Tag Archives: Prodigy

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.


Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks

Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks

by Dan-O

Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Banks are more similar than you might think. In the same way the public looked at Hillary confused for staying with Bill after all the cheating, expecting her to explode in front of us, Lloyd was called out publicly over and over again by his mentor 50 Cent for being lazy and not promoting himself and said nothing publicly. Banks believes in loyalty with no regard for outsiders.

On his new mixtape All or Nothing: Live It Up the first song (Pledge of Allegiance) states repeatedly “Trust nobody that ain’t family, they’ll switch up on you fast.” It’s what separates him from Game, both have virtually the same skill level but Game is an epic self-promoter willing to do whatever it takes to trend. So while 50 Cent might see Banks as lazy, and the average fan will wonder where he goes in between mixtapes (not a promotional tour) on All or Nothing he articulates himself as someone who wants to focus on art the way Hilary  just wants to focus on policy. Neither campaign for themselves particularly well.

She is great at the work of government and he’s a great lyricist but neither wants to win the homecoming king/queen of public opinion. Familiar producer names for Banks fans are present here as Tha Jerm gets two songs, Doe Pesci gets three. Even new names sound familiar; everyone just wants to give Banks something that will bring him back to that Born Alone, Die Alone state of being. After all the waiting, the long hiatus, how much rap has changed…Banks steps back into his old sound like he never left.

When he works with guests he is never outshined. Prodigy and Vado get loose over the haunting violin of Mr. Authentic’s Seniorities beat but Banks is better. Joe Budden throws bar after bar at the warped boom bap of Doe Pesci’s Transitions beat and Banks doesn’t bother tacking on extra verses on the back to not get shown up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.

The best songs on All or Nothing: Live It Up are Banks by himself.  As the cymbals crash on Bags of Gold (produced by Quis Star) he wraps his words around money and paranoia in a unique rhyme pattern that is amazing to listen to. My favorite song is Miserable; he raps the first verse to a loved one and pledges that his word is all he has, being authentic and reliable means a lot to Banks but not in the way we understand it.

He wants to achieve his personal artistic goals and live up to the high bar of New York hip hop lyricism without being touched by the oily tentacles of industry politics. That’s why he doesn’t opt into big marketing; he just drops it and knows that whoever listens will get more than what they paid for.  As he weaves words together at a fiery pace on Holy Water(2nd favorite song) you start to realize that he is driven but its personal and long term . Makes for a great listen.

Stream or download All or Nothing: Live It Up below:




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:

Throwback Thursday (Mixtape Mashup edition)-The Billprint

Throwback Thursday (Mixtape Mashup edition)-The Billprint

by Dan-O

Mash up mixtapes are my favorite thing because when you flip the beat from a classic song, you hear the lyrics naked again on that first listen. Without the sonic universe seemingly fated for these words you hear them differently and feel yourself entering something new. When it works few things match it.

The Billprint does a superb job showcasing Jay and Bill. The song combinations are outrageous. While most fans of both Bill Withers and Jay-z could have come up with the Use Me/Izzo compromise, how many people would have combined Better Off Dead and Jigga That N__? How many people could imagine Girls Girls Girls parting like the red sea for Bill Withers to perform the show stopping chorus to Can We Pretend? Coming back to this 2009 mixtape is shocking.

The natural problem that mash ups have is that they destroy the original fabric of the project. If you jam Al Green into Illmatic you don’t get Illmatic as an end result. The Billprint doesn’t have that problem at all. Jay intended it as a pathway leading away from the synthetic Neptunes/Swizz Beatz sound dominating that time; a way to bring a more soulful richness to the bass driven sound of the genre. In the same sense Bill Withers first album is called Just As I Am, his next one Still Bill, every song carried with it a born-from-the-street realism. He didn’t need pageantry or advanced harmonies and dance moves he could rely on his voice and the absolute unmatched brilliance of his songwriting. So hearing Jay destroy Prodigy on Takeover while Harlem from Withers Live at Carnegie Hall album plays…the combination makes more sense than it should, this is still the spirit of taking over without any pretense.

Both of these artists provided the blueprint for countless artists. All the time making the muted anthemic and if you listen to this version of Never Change you’ll hear why it makes so much sense.

Stream or Download The Billprint below:


Mixtape review-Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward by Boldy James

Mixtape review-Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward by Boldy James

by Dan-O

At times it feels like Rakim and Big Daddy Kane split the rap world in half. During all the Nas interview interludes on the new Boldy James mixtape Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward it was all I could think about. Rakim was the prototype stone faced rappers rapper. Calm, cool and changing the rap universe with every verse that is who Nas grew into, that’s what Guru(from Gangstarr) aimed for.  While Big Daddy Kane was still changing rap and blowing doors down he made sure it was stylishly, with slick clothes and exciting live shows. He is the blueprint for the east coast player/big time lyricist Biggie and Jay became. On the surface you would think that over time these differences would fade and everything would be everything, but the rift is still there. When Nas went looking for rappers to sign how could he not love Boldy James? Boldy can’t stop rapping and his biggest fault in the past has been that his delivery is so dry his music doesn’t pop like others with wilder deliveries or crazy ad-libs.

On other projects the stark minimalism of the production and the dry bars lulled me into sleeping on Boldy, I’m not going to lie. Even Rakim needed those bouncy  dance beats to contrast his flow. Boldy is starting to get beats with more pop to them as his spotlight shines. On Trappers Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward it’s an all star production lineup of Black Milk, JMSN, TM808, and Go Grizzly (not to mention guest verses from Prodigy, AZ, JMSN, and Kevin Gates). Noided pops and crackles with Superfly soundtrack feeling, Big Bank sounds like one of those oddly gorgeous Zaytoven beats, and 2 Craps in A Missout is Black Milk feeding James just enough sound to serve him well like Madlib did for Freddie Gibbs on Pinata.  

Production changes are not the story. Boldy James is still the story. Over the course of 20 tracks his verses are everywhere (he can’t even tolerate a rapless intro, he just has to spit). His hooks are big time, Costcos has an undeniably catchy snicker in its delivery. 3D delivers a triumphant THIS IS MY TIME hook on Realist and Boldy manages to temper his braggadocio with paranoid drug talk and family.

Boldy sounds just as comfortable rapping with Prodigy on Off The Wall as Kevin Gates and Snootie Wild on Moment In Time. On first listen this felt like Boldy’s I’ve-found-ATL-production project but over repeated listens I have been left in awe of his love of wordplay, like on Moment in Time when he uses Snooties name to start an avalanche of related rhyming words in his verse. Trappers Alley 2 is not about Boldy James finding the better production he needs; it’s about him finding the bigger production that we need as an audience. By the time you get to the last track (Confessional Cathedral) you get the feeling that he’s rap music’s Ray Allen. He could shoot like this for years and years and on his last day his form would still be perfect. He loves the craft and the discipline in a way a lot of more popular contemporaries can’t lay claim too.  Nas recognizes that, the way everyone did when he laid his Live At The Barbeque verse for Main Source.

stream or download Trapper’s Alley 2: Risk vs. Reward below: