Before it was a source of controversy, GQ's "Rapper Of The Year" cover story on Kendrick Lamar was notable for some of its outtakes, which found the Compton rapper reflecting on four hip-hop acts that influenced him. While most hailed from the West Coast—Tupac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg—one name stood out: Mobb Deep. "I was a big Prodigy fan at the time," said Lamar in the interview. "So I was really biting his style."

It ends up, Prodigy himself was just as surprised by the shout-out as anyone else. "I was definitely surprised because I'm a big Kendrick fan," says Prodigy in a phone conversation with XXL. "When his album first came out, shit I was probably the number one promoter of it in New York. I played that shit for everybody. I was telling everybody to buy that shit, making sure niggas was up on that shit. I was Tweeting about it, all that shit. I never met Kendrick before, so it was kinda mind-blowing to see that article. I was bugging like, 'Wow, that's dope.'"

This is hardly the first time the legendary Infamous rapper has shown support for Lamar. Back in August when K-Dot's "Control" verse dropped, Prodigy was a vocal fan of the verse, sending out Tweets praising the verse and laughing at people trying to criticize it.

Mostly, Prodigy is just not impressed with younger artists trying to recapture the '90s glory days instead of doing something original. "They're trying to relive the past with all the shit that happened with us and the Dogg Pound and Snoop and Pac shit," says Prodigy. "That shit is over. It happened already. You can't relive that. And you don't want to relive that anyway—that shit was dangerous. That was a serious time. That shit wasn't no joke."

While some artists might bristle at the idea of being cited as influences by younger rappers, the 39-year-old MC sees it as an honor and it drives him to continue working hard. Earlier this year, Prodigy released his Albert Einstein album with producer the Alchemist and he's currently back in the studio with his Mobb Deep partner Havoc, putting the finishing touches on the group's next record, which he hopes will drop in March or April of 2014. He's also still working with fiction writers on his Infamous book imprint, which released his debut novella H.N.I.C. back in July.

That type of restless creativity is part of what's kept Prodigy going. "I'm always vocal about people being unique and different in hip-hop," he says. "In the era we came up in, you had to have your own thing. You couldn't do what somebody else was doing, we called that shit biting. But nowadays it's hard to find people who stick to those rules. You got a lot of copycat motherfuckers in the game right now. So it's good to see somebody like Kendrick who sticks to that shit and keeps it original how it should be."