Throw Back Thursday with Mobb Deep Before hip-hop's pervasive mainstream popularity, there were artists like Mobb Deep
ABOVE: MOBB DEEP’S PRODIGY (LEFT) AND HAVOC. PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSICA LEHRMAN
Before hip-hop’s pervasive mainstream popularity, before its parceling of countless subgenres and mass commercial viability, there were artists like Mobb Deep, who injected the harsh realities of street life into the narrative of American music.
Mobb Deep – Survival Of The Fittest
Havoc and Prodigy first met each other at the High School of Art and Design in New York City. Originally dubbing themselves the Poetical Prophets in 1990, the duo later changed its name to Mobb Deep in 1992 to “reflect their reputation on the streets.” In 1993, when Havoc and Prodigy were nineteen, they released their debut album, Juvenile Hell which was promoted by the single “Peer Pressure.” The album sold poorly and eventually met with harsh reviews that dismissed the duo as just another hardcore group with little to distinguish it from the rest of the hip-hop world, despite production by DJ Premier and Large Professor. In 1993 Havoc made a guest appearance on the critically acclaimed Black Moon album Enta Da Stage on a song titled “U Da Man.” In 1994 the duo released a single titled “Shook Ones Part 1”.
Rise to success
The group saw its first major success with their second album, The Infamous, released in 1995. Mobb Deep catapulted to the top of the hardcore hip-hop scene through Havoc and Prodigy’s straightforward narration of street life. In this album, Mobb Deep portrayed the struggles of living in New York City’s Queensbridge Houses where Havoc grew up. Following the release of The Infamous, Mobb Deep became some of the most prolific artists of the East Coast. The production of this album was very dark and sample-based thanks to Havoc, who produced the beats from this point forward. Furthermore, the hit single “Shook Ones Pt. II“, a remix to the hit Shook Ones, received critical acclaim.
Mobb Deep’s third album, Hell on Earth was released in 1996 debuting at number six on the Billboard Album Chart; the album continued the duo’s portrayal of harsh street life while further pushing them to the forefront of Hip Hop scene along with contemporary East Coast Rappers like The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and fellow Queensbridge rapper Nas. Nas as well as Method Man and Raekwon of the Wu Tang Clan appear on ‘Hell on Earth’.
In 1996, they appeared on the Red Hot Organization‘s compilation CD, America is Dying Slowly alongside Biz Markie, Wu-Tang Clan and Fat Joe among many other prominent Hip Hop artists. This compilation was solely meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African American men and this compilation was heralded as “a masterpiece” by The Source Magazine, a Hip Hop publication. 1997 Mobb Deep was featured on Frankie Cutlass “Politics & Bullsh*t” album track title “Know Da Game” which also features Kool G Rap. In 1998, the duo collaborated with reggae dancehall artist Bounty Killer on the track “Deadly Zone” for the soundtrack to Blade. In 1999, they released the highly anticipated Murda Muzik album which, despite extensive bootlegging, had the majority of its songs unintentionally leaked. This resulted in delays in the official album release. When the album was officially released, it eventually debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and quickly received Platinum Certification and was further promoted by the popular single “Quiet Storm.” Shortly afterward, Prodigy released his long-awaited solo album H.N.I.C in which he collaborated with fellow artists like (B.G., N.O.R.E.) and producers (including The Alchemist, Rockwilder and Just Blaze).
East Coast vs. West Coast feud
Mobb Deep was part of the infamous East Coast vs West Coast Hip Hop rivalry that was fueled and increasingly promoted by the private media. The beef started when Snoop Dogg and the West Coast group, Tha Dogg Pound, released “New York, New York” which Mobb Deep, along with Capone-N-Noreaga and Tragedy Khadafi responded with the song “L.A L.A” (This song can be found on Capone-N-Noreaga’s debut album The War Report). This song was released during rapper Tupac Shakur‘s final days of incarceration. Members of Tupac’s group, Outlawz, allegedly attended a Mobb Deep concert; they then visited with Tupac over public rumoring that the duo had snubbed them at the concert. Tupac dissed Mobb Deep on multiple tracks, including: “Hit ‘Em Up” and “When We Ride on Our Enemies” in which Tupac makes light of Prodigy’s sickle-cell disease. Additional Tupac diss tracks include: “Bomb First (My Second Reply)” where Tupac said “You’re barely breathin'” and “Against All Odds,” both of which were released on Tupac’s posthumous studio album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Mobb Deep retaliated on their 1996 release of Hell on Earth, which contains a diss track entitled “Drop A Gem On ‘Em.”
“I was happy about it,” Havoc told Jack Thriller. “The n—- saying our names. I didn’t know what the f— the beef was about. I didn’t even care. I was like damn, did you hear that? 2Pac dissing us. We about to sell some records.” Havoc also revealed that Mobb Deep had never even “crossed paths” with Pac before his death in September 1996. He added, “And we never got a chance to cross paths with him because he passed away,” he said. “I saw him from a long distance but I never met him. [I was a] fan. But didn’t even know him.”
In the nostalgic Q&A, the famed rapper/producer also recalled his time touring and working with 2Pac’s most famous rival, The Notorious B.I.G., on the song “Last Day” from Biggie’s Life After Death album.
Read More: Havoc Speaks on 2Pac vs. Mobb Deep Beef: ‘I Was Happy About It’ | http://theboombox.com/havoc-speaks-on-2pac-vs-mobb-deep-beef-i-was-happy-about-it/?trackback=tsmclip
2000 to 2010
Mobb Deep released Infamy while in 2001 the song “Burn” (featuring Vita) was perceived as a response to Jay-Z’s diss song “Takeover” on The Blueprint, as was “Crawlin’,” in which Prodigy’s two verses both mention Jay-Z. The album marked a major stylistic change in which the duo moved away from a raw, minimalist, stripped-down beat toward a commercial friendly in terms with such songs as “Hey Luv (Anything).” This transition fostered accusations of “selling out.” In 2003, the group split with Loud Records and released Free Agents: The Murda Mix Tape, in which Havoc and Prodigy proclaimed themselves “free agents” and addressed the group’s split with its old label and its search for a new label. Jive Records signed the duo later in the year through a deal with the group’s own imprint. Mobb Deep then released Amerikaz Nightmare in 2004. The record sold poorly and lead to the group’s departure from the label. Today, as a result of various mergers, all of Mobb Deep’s studio albums from 1995 to 2004 are owned by Sony Music Entertainment.
In June 2005, Mobb Deep announced they had signed with G-Unit Records. 50 Cent had a connection to Mobb Deep as he grew up in Queens & Havoc had provided production on projects by G-Unit, Lloyd Banks & Tony Yayo. Mobb Deep released their eighth album, Blood Money in 2006. It features G-Unit members 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo & Young Buck as well as Mary J. Blige & Nate Dogg. In 2006, Mobb Deep became the first American hip-hop duo to perform in India, via VH1’s Hip Hop Hustle. In late 2009, Mobb Deep were released from their contract with G Unit.
2011 to present: Break-up, reunion and The Infamous Mobb Deep
On April 4 2011, Mobb Deep released a new single called “Dog Shit,” featuring rapper Nas. This is the first official song by Mobb Deep since Prodigy’s release from jail. It was produced by Havoc and Alchemist.
On July 27, 2012, Havoc told AllHipHop in interview that the group is on an indefinite hiatus. According to HipHopDX, Mobb Deep had a falling out after Havoc blasted Prodigy on Twitter, and eventually, a sound clip leaked of him taking numerous shots at his former Mobb Deep partner during their concert at SXSW. At first, Havoc claimed that he was hacked. However, he later confirmed it was him and originally denied because he felt that Twitter was not a place to resolve a beef. He also stated that he had a diss track aimed at Prodigy in the making, “Same Shit Different Day”. The song later turned out to be “Separated (Real from the Fake),” which appeared on Havoc’s solo album 13.
However, in January 2013 Prodigy said that he is sure he would record with Havoc in the future. Mobb Deep appeared on Papoose‘s debut album The Nacirema Dream on the track “Aim, Shoot”. They later reunited and performed for Paid Dues on March 30, 2013 and an international 20th anniversary tour starting in May 2013. On March 22, 2013 the group officially reunited for an interview and explained that music is the most important thing in their lives and that they had been friends for too long to break up the friendship.
Around the May 2013 release of Havoc’s third studio album, 13 Havoc announced that him and Prodigy had been in the studio for over a month working on the duo’s eighth studio album which was already “halfway done.” He also stated that he will be doing the entire production on the album.
On April 1, 2014, the group released its eighth studio album, The Infamous Mobb Deep, a double album that included one CD with original new music and one with unreleased tracks from sessions from the The Infamous.
Peter Sobat is the owner/creator of Blurred Culture. Peter holds a MFA in Digital Technology and has worked in media for the past 15 years. He is the creator of several viral hits such as “The SmokeBox” , “The Devin The Dude Show” and “Live with Steve Lobel”.