Amid the drama that’s surrounded him in recent years, Prodigy’s music took a turn for the worse, digressing into something that sounded uninspired, and at times bored. After last year’s scattershot—and downright cringe-worthy at times—H.N.I.C. 3, Prodigy looked to rebound by linking up with longtime associate Alchemist for the duo’s second full length body of work. Fans of P will be delighted to learn he does so impressively on Albert Einstein, and Al’s intricately heavy beats help make this Prodigy’s best record in years.
Not that he covers much new ground here; he still spends the majority of the album boasting of his ability to kill—both figuratively on the mic and literally on the streets. But he does so emphatically, whether it’s via witty street slang on “IMDKV,” blunt honesty on “YNT” or brutal storytelling on “Confessions” (he states coldly that he’d pistol whip a little girl after killing his father). At time it’s hard to stomach, but this chilling attitude is what made the first Mobb Deep records so fascinating. It goes beyond the lyrics; you can hear it in his gritty gruff of a voice.
Alchemist has always been a model of consistency, but he’s at the top of his game. Chopped samples and thick bass leans create lurking slabs of funk, reminiscent of the menacing soundscapes of vintage Mobb Deep. Often his beats transform midway through song, becoming muddled in crackling vocal samples before reemerging as electronic-infused thumpers like “Bible Paper.” He balances these with smoother affairs, like the floating piano melody on “YNT” and ventures in experimentalism and acid jazz on “Curb Ya Dog,” which is built on warped flute riffs and barking dog sound effects.
The album never reaches jaw-dropping levels because the envelope’s never pushed, but that’s not the point. Albert Einstein is about two artists doing what they do best, and for one of them, it’s a return to form. It’s the type of rough and witty realism people loved from P in the ’90s, and hopefully it’s here to stay for projects to come. —Reed Jackson