It was the first day of my senior year of high school in 1995 (yep...admitting my age) and my man Dan spotted me at the lockers and headed my way. 'Yo John John....let me grab my stuff, meet in the front so we can jet'. Dan and I because close first because of our love of basketball and playing it, but became closer due to our love of a lot of things hip hop related. As we were walking to his car to go home, he said 'Yo, you know those dude that have that Shook Ones song?....I copped their whole album and I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. We can bump it on the way home' Everything was cool and normal until he hit play on his CD player. A loud, ominous beat came out and we heard Havoc's voice spit out 'You know what I'm sayin'?/I wanna say what's up to my man/Louie you know he's still here...' We both stayed completely quiet all the way home just taking in what we just heard. Since our houses weren't that far from the school, we only made it though 'Eye for Eye (Your Beef is Mines) before we made it home. We both just sat in my driveway a bit trying to process what we both just heard. I had to break the silence by saying 'Yo....I NEED YOU TO DUB THIS FOR ME RIGHT NOW!' I pretty much held him hostage in his own house until the tape was done recording. When he handed me the grey cassette tape (It was the nicest Maxwell blank tape I could find at my house....usually reserved for my parents to put their old music on), he said 'Tell me what you think of this in the morning G (lol...it was the 90's).
Growing up, I lived in Virginia, Germany, Colorado, and at this moment, Nebraska...but after listening to this album, I really felt as if I was from the Queensbridge Housing Projects in NYC. Each song clearly painted a picture on what these dudes were going through and living. The other thing about it was....they weren't that much older than I was! Listening to the album, I really liked Havoc's flow on the tracks. He was concise, and his delivery was 'in my wheelhouse' of the other rappers I was into at the time such as Wu-Tang, Smif-N-Wessun, and (don't you dare laugh) Da Youngstas. BUT....the other dude who called himself Prodigy IMMEDIATELY grabbed my attention and never let go. I remembered his verse from 'Shook Ones Pt 2' and classic lines like 'I got you stuck off the realness/we be the infamous/You heard of us/official Queensbridge murderers...' and 'I'm only nineteen/but my mind is old/And when the things get for real/my warm heart turns cold...' Just wow.
Prodigy on that day (and will forever be) became my favorite rapper. His whole demeanor and the confidence in his flow (in my opinion) hasn't been matched. There was just 'something' in him that at the time I wasn't aware about. I found out throughout the years that he was dealing with internal pain that I have discussed before. People around him said that he just was kinda of an old soul that carried himself like he had seen it all before, even at his young age. This album and even the rest of the Mobb Deep albums are all classic to me mainly because of Havoc on the production and Prodigy on the mic. Its funny that Havoc said later in an interview that he came into the group as the more known, better, MC but by the time Mobb had blown up....it was clear and evident who everybody wanted to hear on the mic.
Mobb Deep also became even more legendary due to them popping up on mixtapes by NYC-based dj's such as DJ Clue, Doo Wop, Tony Touch....just to name a few. Some of my favorite cuts by them/Prodigy were actually freestyles done on these now hard to find (thank you YouTube!) tapes/recordings. Some of the features on the album include a few more of my favorite all time MC's such as Raekwon, Nas, Ghostface Killah and QB legend Big Noyd. Q-Tip from the super group 'A Tribe Called Quest' also pops up on the classic cut 'Drink Away The Pain' using a clever caper verse only using fashion brand names and their actions. Pure genius at work.
At this time in hip hop, after the west coast laid claim to being 'the best coast', groups/MC's as I mentioned above like Biggie, Wu-Tang, Black Moon were slowly but surely bring the East Coast/NYC back into the conversation. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED all of the East Coast acts and music that was happening, none of them grabbed me like hearing Mobb Deep for the first time in my man Dan's car. Sadly, Prodigy passed in 2017 and isn't here to fill in some of the blanks on his thought process writing lyrics for this album or to once again claim the spotlight for this masterpiece. But I'm here to tell you, while I liked hip hop long before 1995, I fell in love with it then and its mainly due to this album. The Infamous forever.....