Videos courtesy of Brook Bobbins
Queens staged a Manhattan invasion last night as a packed Best Buy Theater celebrated the live reunion of Mobb Deep. The iconic duo, bolstered with an awning referencing their Queensbridge Houses upbringing (“41-15″) and wearing Hennessy jerseys, played its first show after Prodigy spent three years in prison on weapons charges.
The group, augmenting its beats with a live band including drums, bass and keyboard, covered all corners of its storied career. Their comeback single “Love Y’all More” was a symbol of Mobb’s potential resurgence, but classics from The Infamous predictably earned the biggest audience reaction. A climactic one-two of “Got It Twisted” and “Shook Ones Pt. II” brought the dense crowd to a near-religious fervor, eliciting screams and wall-to-wall dancing.
Notably, Prodigy barely addressed his imprisonment, instead opting to boost the venue’s party atmosphere when not rapping. “I did that little bullshit ass bid,” he said after embracing Havoc at the show’s climax. “We back now.”
Of course, with any comeback, there’s bound to be special guests. An energetic Lil’ Kim joined for the remix to “Quiet Storm,” while longtime associate Big Noyd reunited for “Give Up The Goods (Just Step)” early in the set and stayed until the end. Opener Raekwon rocked his verse on the classic “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines),” but Ghostface and potential guest Nas were nowhere to be found. The absence of 50 Cent was also noticeable as Mobb Deep performed a couple tracks from its G-Unit years. Alchemist played the part of hypeman before retreating to a nook next to the DJ and watching the rest of the show as a fan.
With both Mobb Deep and the other classic opening duo Ghostface and Raekwon, the night pitted the crowd’s nostalgia for a hip-hop past with its current corporatized image. The old school seemed to win, though. The sterile Times Square venue was quickly shrouded in a permanent cloud of weed smoke, while, at one point, a man danced next to me wearing a full Gary Sheffield Yankee jersey. It might not have been current, but the night’s celebratory atmosphere brought out energetic performances across the bill.
As usual, Ghostface put it best. “I love y’all because you feel me,” he said. “You feel Rae. You feel Cap. You feel Wu. You feel Mobb Deep. That’s why y’all niggas is here. Real detect real. That’s why it’s poppin’ in this motherfucka in New York City on a Thursday night.” He then went on a rant about how in Europe you can’t get food after 6 p.m., which was equally amazing and unprintable.
As the Wu set concluded and Mobb Deep prepared its entrance, Raekwon added, “He made it home safe.” The crowd went wild. —Carter Maness