Mobb Deep

Amid the burgeoning mid-'90s hardcore rap scene, Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep towered above their peers, instantly canonized for their influential, trendsetting The Infamous album.
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The Mobb

The duo, comprised of Prodigy and Havoc, initially began as just another hardcore rap act, a role the two youths actually typecast themselves as on their rudimentary debut album, Juvenile Hell (1993), and their breakthrough album, The Infamous (1995). The startling latter became a touchstone album among the hardcore rap community, driven by the song "Shook Ones, Pt. 2," a time-tested anthem. Mobb Deep became widely known from coast to coast for its hellishly lyrical depiction of New York street life in Queensbridge, the rough housing project the duo called home. Mobb Deep's production style also became widely known, driven by haunting melodies and hard-hitting beats, the bleak aural equivalent of the duo's sullen rhymes. By the end of the decade, Mobb Deep's Murda Muzik debuted at number three on the Billboard album chart, exemplifying exactly how far the duo had come without compromising their harsh approach. Soon after attaining this commercial zenith, Prodigy's street credibility suffered a blow by Jay-Z in 2001 on the song "Takeover." Yet Prodigy and Havoc bounced back, not by retaliating as Nas had, but by scoring their biggest crossover hit yet, "Hey Luv (Anything)."


Mutually residing in Queens and sharing a passion for hip-hop, Mobb Deep members Prodigy and Havoc originally met while both attending the prestigious Graphic Arts High School in Manhattan. Still in their late teens, the duo released their debut album in 1993, Juvenile Hell, on the 4th & Broadway label. Though the album wasn't that successful from either a financial or critical standpoint, it did serve as a fitting platform for the duo to launch its career. Not only did Mobb Deep produce its own beats; it also crafted its own style of beat-making: a street-smart poetic approach centering on the surrounding ghetto lifestyle. Prodigy and Havoc's brutally honest reality rapping and complementary melancholy beats landed them a deal in 1995 with the up-and-coming Loud label, who released The Infamous, Mobb Deep's breakthrough album.

The Infamous became a touchstone for mid-'90s East Coast hardcore rap beside such similar classics as Illmatic, Enter the Wu-Tang, and Ready to Die. Partially propelled to awareness by fellow Queensbridge rapper Nas, who lyrically took a similar approach on his championed Illmatic album in 1994, and partially by a successful single, "Shook Ones, Pt. 2," Mobb Deep suddenly found itself with a huge cult following. A year later in 1996, Prodigy and Havoc released Hell on Earth; debuting at number six on the Billboard album chart, the album found the duo further realizing its approach, dropping both evocative beats and cinematic rhymes that communicated the dark side of New York's urban landscape. And thanks to a grim video for "Hell on Earth (Front Lines)" and theatrical Scarface-like photos inside the CD booklet picturing the duo with guns and a mound of cocaine, Mobb Deep had created an elaborate image for themselves that took hardcore gangsta rap to a new level that the East Coast had yet fostered. It was then no surprise when fans heavily bootlegged Mobb Deep's successive release, Murda Muzik, while it was still in its demo stage, leaking rough versions of the nearly 30 songs the duo had recorded onto the streets and the Internet.

Months after the bootlegs first leaked and after several pushed-back street dates, Murda Muzik finally dropped in early 1999. It debuted at number three on Billboard and quickly went platinum on the strength of "Quiet Storm," a song epitomizing the signature Mobb Deep style. In late 2000, Prodigy finally released his long-rumored solo album, H.N.I.C., which saw the more outspoken member of the group collaborating with outside producers such as Alchemist and Rockwilder on tracks similar to the trademark Mobb Deep style. On H.N.I.C. and later in an interview with The Source, Prodigy referenced his bout with illness during the time following Murda Muzik. During this same time, Jay-Z spoke out against Mobb Deep, and Prodigy in particular. The street-credibility challenging incident led to some publicity for Mobb Deep, who were then unwillingly thrown into the spotlight with New York's biggest rappers at the time, Nas and Jay-Z.

Mobb Deep overcame its hurdles with the release of Infamy at the tail end of 2001. The duo didn't challenge Jay-Z as Nas had. Instead, Mobb Deep veered notably toward pop-rap for the first time in their career, bringing in outside producers and vocalists. The crossover success of "Hey Luv (Anything)" resulted, upsetting some longtime fans who wanted to see the duo remain strictly hardcore. Yet for every fan that jumped ship, two climbed aboard, shuffling the composition of Mobb Deep's audience a bit. The duo were unfazed, however. Prodigy in particular noted that his bout with illness and with Jay-Z had changed his outlook.

A CD of new tracks -- with Havoc doing most of the vocals -- and a CD of remixes and collaborations were released together as Murda Mix Tape in 2003. The label was Landspped and the cover declared the group "free agents," addressing the group's split with Loud and search for a new label. They found it in Jive, who released the entirely new Amerikaz Nightmare in 2004.

Amerikaz Nightmare was the same hardcore Mobb Deep fans had grown to love, yet this back to hardcore approach turned off many mainstream rap fans, resulting in poor sales, and the subsequent dropping of the duo from Jive Records.

At this moment in time the Mobb are flirting with a number of big record labels, particularly 50 Cent's G-Unit Records, which is worrying for some fans as G-Unit are widely known for their mainstream Hip-Pop style of music.

The track "Shook Ones Pt.II", from their The Infamous album, is considered by many to be one of the best hip-hop tracks of all time.


  • Juvenile Hell (1993)
  • The Infamous (1995)
  • Hell on Earth (1996)
  • Murda Muzik (1999)
  • H.N.I.C (2000)
  • Infamy (2001)
  • Amerikaz Nightmare (2004)

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