Mobb Deep’s 20th anniversary tour hit New York City’s Stage 48 last night (July 17).  The two-floor venue was packed with fans eager to see the legendary Queensbridge duo, who are reportedly back in the studio together on the heels of recent solo releases.

After a couple hours of local opening acts, Joe Budden finally stormed onstage to “Words of a Chameleon” off his 2012 mixtape A Loose Quarter.  He moved from the Slaughterhouse track “Hammer Dance” to his recent single with Wiz Khalifa and French Montana, “N.B.A. (Never Broke Again).”  And, of course, he treated the crowd to his 2003 career-defining hit, “Pump It Up”.  With an attitude that was equal parts joking with the audience for being too young and scolding them for being asleep, Budden more than did his job hyping up the room for the infamous Mobb Deep.

The Queens duo came out strong to a quick-moving string of classics off The Infamous:  “Shook Ones, Pt. 2,” “Survival of the Fittest,” “Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)” and “Give Up the Goods (Just Step).”  On tour to commemorate 20 years in hip-hop, the Queensbridge MCs looked confident and smoothly synergistic, showing no signs of their well-publicized 2012 breakup.

In sharp contrast to the ultra-flashy, colorful backdrops of the opening acts, much of Mobb Deep’s set was performed in front of a stark, all-black wall.  If it was an intentional move to keep attention on the lyricism, it worked.  Much of the crowd reflected what was happening on stage—a deep familiarity with the group’s catalog, the by-product of having had so many years to sit with and learn it.

The MCs moved from the better-known Infamous releases through a set that showed off the breadth of their work the past 20 years.  Tracks included: “Front Lines (Hell on Earth)” (Hell on Earth, 1996); “Thug Muzik” (Murda Muzik, 1999), “Get Away” and “Burn” (Infamy, 2001), “Got It Twisted” (Amerikaz Nightmare, 2004), “Put Em in Their Place” (Blood Money, 2006), and “Give Em Hell” from Prodigy and Alchemist’s new release, Albert Einstein.

As the stage grew increasingly packed with photographers and associates, Mobb Deep returned to The Infamous to close out the evening, with Prodigy doing his “Temperature’s Rising” verse a capella.  After finishing hard with “Shook Ones, Pt. 2,” the rappers embraced and posed for pictures, yelling out to the crowd, “Twenty years in this motherfucker—that’s some real shit!”—Katie Moore