The news hit me especially hard today. My favorite rapper of all time passed today at the age of 42. As one half of the super duo Mobb Deep, Prodigy's flow and delivery was my favorite in the game and has been since I first heard 'Shook Ones, Pt 2' on Rap City back in 1995. If you ask a lot of guys my age who their favorite rapper is you will get a lot of Biggie (rightfully so), Tupac (rightfully so), and Nas (rightfully so) answers, but I connected with Prodigy the most. When I was younger, I was really into beats when listening to hip hop, more so than lyrics. Early on, I would rather listen to the 'G Funk'/West Coast inspired beats of rappers like Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, and MC Eiht. While I loved Big Daddy Kane, I didn't really 'get into' East Coast flavored rap until the Wu-Tang Clan. Then, for me anyway, came Mobb Deep.
I can remember when my guy Danny Terhardt bought 'The Infamous' CD and played it in his blue station wagon that we called 'The Mothership' on the way home from school. From the first song 'Start of Your Ending' all the way to the end of 'Eye for an Eye' we didn't say a word to each other. We were so mesmerized by the whole package of beats and lyrics all rapped into one. I asked him IMMEDIATELY to dub a tape of it for me and I listened to the album (the whole thing) two or three times just that night. I then took a walkman to school and played it the whole next day. 'The Infamous' remains my favorite hip hop album off all time. It was just something about how Prodigy's skill (side note: while I 'respected' Havoc's presence in the group, I kinda wish it was a Gangstarr type set up with these two meaning for Prodigy to do the MC'ing and Havoc just doing the music...) captured my imagination and made me feel like I was in his crew when he talked about his gritty New York City tales. From the years 1995 with 'The Infamous' through the Summer/middle of 1996, Mobb Deep was probably the hottest duo in the game (some could argue Outkast). But then the Tupac stuff started. Long story short, Tupac mentioned Mobb Deep in one of his many diss records and made the comment 'Don't one of you n***as have sickle cell or something?' Before the internet days, it was hard to find any info like that on your favorite rapper unless they shared it in an interview with 'Yo MTV Raps' or 'Rap City', so that was new to me that he had the disease. When I heard it, it made me like Mobb Deep that much more. My sister Jacinta also has the disease that Pac 'dissed' Prodigy about, So that was no laughing matter to me. I REALLY got behind Prodigy/Mobb Deep/the East Coast in the East vs West battle days just for Pac (in my opinion) talking reckless about something somebody couldn't control.
The next few Mobb Deep albums after 'The Infamous' because certified hood classics: 'Hell on Earth' and 'Murda Muzik' and I still have all of these albums in my top 10 albums of all time. Mainly because of Prodigy's presence. He had a confident (forgive me...but I don't know another way to put it) swag about himself where he told tales of an old head that seen it all on the street, but still had the delivery of a fresh new rapper working on his first project. I actually was shocked how small both Prodigy and Havoc were when I saw them in person. However, even in the brief time I watched him, he still gave off that NYC vibe of 'Don't mess with me' which I loved. More recently, one of my best friends Rich (aka EL RTNC) got work with Prodigy on his 'Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation)' project and I couldn't have been more happier to hear it. It combined Rich's trademark brilliance on the beat mixed with Prodigy on the mic. The song is called 'Tyranny'. It's worth checking out.
The thing that Tupac dissed Prodigy ultimately cost him his life. I read that Prodigy had been hospitalized with complications from a 'sickle cell anemia' crisis recently and passed away at the age of 42. I'm not sure why, but I thought he was much older than that and me. Out of all of the celebrities that have left us in the last few years, I think this one is the one that I was really like 'Damn....really l loved him' Prodigy and Mobb Deep for the past 20+ have influenced me and the way I have enjoyed hip hop and the music world truly lost an icon today. RIP Prodigy