Anniversary: Redman – Muddy Waters 15 Years Later

As the third offering in the mercurial Redman’s repertoire, Muddy Waters served as a defining album with respect to his career trajectory. After two differing but successful releases in Whut? Thee and the sophomore follow up Dare Iz a Darkside, the mainstream public was unsure of what to make of the oddball thug from Newark. Muddy Waters entrenched the Def Squad member among the East Coast elite as one of the most inventive rhymers of the mid 90s, combining his fluid rhyming style with the punchy one-liners and comical metaphors for which he is best known. In addition to establishing the prototypical Redman style, Waters emphasized Red’s work on the boards as well, teaming up with Erick Sermon to produce a heavy East Coast, funk-influenced album that improved upon their substandard work on Darkside. Generally regarded as Redman’s most complete release, Muddy Waters stands the test of time 15 years later for its innovative rhymes, bass-thumping beats, and goofball wordplay.

Rather than provide you with a traditionally formatted retrospective review of the work, I thought it might be more fitting to pay special attention to Redman’s inimitable persona and parse out my Top four verses from the album (skits don’t qualify). In no particular order, here are my favorites from the memorably entertaining Muddy Watters.

“On Fire”
“Conjunction, junction, what’s your function?/ It’s that nigga who’s so swift, I could lose a compass/ step into jams with seven niggaz in a land/ and forty motherfuckers in some fucked up caravan/ Drop the Fahrenheit back down to zero/ bring heat to the streets like I’m Pacino and De Niro/ Raw dog material, grand imperial/ Talk to my shorty nigga, my ears ain’t hearin’ you”

There’s so much going on here that it’s almost impossible to address everything. Using the classic children’s music education series Schoolhouse Rock to toot his own horn is one of the most clever examples of braggadocio I can think of. Redman similarly displays his seemingly limitless cultural knowledge referencing the (at the time) pop-culturally relevant Heat, employing Pacino and De Niro to do the intimidating.

“Whatever Man”
“I smoked with a lot of college, students/Most of em, wasn’t graduating and they knew it/ You know the weed slang? Yeah boy I speak it fluent/ I light your college dorm with my entourage from Newark/ Bigger they come, harder they fall/ That goes for, knuckleheads, MC’s, pussy walls, and all/ I lit my first L before I started to crawl/ I got my ass whooped when I had my first brawl/But things changed since I was twelve years old/ I specialize in wreckin mics and area codes.”

I’d be remiss if I failed to incorporate something detailing Redman’s love for the green. This particular verse from “Whatever Man” exemplifies nearly all that Red stands for, referencing his love for various types of weed, ripping mics, and repping Newark. After tracks like this, it’s easy to see from where the inspiration for How High came, especially with the nod to burnt out college smokers.

“To my no good niggaz and my no good bitches/ Sorry if I left somebody leaving out with stitches/ Seems ya’ll too bold for ya britches/ Enslaved your mind like cotton pickers for runnin wit some rotten niggaz/ I get raw to the core with hardcore metaphors/ Reservoir Dog style truly yours/ Yes I be the slug up in your chest/ Then you wonder why you can’t feel the full strength of cigarettes/ My nationality is, brutality/ I got the gun up under your leather nigga so walk casually/ You’d be surprised how much info you can get/ For a bottle of crack to find yo’ punk ass and yo’ kinfolks.”

Perhaps better known for his comedy in his lyrics, “Creepin’” reminds us that Reggie is not to be taken lightly. Like the movies that he often references (this time it’s the notoriously gruesome Reservoir Dogs), Redman’s lyrics clearly depict imagery that evokes the horror he is trying to convey to his audience. From his direct address to his adversaries in the opening line, to the vivid depiction of the ‘gun up under your leather,’ Redman’s language is strong, intelligent, and most importantly convincing.

“Pick It Up”
“First of all, MC’s be on my balls, straight up/Pubic hairs and everything, lick the whole plate up/Bay Area, roll up your Las Vegas/To all MC’s, I love it that you hate us/Drop skills that might send wind chill factors/Back through Patterson, J.C. and Hacken-sack/Step uncorrect and get blackened/The assassin, find da MC’s by the jazz men/I don’t tote guns I tote funds/While you still puzzled how my antidote runs/Your whole vocabulary’s played out, admit it/Still wack if it came out my mouth and I spit it/You remind me of school on a Sunday/No class, beatin all King’s down/doin over seventy, in a Hyundai, blast”

Addressing wack emcees, biters, and general haters alike, “Pick It Up” uses a combination of hilarious metaphors and pointed lyrics to demonstrate why Reggie stands a cut above the rest. He has a clever way of making his opponent look awful, admitting that despite his best efforts, even he can’t make this cat’s rhymes sound good. Consider his use of the now played-out “You’re like school on a Sunday, no class” line – 15 years later it still provokes a laugh, demonstrating Redman’s ability to pair hard hitting taunts with playful lines.

For a variety of reasons, these are always the verses I come back to when I think about Redman’s classic album, Muddy Waters. Years from now, I’ll still be playing some of these ridiculous lines over in my head trying to figure out what he was thinking. Regardless, they help display why Redman is regarded as one of the strongest emcees of the 90s with his fluid flow, crafty, and comedic rhymes.

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