People had lost power earlier in the day. Thousands of them. That's how it was on the afternoon in late July when I ferried out to Staten Island to watch as Method Man shot the video (above) for "Straight Gutta," which premiered yesterday. The song is the second single from Meth's latest album, Meth Lab. The last time anyone had seen Meth in a video, he was telling us where the poop comes out in Amy Schumer’s “Milk Milk Lemonade” rap-video parody. The "Straight Gutta" shoot, set as it was in a small skate park housed in a warehouse on Front Street near Park Hill, had a very different vibe.
There was no A/C, and everyone on set was sweating — including Meth, who was wearing a crisp pinstriped Reggie Jackson jersey that he was loath to let anyone touch, even if just to add a mic. ("You better not rip this Reggie Jackson," he at one point warned an innocent-looking assistant.) In between takes, passing blunts and sticking his face in front of fans to stay cool, Meth told me more about "Straight Gutta" and Meth Lab, his first album in nine years.
The video is about Staten Island, the Wu-Tang Clan’s hometown, and the talent that lives there but tends to go unnoticed. Most everyone on set has some connection to the borough. The album, he said, "was just something I was doing for a friend as a favor at first, but then it turned into something else. It’s a project. It’s sort of a concept album, but it focuses on Staten Island artists.”
One of those unsung Staten Island artists is the rapper Streetlife*, who has the first verse on “Straight Gutta." He was wearing head-to-toe fatigues, topped off with a military-issue bulletproof Teflon vest. Park Hill is his hometown, he said, and it’s good to see people like Meth coming back to where he’s from. “[They] still remember you like when you was a shorty,” he continued. “That’s the good part. It’s your family, so they be calling you by your government [name], they don’t be calling you by your street name.” Redman and Hanz On, both longtime Meth associates, also have verses on the track.
It's an odd time for Method Man to return to his roots on Staten Island, since his acting career seems to be pulling him in the opposite direction. This year he's had an especially noteworthy amount of screen time. Just a few days ago he was on set in New Orleans filming his upcoming role in the new Key and Peele movie Keanu. He’s in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck. Amy Schumer, our saucy and soused 2015 "It" Girl, wrote an adorable rap song for him and told the world she wants him to "murder my vagina." His comedy chops are gaining more attention in Hollywood. Even so, there we were on Staten Island.
The video shoot — and music in general — are secondary to Meth, which is why Meth Lab focuses on other artists. "Acting is my job at this time, my first and foremost grind, so I’m just going to focus on that,” he explained. “As far as this music stuff goes, this project right here, it’s a project. We’ll see what happens.”
Correction: The article originally misidentified Method Man's collaborators Streetlife and Hanz On. Their names have since been corrected.