* What follows is a paper I wrote for my 20th Century Culture class, on one of the songs from the Spotify playlist the Prof had cultivated of both great and lesser known works of the 20th century. There was a lot to choose from, but as a hip hop fan, and part time rhymer myself, getting a chance to write a paper about a Method Man song was a chance that I could not let pass me by. The paper that came out, came out really well I think, and I think some of you might enjoy reading it as well. So, here it is, hope you like, enjoy. -Reel Geek
I first heard this song back when it was new back in 94, saw the video on MTV, back when they showed music videos. I was right in the midst of my punk/grunge listening to days, but I could still appreciate the song for its fresh beat by the RZA to the lyrical styles and wordplay of the one Mr. Meth (movin on your left) it stuck out to me as just a great piece of music. A few years later, when I started writing rhymes myself in Philly, I studied this song, and a lot of Method Man’s music, both his solo stuff and of course with the Wu Tang Clan, for inspiration to find my own voice in the genre. Which, as it turns out is basically what’s now called the subgenre of nerdcore, rappers who rap about geeky subjects such as Boba Fett and other things. But I was told by my mentor to write what you know, these other rappers they’ve lived their lives out in the streets, so that’s what they write about, so I was told to write what I know about, so I did.
But back to this song itself, this song is a prime example of just why 90’s hip hop is one of the best decades of the genre. If going from an evolutionary perspective, you had the pre-stages of hip hop in the 1970’s, bleeding in to the 1980’s where the art became its own voice for the voiceless, where it evolved from the music that’s fun to dance and get down to into the voice of a culture that hadn’t had proper representation in a long time. This song in particular is almost a hybrid of both the fun rap and the more serious parts of the genre. It’s got a great beat, one of the RZA’s best works in my opinion, and it also makes for a good workout soundtrack as well, but what really gets me is the wordplay in the song, which is an art that is often lost to modern hip hop, wherein it’s all about making the club go crazy, so all you need in modern day hip hop is just a good DJ who can make a great beat to dance to with a lot of bass for both the club and for bumping it in your car, and the lyrics…well lyrics don’t matter, you can literally say gibberish like a rap version of Prisencolensinainciusol, maybe say a common word, an animal name, like Panda maybe, repeatedly throughout your song, and you’ve got yourself a BET/MTV award winning song right there.
But back in the day, especially in the 90’s, when Wu Tang ruled the hip hop landscape on the east coast along with a few other kings of the genre, like Biggie, and Nas, you needed to be able to hit those bars (lines in a rhyme) with some skill, the DJ wasn’t going to save your song. Example here, when Method Man says
I came to bring the pain hardcore from the brain
Let’s go inside my astral plane
Find out my mental’s based on instrumental
Records hey so I can write monumental
Methods, I’m not the King
But n***** is decaf I stick ’em for the cream
Right from the start of the song, the listener is already hit in the face with greatness, as they rhyme scheme just flows so smoothly from pain, to brain, to plane, then you hit the reasoning why Method Man is so great, he’s not the King, but he’s a lot better than a lot of the other rappers out there, even to this day, they’re decaf compared to his skills, which I’d put at like an Espresso level, if we’re going with the coffee metaphor he put in place here. And I love the bit at the end there of the verse where he says he sticks em for the cream, calling back to the WU Tang Clan single “C.R.E.A.M.” which was another seminal piece of music from the time period.
And by the end of that 3 minutes and 10 seconds, you’re pumped up, ready to get done what you need to do. It really works on both levels if you’re just listening to the music, the RZA’s sampling of Jerry Butler’s “I’m Your Mechanical Man” or Meth’s lyrics, you’re on a musical ride that if you’ve never been on, you really should, especially if you’re a fan of the genre today. If you think the rappers today are so great, then you should check out where they were influenced by, and I feel really old typing those words, but there it is. And that is why “Bring the Pain” is such an important song to the canon of 20th Century music and culture in general.