Tag Archives: Mobb Deep

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

Goodbye and Thank You-Prodigy

by Daniel Olney

Anger and depression are the most interesting shows to watch they present the adversity that begs the question; how to overcome it. Entertainers are well aware of this and some of our favorite musicians (rappers being no exceptions) are actors digging through the lovely life they have for the faint impression real strife left on them. Every album, every song needs to reset and grab a fresh hold on that old place they don’t live in anymore.

The first time I heard the voice of Albert Johnson (who we all knew as Prodigy of Mobb Deep) I didn’t feel the terror of Jason in the hockey mask. It was as if all the jittery shame left me and I was alone with my burning hostility. I was already psychologically aware of how destructive the tendency was and I wanted to be peaceful(I worked on it and still do), the hostility that still bubbled was something I worked to not feel or to at least pretend I didn’t.

When his voice came through the speaker It cleared my conscience. Prodigy presented an anger that went well beyond entertainment. Death, imprisonment, and violence followed him and publicly he never blinked. He never did major name collaborations, never electronically modified his voice so he could sing.  He knew pain like very few people, his whole life haunted by Sickle Cell Anemia, calling Prodigy a voice for the disenfranchised is accurate but not enough.

His voice was a tragic lesson in being in pain pushing through it, getting mad pushing through it and each time the push gets made folding the unresolved negativity over until it is thick enough to become your character. His hooks were simple and short because he just loved to rap, he needed all the space. Off on his own with a band of characters by his side (Alchemist, Havoc, etc).

Losing him felt like losing permission to, through gritted teeth; speak of the ugly perils this life provides. Allowing tone to become as heartless as the truth is without feeling the need to apologize.

To be raw forever or even to be raw at all.

Prodigy scared all of us. He threatened to leave our stomach on our shoes. He might shoot us playing basketball without even knowing us. I never knew anyone that listened to that music with hopes to emulate the lifestyle. He never made it seem that good.  P was surviving and inflicting himself on the world with the power of authorial genius reserved for top tier artists.

If you believe in a heaven and hell you should be scared that he passed away. If you believe he was a good man he’s going to have some choice things to say to the divine power or whoever has to face him. If he is going to hell no one will be better prepared. Whatever elaborate torture that turns out to be his greatest fear is likely to fall on dead nerve endings. P once called his heart an ice box.

He was the Santa Claus of misery for relieving me over and over of the hostility he knew so much better than I did, for speaking the ugliest truth while his opposition made the shiniest medication music. He spawned a whole genre of people doing that music to varying degrees but they’ll never find his sweet spot, his off-cadence on-cadence monotone.

“In other words please stay the fuck from out my face, provoking me to turn to a monster, you push me into a corner you know what’s gonna come.” —-Prodigy on the song Raw Forever From Albert Einstein 2: P=MC2

I can’t imagine him resting peacefully but he’s definitely earned the right.


Throwback Thursday-The self-destructive finale of Mobb Deep

Throwback Thursday-The self-destructive finale of Mobb Deep

by Dan-O

So its 2005. Last year Mobb Deep put out Amerikaz Nightmare which was a superb album but destroyed internally by Jay-z who pulled strings to keep the radio/video play down. 50 Cent signs Mobb Deep which is a pretty big deal because his first album in 2003 (Get Rich or Die Tryin) went DIAMOND and his follow up in 2005(The Massacre) is about to go DIAMOND again.  Not only does 50 want to sign Mobb Deep but he wants to do a song with them that will be a smash hit, he wants to place this on the movie about his come up, starring him, called Get Rich Or Die Tryin. This is really the last shot Havoc & Prodigy will have at the limelight. Their brand of dark sinister east coast goon rap only really exists in a profitable way on G-unit.

So Pearly Gates is totally designed to be that smash hit. Exile does the beat and it is the best of him. The sample flutters and then slows, smears and transforms into a cutting piano loop with knocking bass. 50 is the first voice you hear and he lays out the blueprint for what this song should accomplish. He weaves one of his infectious chorus’s under the clever conception that he could talk his way into heaven. 50 wants this song to be hardcore but empowering in the style that his movie will be, that his life is (to a certain extent). He manages to warn his enemies they can die at any time while looking humbly at where he is; amazed at the platform he has reached.

Havoc is an incredibly intelligent emcee and builds on it. He uses the religious imagery to his advantage “The dogs bark and since all the souls I took, moms pray for me with her right hand on the good book.” His verse is about how lucky he is to be alive and the divine relation to that luck. Everything is going well until Prodigy shows up and says

“Now homey if I go to hell and you make it to the pearly gates,

Tell the boss man we got beef

And tell his only son, I’m a see him when I see him

And when I see him, I’m a beat him like a movie”

In that short a span of time it’s basically all over. Prodigy threatens Christ flips off god and declares “Look, we a new breed in 2006 we don’t give a F_ about that religious B*&^S#$.” On the Drink Champs podcast 50 Cent says he was staggered by this and Ma$e was there at the time with his own theory. You can see it developing in Prodigy’s verse “Man my life is painful; pray to angels I’m praying to myself hoping I ain’t got to spank you.” Ma$e told 50 that since P had suffered Sickle Cell his whole life he’d dealt with spitting blood and passing out and basically been in pain every day. P was having a moment in that verse, maybe Exile had laced that beat too well. It sounded pristine and angelic and having lived with pain in his blood his whole life with no explanation as to why he had to tear it down to the floor. He looked right at the beat and said how dare you let us suffer “For leaving us out to dry on straight poverty.”

50 Pulled that song from the movie. He did his best to help Mobb Deep (doing 6 features on their G-Unit debut Blood Money) and Pearly Gates still came out but it was cut and chopped all through P’s verse.

In four lines Prodigy spit in the face of his best opportunity to get back on top(Blood Money came out in 2006 and Mobb Deep didn’t have a follow up album until 2014 and that was not a proper one) I honestly don’t know if it was a mistake, for him. For Prodigy, I’m sure that verse means a lot and the ability to reach up and choke your comfort is what Mobb Deep was always about.

check out Pearly Gates below:

Mixtape Review-The Kanan Tape by 50 Cent

Mixtape Review-The Kanan Tape by 50 Cent

by Dan-O

One song on 50 Cent’s new Kanan Tape (free release mixtape) flawlessly represents the conundrum of 50. The song is called Body Bags and it starts with 50 telling a story about gambling one night, when a gunman barges in, shouting for everyone to go face down on the floor so he can rob them. 50 Cent looks at the gunman and says “N___ I got on white linen?!” That story is so specifically and charmingly him that it’s magic. The humor in a crappy situation, the overwhelming confidence, it all makes him special. Problem with all this is that the song following the interlude is blandly unspecified 50. Alchemist gives him a pure minimalist gem that sounds like 99 Mobb Deep and 50 gives us the song Body Bags which sounds like it could have been from any era of his career. If I said the phrase “typical 50 Cent song” you would hear Body Bags in your head.

This isn’t to say that he refuses to move out of his comfort zone. The Production list provides an interesting grouping of producers (seven songs seven different names). Whenever he moves into weird territory the results are interesting. It is fun to watch 50 wrap himself around a lush Sonny Digital beat on I’m The Man and the results are definitely a success. 50 has an incredibly high hip hop IQ so his southern songs are all performed at an extremely high level. Nigga Nigga featuring Lil Boosie and Young Buck is great not just because all Boosie verses have been show stoppers since he got out of prison, but because Young Buck always seems to show up and deliver when he lines up next to a dope artist. Young Buck by himself can go either way. The energy 50 brings to the track is matched by Boosie and the two snarl wonderfully together.

London on Da Track has the best song on the project Too Rich for the Bitch where he serves up a Young Thug style off kilter piano track to 50 who luxuriates in it, layering his braggadocio into a fascinating anti-love soundscape. This modern rap world of singing in the middle of the song and making your verses sound like hooks is something 50 can do in his sleep.

The most boring parts of The Kanan Tape sound like his boring last album Animal Ambition.  50 is convinced that if he gives us what we say we want from him we will be happy. That is why he gives us songs like Burner On Me with mailed in clothing brand brags and standard gun talk, it’s what we expect. The problem is that as an audience we only want sixty five percent of what we say we want; that thirty five percent that remains needs to be growth of some kind. Lyrically he won’t bring us closer to his life (he says he tried that on Before I Self Destruct and it didn’t work) so that leaves only so many other sonic ingredients that can change. I’m not writing this as some kind of smug internet tough…I’m a 50 Cent fan. The only Mainer who was bumping 50 Cent mixtapes before Eminem signed him and I’m saying you need to surprise me just a little. The Kanan tape is close but it’s not there.

stream or download The Kanan Tape below:


Mixtape Review-Necessary Evil: The Preface by Yung Joey

Mixtape Review-Necessary Evil: The Preface by Yung Joey

by Dan-O

However you feel about the trap and drill section of the rap universe when you see a mixtape with production credits that include Southside, 808 Mafia, Metro Boomin, Mike Will Made It and features from LL Cool J and Dej Loaf…you have to take notice. Instead of putting out another long and arduous 19 track mixtape where all the production sounds the same (common in the trap/drill world) Yung Joey gives us a project that is equal parts lean and mean.

The combination of the massive ugly thump that well done Trap production provides and the slick Jamaica Queens delivery of Joey creates a different vibe. His reference points are different (see: out of nowhere Silence of The Lambs mention on What Up) and he’s not married to the vocal meter Trap usually necessitates. His slick NY goon talk is always visceral and hostile matching the production perfectly, but he doesn’t need to shout to be scary.

While some of the beats kind of sound like bass avalanches others are smokey and soaring. Big Dawg is produced by Southside, 808 Mafia and Metro Boomin’ which is like having the three producers of the strongest coffee brew a batch together. Not only is the bass overwhelming but it has hisses whirs and pops going in the background that are positively fascinating. Joey raps fast when the time is right and slows down, elongating his swears, when the time is right.

The promising part of Necessary Evil is that its best parts are merely teasers. You can’t begrudge a mixtape for leading you into the album and ReRock ,in particular, is quite effective at this. The version here is one minute and thirty seconds long but I’m certain the full song is saved somewhere safe for the official release. It’s too nasty and gorgeous to just hand out as some sort of interlude. Doe Pesci makes it spooky and thumping while Joey whips drugs like he’s whipping up grits. Doe does four of the ten total tracks and really does have the best ear for what Joey hopes to achieve. A window into the present day and future that incorporates the fun and street sensibilities of trap while staying true to all the complex contradictory elements of a NY rap personality. Road To Riches sounds like it could be on a Mobb Deep album if Doe hadn’t tweaked it fifteen degrees into trap territory.

So Joey can pull off classic NY sound enough to make LL Cool J comfortable and fresh on I Can Tell You (thank you The Audible Doctor). He sings the chorus and doesn’t try to overextend his voice. Joey works his strengths and lays a mean verse into the proceedings. Lyrically he doesn’t change the world on Necessary Evil but he does enough to keep your eyes wide open and your ears attentive. When he says “So much pressure to be great the sh## be stressin’ me, my cousin F’d the game I told him keep it wet for me…” on the song High it sends a tremor of surprise through you. He just knows those push button phrases and where to sprinkle them, how to take advantage of the spotlight they draw to convey what he wants to say. I was guilty of not paying enough attention to Joey before this but if he can step up with this many people behind him and win like this…I need to do my homework. Add another page to the book of people on the move. 

Stream or download Necessary Evil: The Preface below:


EP Review-Royalty The Prequel by The Dream

EP Review-Royalty The Prequel by The Dream

by Dan-O

Amidst all the great little R&B mixtapes that have dropped into the universe this year you won’t hear a lot about Royalty. Not for lack of interesting music, by the way, more for the emotional neediness. This is a project so very off-putting that the hits Dream can just churn out in minutes and march into the world like the grand marshall of a parade are soaked in remorse. A song like Duet which should hum with sexual energy and bravado instead feels like its mojo’s been stolen and now it just exists naked and pawing.

I’m not sure how people “like” their Dream cause I’ve always found him off-putting. The persona he created for his music was ½ R. Kelly ½ Prince and that tastes like Hummus flavored ice cream to me. Royalty clears all that crap off the table: the sunglasses inside the building, the leather jackets that look like Members Only jackets. This collection is what’s left of an insanely talented writer/performer who has suffered immense and humiliating heartbreak now he’s not letting you leave until he explains it to you.

A song like Culture could have taken the shape of simple lifestyle brag but by the end he’s begging the woman in his life to experience so much more of the worlds wonders with him. None of these songs feel like they rolled off him into a snug radio friendly hook and planned music video. Outkast is not just a bizarre but fitting homage to the group but a really well crafted overly sincere rambling pick up line. Wedding Bells sounds festive but is loaded down with baggage “My sister like hell nah she ain’t right. She ain’t your type. We ain’t right for each other…F_ It! It’s nothing. If I was perfect I’m sure it’d still be something.”

The centerpiece of Royalty is the agonizing heartbreak of Cold. The Dream takes Mobb Deep Shook Ones beat and lets his relationship tribulations all hang out. We go from the wedding we all know wont work out to its ugly conclusion(over the course of the tape) and regardless of how jarring the expedition is it’s a complete passage. By the end of Cold you won’t have any questions as to how he got where he is. Dream has so much oozing talent that as purposely grating as the subject matter can be the songs still flutter and bounce at just the right times. This weird little free EP might be my favorite piece of music he’s ever put out. It has moments that feel like the tragic middle chunk of a one man show. You stare at the narrators face as tragedy sets in and watch as that person bites down and starts to recover.

Stream or download Royalty The Prequel below: