The Joel Stein Show

He Got Game

A lifetime of videogame playing couldn't prepare Joel for Def Jam Vendetta and the awesome power of Meth

Wu-Tang clan members have a reputation for being less than punctual. Not just a little late, but the kind of late where they don't show up at all. So even though I was running behind for my meeting with Method Manwhere I was to take on the rapper at the videogame he stars in, Def Jam VendettaI accepted my friend Josh's challenge to a Mavericks -- Lakers rematch on the Xbox we spend most workdays playing. I arrived at the Def Jam offices 15 minutes late, but to my surprise, Method Man was already there.

Meth always came off as scary, what with his gravelly voice and a friend named Ol' Dirty Bastard. Now he makes comedy movies and Right Guard commercials with fellow rapper Redman. He's also lent his name and likeness to Def Jam Vendetta, in which rappers resolve their feuds by wrestling each other to bloody pulps. Now that Method Man is literally a cartoon, I figured I could take him on. After all, he's not just a rapper, he plays one on TV.

Method Man, I instantly discovered, is still a bit scary. He's 6 foot 4, can summon a nasty scowl, and disses other rappers at will. Worse yet, he hasn't lost a single match in the month since Def Jam Vendetta's release. ''Videogames are one of the reasons it takes me so long to put out an album,'' he said. They are also the reason I got EW to lessen my workload by slipping in the space-eating legal statement at the bottom of this page.

After inserting his personal memory card into the PlayStation 2 to access the special powers he's accumulated through hours of thumb-crunching play, Method Man gave me a brief tutorial. Then he beat my ass in. He beat it with almost every one of the playable characters: Method Man, Redman, Keith Murray, a scary clown, and, most humiliating, a white guy. He beat my DMX character with a 5'3'' woman named Carla, who not only crushed her stilettos into my forehead but also pushed me against the ropes, sat on my chest, and slapped me back and forth repeatedly. ''This is for calling me a ho,'' Method Man yelled as he pounded me. ''And this is for all those times you called me a bitch. And this is for all those times you called me a chickenhead.'' Meth knew metaphors for misogyny that ranged from the toolshed to the barnyard, which I found impressive for someone the media has labeled ''urban.''

A half hour into the bloodbath that a lifetime of gaming had not prepared me for, Method Man lit up a fatty. I worried that he'd blame the intoxicant once I beat him. ''The more I smoke, the stronger I get,'' he told me, as if he were the Popeye of pot.

He was right: Half a blunt later, Meth was still undefeated. ''This can't be fun for you,'' he said. The trash talk included ''Someone call the coroner'' and ''You stink worse than Grandpa's feet.''

After a dozen losses and nearly an hour and a half, we decided to play our last game. Figuring Meth would have some kind of metaphysical trouble using his favorite move (clawing his opponent's testicles) against his doppelganger, I chose to play as Method Man and convinced him to take Redman. We grappled for almost 18 minutes, the room silent. My thumbs ached, my head hurt, my armpits dripped, and I was craving pepperoni pizza Combos. I might have had a slight contact high. I don't remember exactly how it ended, but there was a blur of movement and then I destroyed Redman like the Right Guard commercials destroyed his street cred. ''Damn it,'' Meth said. ''I should have pinned you but I was going for the KO and I f -- -ed up.''

As we said goodbye, I noticed that Meth had forgotten his memory card. ''Maybe it's because you don't want any memory of this,'' I taunted. He looked at me hard for a second before laughing me off. ''You crazy, man,'' he said. Five years ago, I might've been crazy to goad him like that. But even Method Man must realize that no one besides Jack Palance can maintain the tough guy persona forever. Eventually, they all come around to my side.

Originally posted May 09, 2003 Published in issue #709 May 09, 2003 Order article reprints
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