In hindsight, who would have guessed nerdy South Asian missionary migrants to the United States in the early 20th century would give rise to the most hippest art form ever expressed: hip hop. To understand, rewind the boombox a mere 14 centuries prior, pickpocketing a particular 7th century Arabian prophetic tradition– “eloquent speech is as effective as magic.”
The struggles of the Ahmadiyyah Muslim missionaries were communicated and translated within the urban ghettos of early 19th century America, contributing to growing sentiments of black consciousness. Though not precisely magic, the underlining message of resisting inequity has always been the same. For magic, however, Wednesday night’s Method Man’s performance at Club Soda delivered.
“I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side, Staying alive was no jive… but it was just a dream for the teen, who was a fiend started smokin woolies at sixteen…No question I would speed, for cracks and weed, the combination made my eyes bleed.” (C.R.E.A.M. – Cash Rules Everything Around Me)
The spitting rhymes alongside the phat beats are raw and undeviating, never without an awareness to the disparities in livelihoods as a result of a disproportionate system. Method Man’s stage presence is unparalleled in the hip hop game. The performance, lasting a little over an hour was full of energy with multiple dives into the audience, not to mention one somersault. At one point he literally stood on top of the crowd held up by what appeared the first few rows, rapping his most famous hit M.E.T.H.O.D. MAN.
“I don’t give a *^%, I’ve never seen the NAACP put a brick in the hood,” Method Man said in an interview about the first black president. While the system might not love him, that wasn’t the case at Club Soda last week, the crowd beaming, transcending generations, wide eyed and smiling. He felt the love and the energy in this first ever Montreal performance, making an everlasting impression.
Born 1971, Clifford Smith a.k.a. Johnny Blaze, Iron Lung, Panty Raider, Method Man (list goes on) is partially responsible for putting East Coast hip hop on the map. Argumentatively, he is essentially responsible for the sexualized slant of the “ghetto thug,” exemplified by his cameo roles in Alicia Keys If I Ain’t Got You video and Mary J. Blige’s You’re All I Need To Get By. The baggy pants, beanie wearing Panty Raider is seen jumping fences in escape from the police, resorting to any means necessary, chasing that next dollar to provide for his significant other.
The chase first started when Johnny Blaze linked up with eight others in the early 90s from Staten Island, N.Y., when it looked like hip hop was going off the rails. In response, Wu-Tang Clan – (Wisdom of the Universe, and the Truth of Allah for the Nation of the Gods) was formed, encompassing a sub-sect of Islamic ideology. The Wu-Tang expressed their ‘Five percent Nation’ Islamic philosophy based in supreme mathematics through rhymes comprising of political realities. The self-described “lyrical assassins” targeted the dominant opinion that held that Hip Hop lacked artistry. If not one to attend church/mosque/temple but in need of some sort of spiritual enlightenment, I highly recommend that you check out Wu-Tang Clan member Ghosface Killah come February 12th at Club Soda.
Method Man’s future performance dates for his Purple Kush Tour may also be found online. A warning: the proselytization may be a bit atypical. Though not exactly traditional, a spiritual awakening may be roused in one’s personal struggle for equality.
Raised in British Columbia of South Asian Heritage and now living in Montreal, Zeshaun researched Muslim hip hop to obtain an MA in Near and Eastern Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has travelled extensively and studied in North Africa and the Middle East.