On this day, November 18, in hip-hop history…
1996: On 1995′s The Infamous, Prodigy and Havoc had come to perfect their formula for murderous New York hardcore rap music. Mobb Deep’s brand of gritty street narratives and bleak, cold weather production had made The Infamous one of the celebrated rap albums of the year and a classic amongst hip-hop fans. Thus, it was no surprise when the Mobb returned to that same formula a year later for Hell On Earth.
Despite the blazing inferno on the album’s packaging, Hell On Earth feels colder and more bleak than The Infamous in many ways. Havoc’s grimy beats feel darkly operatic as if he were scoring a funeral procession through the Queensbridge projects. The album’s opener, “Animal Instinct,” serves a grim statement of purpose of Mobb’s gangster kill-or-be-killed ethos. Havoc and especially Prodigy – who has never been finer – have their lyrical swords sharpened and rap about life on the ill side of town. Songs such as “G.O.D. Pt. III,” “Still Shinin,” “Apostle’s Warning” and the Tupac-dissing “Drop A Gem On ‘Em” are some of the group’s grimiest and most memorable songs of their career.
Despite the darkness of the proceedings, Hell On Earth would land a Gold certification by the RIAA, marking it as a commercial success for the Queensbridge rappers. 17 years after its release, Hell On Earth would remain one of hip-hop’s hardest rap albums ever recorded and one of Mobb Deep’s best.