Mobb Deep’s Havoc Discusses His New Album And Producing For Biggie

Mobb Deep "Survival of the Fittest"The Infamous (2005)

We can all agree that it was a sad day when the infamous Mobb Deep was feuding a few years back. The Queens duo, despite differences and quarrels through the years with major artists like Jay-Z, had been putting out hit records for nearly a decade and defined the meaning of hardcore in a hip-hop context. So, what made them separate? We may never know the answer, but we do know one side of the story, as told to us by half of the Mobb machine.

Rhyme-slinger Havoc has been in the game for 20 years and has built a strong portfolio by working with a variety of artists ranging from The Notorious B.I.G. to Game. Today the rapper added to his discography with a new solo album, titled 13, that continues to mark his consistency. XXL sat down with Havoc to discuss the record, his production work throughout the years and the duo’s famous feud.—Emmanuel C.M. 

XXL: Tell me about your approach for the new album. 
Havoc: The feel I was looking for was a mid-90s sound meshed with a current feel. I didn’t really try to go outside my zone and try to make an album for radio spins, or make a single that don’t fit. I was really just having fun with the album.

What was the album-making process like? 
Some of the songs were so incomplete in the beginning. To hear them finished now, as a full product, it’s definitely surprising. I mean, it’s the same song, but I built around the songs as we went on.

You have a single out with Raekwon and Styles P. How was it working with them? 
We weren’t all in the studio together, but the vibe on the record is crazy. Those are my brothers, and they always come through for me. They never let me down.

Aside from your career as a solo artist and one half of the Mobb, you’re a famous producer who’s worked with some of the greatest rappers of all time. What was it like working with Biggie? 
Producing “Last Day” for Biggie was an honor. It was dope because I was commissioned by Puff, and I went straight to the studio. I didn’t really get to sit in the room with Big—he was actually in the next room recording while I was producing “Last Day”—but the vibe was good, and when I heard the final version he also had The LOX on there too.

How was it working with Eminem on “Untitled” on his comeback album, Recovery?
Well, my peoples came to me one day, and they were like, “Yo, we got this record, this old ’50s record.” So I listened to it and flipped it, and that’s the song that became “Untitled.” But initially, when I started working with Em, I found myself catering to the “Eminem sound,” which is totally wrong to do whenever you’re producing for somebody who’s asked you for a beat. You don’t try to cater to their style, because they’re asking you for your style.

Is there a record that you produced that you feel like never got the shine it deserved? 
I would say the record I did for Lil’ Kim, called “Hold It Now.” That was a favorite for me, because I took this Beastie Boys sample and flipped it into an intro for her. I remember playing it for her… There was at least 20 people in the room, and I’d played a couple of records, but when I threw that shit on, the whole room just exploded. It was a really memorable moment.

Do you think there will be another Mobb Deep album in the future? 
We’re actually talking about it right now. We’re not sure, but we hope so. But we’re definitely going to go on tour.

So how did the feud between you and Prodigy come about? 
To make a long story short, when you know someone for such a long time, y’all become brothers, and brothers have differences. Sometimes those differences could really explode into something you don’t want it to be, but it happens. At the end of the day, there’s this thing my mother always told me, that if you’re fighting with your brother or your family, make sure you do it behind closed doors and not in front of the public. And that was something I didn’t follow, so things got out of hand. But naturally, we patched things up and got back together and said, “Fuck it, this doesn’t make any sense.” We do our thing best when we’re together.

Do you think your bond is stronger after the feud? 
I think we definitely learned from it. The level of respect is more prevalent than ever, and we appreciate what we’ve made more than ever.

When does the tour kick off? 
The tour starts in May. Then we have the European tour starting in mid-June and going through the end of August.