Hip-Hop’s landscape has undergone a great deal of change since Mobb Deep released their critically acclaimed breakthrough album, The Infamous, in 1995. The hardcore lyricism and street tales that dominated the hip-hop scene during the “East Coast Renaissance” era are now a sweet memory for hip-hop lovers of an earlier generation. Nearly 20 years later, many of the wordsmiths of that era have disappeared from the scene. This Queensbridge duo, however, has refused to disappear – even after a public falling out on Twitter in 2012. Despite the minor setbacks, Prodigy and Havoc have reunited to give their fans The Infamous Mobb Deep, a double-disc album that revisits and pays homage to the glory years, while assuring longtime fans that “The Infamous M.O.B.B.” has no intention of going anywhere.
Disc one of The Infamous Mobb Deep contains 17 tracks of brand new material. As expected, Prodigy and Havoc employ their trademark formula of hardcore, sinister beats and gritty rhymes. What makes it notable this time around is their ability to maintain their signature style and chemistry, while bringing their sound up-to-date for this generation. Havoc’s production, while still ominous and hard-hitting, sounds much more polished, progressive, and eclectic than his Infamous-era work. Havoc shines on “Waterboarding”, a track that plays like an eerie mid-1970s Blaxploitation film soundtrack, with sounds of water torture in the background. Prodigy, who has stood the test of time as an MC, attacks every beat with his trademark grit. Prodigy’s tough-talk and hardcore imagery are balanced by a charisma and genuineness that sets it apart from your garden variety gangsta rap.
The Infamous Mobb Deep’s production is nothing short of outstanding. Along with Havoc, who produces half of the album’s tracklist, the album features production from names like The Alchemist, Illmind, and Boi-1da. UK producer Beat Butcha provides beautiful production for one of the album’s standout cuts, “Timeless.” The album boasts appearances from Hip-Hop heavyweights including Snoop Dogg, The LOX, and Busta Rhymes. The best guest appearance of the album is saved for last. A fellow Queensbrigde representative and longtime collaborator Nas provides the closing verse of the album on the hard-hitting “Get It Forever.”
Disc two of the album, The 1994 Infamous Sessions, serves as a treat for all the fans that have supported Mobb Deep over the years. It features 14 unreleased cuts from the making of 1995’s The Infamous. Fans will be excited to hear the original recordings of tracks that went on to become classics like, “Temperature’s Rising” and “Survival of the Fittest.” Even the skits are valuable, one of which features a rare freestyle session with a young Nas and Raekwon.
The Infamous Mobb Deep is a must-have in a true Mobb Deep fan’s collection. Crafting such a quality hip-hop album, two decades after your magnum opus, is a remarkable feat. Such longevity in hip-hop is rare, and Prodigy and Havoc deserve their due respect. If this is Mobb Deep’s last album, this legendary duo couldn’t have chosen a much better way to go out. Let’s hope they have a little more in store for us.—Chisom Uzosike