As the lyrical half of Mobb Deep, since the moment Prodigy stepped out of the cage, he has consistently released outputs via guest appearances, a mixtape, and an EP. Though none of his projects were able to match the critical success of his pre-incarceration efforts (Return of the Mac and H.N.I.C. Part 2), fans of the Hempstead MC were assured that P’s third official solo effort, H.N.I.C. Part 3, will remold his stature as one of New York’s primary rap figures. Unfortunately, the third installment of the critically acclaimed series fails to excite.

The album kicks off with “Without Rhyme or Reason,” where Prodigy makes personal mandates that are dull and spewed with a hue of laziness. (“And I could show you how to live to the fullest, but you got to follow me like Twitter.”) It then leads to “Slept On,” a threat to “little” rappers, “Who You Bullshittin,” with Havoc, a formulaic Mobb Deep record with overzealous bravado, and “Skull & Bones,” a sinister warning of scalping and other murder tactics. These are all recipes that Prodigy has previously excelled at brewing to mastery. But this time, he stumbles with mediocre beat selections, driven with tiring chord progressions.

Even his love serenades that usually attack the subject with wit and humor are hard to find on H.N.I.C. Part 3, with the long-dwindling “Smack That Bitch” offering a nearly cringe-inducing listening experience.

The album’s full of production that attempts to cater to a wider audience, but it’s still tinted with the menacing colors signature to Prodigy’s sound, which creates an oddly unfitting contrast. Records like “Make It Hot,” “Get Money,” and “Award Show Life,” are prime examples of such contradictions.

While cuts such as the dimming “Co-Pilot” (assisted by Wiz Khalifa) and the more reflective “Live” (produced by Alchemist) hint of a lane Prodigy could partake in the current era of rap, the album’s overall aural structure and subject matters are no comparison to P’s previous releases. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)