verse on ‘Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit’ isn’t quite as top-shelf as RZA’s gleefully profane Family Feud-referencing lines or Inspectah Deck’s ferocious word association, but Meth certainly holds his own thanks to his signature combination of melody and incisive lyricism. There aren’t really any references to the wider world of the Wu, but that’s the only thing that can be levelled against this killer verse.

Memorability: 4

Cleverness: 4

Lyricism: 4

Wu-Tang Lore: 2

Total: 14

4. ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ – Chorus

Talk about making the most with the least. Method Man gets twelve words total on ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ – no verses, no ad-libs, and no interjections. But the central hook that he lays out, “Cash rules everything around me / C.R.E.A.M. get the money / Dollar dollar bills y’all” is quite possibly the most memorable moment on all of Enter the Wu-Tang. Meth delivers it perfectly too, showing off why he’s the main hook master of the group. It’s light on variety and specific Wu references, but ‘C.R.E.A.M’ became emblematic of the group itself, with Meth basically creating Wu lore in real-time.

Memorability: 5

Cleverness: 3

Lyricism: 4

Wu-Tang Lore: 3

Total: 15

3. ‘Method Man’ – 2nd Verse

The second verse of ‘Method Man’ is its central MCs biggest chance to show off on the entire album. With a solid minute and a half of just Meth and the beat, the rapper sticks in every trick, turn of phrase, and stylistic quirk that makes him so unique. It’s funny, wild, and a little gross, but the second verse of ‘Method Man’ gets some lyrical hooks, Wu-Tang references, and pure mind-blowing rhymes in without ever sounding like Meth is breaking a sweat. The only thing held against it? The fact that the first verse is even better.

Memorability: 5

Cleverness: 4

Lyricism: 4

Wu-Tang Lore: 3

Total: 16

2. ‘Method Man’ – 1st Verse

‘Method Man’ is Meth’s playground, letting him run around and show you all of what makes him great. The way he strings together phrases like “The poetry’s in motion, coast to coast and / Rub it on your skin like lotion” are just as memorable when he gives callbacks to Rolling Stones songs and Green Eggs and Ham. His ability to recall Deck’s demo ‘This Ain’t Your Average Flow’ builds the legend of the Wu, while his declaration that his own song is a jam is prescient. A self-titled song might seem like an ego trip, but ‘Method Man’ finds its creator in superhero mode, out to prove why he’s more than deserving of being a star.

Memorability: 5

Cleverness: 5

Lyricism: 4

Wu-Tang Lore: 4

Total: 18

1. ‘Protect Ya Neck’ – 3rd Verse

You could try and tell me that Method Man’s verse on ‘Protect Ya Neck’ isn’t the best part of the song, or the that it’s not the high point of the album, or that it isn’t the benchmark for both Meth himself and Wu-Tang Clan as a whole. But I wouldn’t believe you. Meth’s verse on ‘Protect Ya Neck’ is the most memorable, most clever, and most lyrical moment on the entirety of Enter the Wu-Tang, making both the LP and the Wu instant legends the second that it drops.

He makes it sound so effortless: fourteen lines of pure perfection that still fits in perfectly with the rest of the track. Ultimately, it shows why Meth could be so valuable within the group – everything he did was slotted perfectly in with the rest. It’s 30 seconds of pure bliss and rap gold, with only a few challengers being able to rise to its lofty standards.

Memorability: 5

Cleverness: 5

Lyricism: 5

Wu-Tang Lore: 5

Total: 20