Last week we lost a hip-hop legend: Prodigy, in his own words, “a dirty New Yorker” and one-half of the seminal duo Mobb Deep, along with his partner Havoc. The infamous Queensbridge duo was another revelation for me during my come up on hip-hop in my late teens, the group representing the apex of gritty, New York rap. I’m talking the paranoid, overwhelmingly bleak tales of street survival and hood episodes which really hit its stride in the mid-’90s, with groups like Black Moon, the Wu-Tang Clan, fellow QB compatriot Nas, and others on the scene. Though the Mobb were in their teens when they arrived with their debut Juvenile Hell in 1993 and just entering their 20s with their ’95 classic, The Infamous, Havoc and Prodigy spoke like they had lived a few lifetimes in the hood, ducking undercovers, beefing with rival crews, seeing friends in a box or behind bars, and treating every day above ground as a good one. They really pushed the envelope on how murky and hostile hip-hop could be, their tales so vivid and cold that it risked being palatable only to the hardest out there. I mean really, they dedicated one their most famous listens to “real niggas who ain’t got no feelings.”
Anyhow, 1995’s The Infamous remains one of hip-hop’s greatest works for its hard-edged storytelling and threatening atmosphere. The duo didn’t glorify or preach, just told you about life in hell. The record was a game-changer, cementing the group as New York heavyweights, and bringing more shine to NY rap during a time when it had taken a backseat to Los Angeles gangsta rap and g-funk. Prodigy in particular became the embodiment of New York rap in the late ’90s and 2000s for his verbal lashings, both in Mobb Deep and on solo efforts. He is forever a dude you can’t mess with.
Now, from an album full of top listens I went for one of my personal favorites. “Temperature’s Rising” may not quite have the rumble like some of the other songs on the record, but it’s still a captivating listen, especially in the story it tells, with Prodigy and Havoc talking to a dun who has flown the coop after a crime. The temperature really is rising, as the duo promises that they’ll look out for the brother however they can, and wish him well on his escape. It’s just another daily episode.
Ah, rest in peace, Prodigy.