Nineteen years to the month since acclaimed East Coast rap duo Mobb Deep released their breakout album The Infamous, rappers Havoc and Prodigy have decided to start the 20-year celebration early with an appropriately titled new record, The Infamous Mobb Deep.
“Infamous” for being part of the East Coast / West Coast dissing rivalry (a rivalry that ultimately ended the lives of Tupac and Biggie), Mobb Deep peddled the gritty street hustle narrative over dark minimalist beats as their signature sound, the stories of their childhoods growing up in Queensbridge, New York making them household names in the hip-hop community. The release of The Infamous Mobb Deep (their 8th studio effort) should come as happy news to hardcore hip-hop fans, as the duo almost split a few years ago.
With guest features that include fellow Queens rapper Nas, The LOX, Snoop Dogg, Bun B, Juicy J and more, most of this album feels like classic old-school rap over head-nodding beats without a lot of bells and whistles. They’ve got a cool, smooth, comfortable flow, great for head bobbing down the PCH highway—as long as you don’t mind the content. The rap vets are up to their usual bag of tricks– murdering folks, killing violators, bagging b***ches, and living to tell about it. They’ve made a brand of this “murda muzik,” so no surprises here. However, Mobb Deep do get a bit eerie with the production on “All A Dream,” during which the late Notorious B.I.G repeats, “It was all a dream” over the duo rapping about how they’ve accomplished their own musical dream. Nice. “Henny” I might be able to dance to; and Mobb Deep cuts the braggadocio for a sec on “Low,” which gets real about a family and love relationship gone wrong.
There are bigger, almost Kanye West-esque inspired sounds on “Legendary”. Havoc, also a producer, mentioned in HotNewHipHop how he is inspired to work with other legends, “Of course it’s called ‘Legendary’, who could we get on there, some legends: Juicy J, Bun B… I like sharing production on albums with other producers ’cause I’m a fan.” Moreover, there is a very clever extended metaphor about waterboarding hip-hop on the Alchemist produced “Waterboarding,” which Mobb Deep spits to the sound of water droplets. Besides these highlights, Havoc and Prodigy trade bars mostly boasting about how they got guns, hoes, greed, glory (both past and present), and victories. Translation? Don’t f**k with them.
Lyrically, a lot of the rhyme patterns sound the same though—not incredibly innovative. The content feels a bit tired too, like they’ve been rapping about the same thing for 20 years (and indeed they have). Yes, I know this type of music is their brand, but aren’t they a little too old for this? Where’s the growth? I get glocking the block at 19, but at almost 40? Still, this style is classic for Mobb Deep. On The Infamous Mobb Deep, they are not only celebrating their signature style, but the fact that they’ve made their dream come true over the years. Kudos on the accomplishment, but not crazy about the content.