Dig Baton Rouge

Still Infamous

By Ty Simmons

Legends never die. Despite some very public breakup in 2012, Mobb Deep is back in the game, and you will be shook.

After kicking off the American leg of their 2014 world tour at SXSW, the two-man hip hop crew is coming to Louisiana, and will be performing at Spanish Moon April 7th.

Havoc and Prodigy, the two halves of the group, are no strangers to beef: they’ve had diss tracks dedicated to them by rappers by the like of Tupac, Saigon, and Jay-Z. But in 2012, they turned their seemingly endless urban hostility towards each other.

Following some very vocal, very cutting tweets by Havoc to Prodigy in 2012, the group broke up. And while he has been very elusive as to what motivated his anger, Havoc even recorded a diss track of his own towards Prodigy on his 2013 release, 13.

Twenty years of collaboration doesn’t die that easily, however. Friends in high school, Prodigy and Havoc started Mobb Deep in 1992 and released their debut, Juvenile Hell, in 1993.

When they got back together in March of 2013, they took their cues from Nas and Wu-Tang Clan, who both have projects celebrating their 20th anniversaries, and toured the country celebrating their 20th year of existence.

This year, they’re on a world tour in support of their upcoming self-titled record, The Infamous Mobb Deep. The banner of ‘The Infamous’ is a reference their classic, quintessential 1995 record titled, well, The Infamous. It has appeared on every album cover they’ve put out since, save their one-off release on 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records, Blood Money.

Out April 1­­­st, the new record is set to exemplify the unwavering Mobb Deep sound Havoc and Prodigy cultivated on classic releases like The Infamous and Hell on Earth, both considered quintessential hip hop albums.

Featuring stripped-down, bare-bones beats and stark, hardcore lyricism, the Mobb Deep of the late 90s was a pioneer of the type of music that’s become known as gangsta rap. Their recordings were austere and real, gritty and dark. The lyrics they performed were a cold, calculated, and accurate narration of life in Queensbridge.

The Infamous and Hell on Earth never glorified violence; they just gave it voice, acknowledged its existence, and documented how it played out in Havoc and Prodigy’s lives. The music was bleak and hopeless, claustrophobic and paranoid. It was accurate, and it was good music.

Since the release of 2001’s Infamy, however, Mobb began to slip off the radar a bit. They were dropped from their home of Loud Records, famously and handily dissed by Jay-Z, and released a series of records to mediocre critical response. Prodigy went to prison for three years on a gun possession charge.

Their most recent release, an EP called Black Cocaine, had the rappers sounding tired and run-down, stylistically stagnant.

Through this time, however, they did alright individually. Prodigy, the defter MC of the two, released two records with producer The Alchemist, Return of the Mac and Albert Einstein, the former of which is considered a classic.

Havoc, admittedly the weaker MC, flexed his muscles in another way: producing. Responsible for all but three of the beats on The Infamous, Havoc has created some of the grimiest beats in 90s hip-hop. Much like Q-Tip in A Tribe Called Quest or The RZA in Wu-Tang, most of Mobb Deep’s production throughout their eight studio albums has been attributed to Havoc. He’s also produced for artists like Biggie Smalls, Lil’ Kim, Eminem, and 50 Cent.  Earlier this year he even released a soundkit for up-and-coming producers.

After years of lackluster releases with less-than-stellar critical reception coupled with copious personal and label drama, The Infamous Mobb Deep will be released independently. Legends never die, but they can grow. Here’s hoping Havoc and Prodigy have some stylistic development in the chamber for April 1st. Here’s hoping that their self-titled will be a return to form.

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