Saturday, April 25, 2015

Celebrating 20 Years- Mobb Deep's "The Infamous"

Release date: April 25, 1995

Oh man, this joint REQUIRES a backstory. Now, I honestly can't recall when I first heard "Shook Ones Pt. II" (it had to have been the very early part of 1995),  but I do recall going crazy when I first heard it and I MADE SURE to watch that video whenever it came on (especially BET's "Rap City"). I was also in the 5th grade at this point, and I was such a big fan that I cut out a photo of this album cover from one of my Source magazines and placed it on the front of one of my notebooks, yes indeed! From there, it actually wasn't until the summer of '95 when I first heard their sophomore album, "The Infamous." My dad has this on tape, and my assumption was that he wasn't a fan of it because he quickly gave it to me. Loyal reader let me tell you something, I was INSTANTLY hooked on this album upon my very first listen and for a period, it would not leave my tape deck, which is the definite sign of a great album. In addition to this cassette tape, I owned three versions of this album, bought the CD twice and of course it receives play to this day. And with all this being said, let's go back to '95 with "The Infamous!"

All songs produced by Mobb Deep, except where noted

1. "The Start of your Ending (41st Side)"

In a VERY fitting way to open this album, we have this dope song. I remember my cousin Shamika went crazy about this song, often talking about how tight it was, and of course I couldn't agree more. This opener more than sets the tone for the rest of the album and instantly lets the listener know that Prodigy and Havoc are coming with a different style this time around, way moreso than how things were on their first album. Dope start here.
*5 out of 5*

2. "The Infamous Prelude"
Prodigy takes this "intermission" to get some things off his chest, lots of tough guy talk, if you will, but as you listen to him throughout, he gives the vibe that he can really back up this talk with words and actions. And while I (and others) didn't know it at the time, he also threw some (subliminal) shots at Keith Murray (not the last time either), which was very interesting because they would appear alongside LL Cool J, Fat Joe and Foxy Brown for the classic "I Shot Ya" remix in '95.

3. "Survival of the Fittest"

"We livin' this till the day that we die/Survival of the fit, only the strong survive" -Havoc

Man, those lines above from the hook accurately describes this apply titled classic, and to this day I still find myself getting amped (along with continuous head bobbing) whenever I bump it. While Havoc came through with one of his best verses ever, Prodigy's opening verse is not only tight as hell, but he really begins to establish himself as a premier lyricist at this point, and it didn't go unnoticed either. Classic.
*5 out of 5*

4. "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mine)"
Featuring Nas and Raekwon

This classic collaboration right here is simply one of THE DOPEST songs I've ever heard. I felt that way in '95 when I first heard it and I still feel this way today. All four MCs come with incredibly dope verses, including another classic opening verse from Prodigy. Havoc did his thing, and of course Nas, still hot after dropping his debut "Illmatic" one year prior, even while adopting the name "Nas Escobar," still brought the lyrical goods and Raekwon, in a rare guest appearance outside of the Wu-Tang Clan, closes this song on such a high quality note that it leaves you wanting more. Speaking of Nas and Rae, Prodigy had this to say in an interview with

We actually made that beat and everything right there in the studio. We was in there for like four hours and knocked that whole song out… The song happened and that’s when Rae did "Verbal Intercourse” with Nas. That was probably like a week after “Eye For A Eye” they did that."

Like you NEED to ask what this song gets.
*5 out of 5*

5. "Just Step Prelude"
Featuring Big Noyd
Clocking in at 1:06, Prodigy and Noyd come with a few bars, acapella style,n leading into.....

6. "Give Up The Goods (Just Step)
Featuring Big Noyd
Produced by The Abstract (Q-Tip)

This joint was often called a "stick up kid" anthem. I understand why though, considering the lyrical content. Speaking of which, Prodigy drops ANOTHER dope opening verse (said verses from this album are quite frankly some of his best material) and Noyd comes through with his best verse ever, dare I say stealing the show on this one. Either way, this is another classic in a series of them on this album. "This is not a game" indeed.
*5 out of 5*

7. "Temperature's Rising"
Featuring Crystal Johnson
Produced by The Abstract, Co-Produced by Mobb Deep

Talk about a song that's as real as it gets, featuring the sort of realism that you don't see anymore in today's hip hop world. The following words from Prodigy describe this one in a nutshell:

"Temperature’s Rising’ is a song that happened when Hav’s brother [Killa Black] had went through a little murder situation and he was on the run from the police. The Ds caught him and when we found out about it, we were on our way to the studio, so we decided to make the song about what was really happening in our lives. Everything we say about that shit is real. That’s what really happened. It was like, ‘Damn, they caught Black.’ We went to the studio that night, we were all emotional about it because that’s Hav’s brother. That’s a serious charge, so we just made a song dedicated to Killa about how his situation went down, how he was on the run, and how he got caught. If you listen to it, it’s not directly saying exactly what happened, it’s just saying some shit went down."

And revisiting this again, I can hear the emotion in their delivery. Another VERY good song.

*5 out of 5*

8. "Up North Trip"

"The moral of the story is easy to figure out/A lesson that you can't live without" 'Prodigy

True words spoken by Prodigy right there as it relates to this song. He and Havoc paint the verbal picture about how certain lifestyles, specifically those dealing with a life of crime and drugs, often, justifiably so, come with severe consequences, namely getting locked up and sent "upstate," hence the title of the song. More dope stuff here. (Sidenote: This song also appeared on the soundtrack to the movie "Don't Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.")
*5 out of 5*

9. "Trife Life"

Oh man, I love this joint right here, featuring the tale of two stories. Prodigy's nice opening verse (again) depicts the familiar story of a visit with a woman gone wrong (a setup), only to thankfully escape with his life intact, while Havoc kicks knowledge about scheming (in the life) and selling drugs as a means of getting money the fast/illegal way. Appropriately titled to be sure.
*5 out of 5*

10. "Q.U. Hectic"

This song isn't the first time that Prodigy and Havoc show an aggressive side obviously, but they turn it up a few notches here. They talk about where they come from (Q.U., short for Queens) and describing the environment itself (Hectic). Notice to little wordplay there? It wasn't just Queens that had this harsh reality, this also extended to the rest of the 5 boroughs in New York. ANOTHER tight/classic song.
 *5 out of 5*

11. "Right Back At You"
Featuring Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Big Noyd
Co-Produced by Schott Free

While this collaboration has nothing on "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef is Mine)," it's still pretty damn good on its own. Ghostface comes through with Rae, bringing that "Cuban Linx" vibe with an "Infamous" touch.
*5 out of 5"

12. "The Grave Prelude"
This leads up right into.....

13. "Cradle To The Grave"

This is probably the single most chilling song in Mobb Deep's discography, including the first verse, particularly the lines from Prodigy which were apparently based on real life incidents. It's also one of few songs from the Mobb that you really have to take your time with as you listen to it. 
*5 out of 5*

14. "Drink Away The Pain (Situations)"
Featuring and produced by The Abstract, Co-Produced by Mobb Deep

Definitely Mobb Deep's most creative song without a doubt. accurately describes this song:

"The song personifies dangerous addictions. Prodigy and Havoc compare their love for alcohol to infatuation with a woman. Tip takes it in a different direction, assembling a crew of designer clothing labels for a metaphorical heist."

*5 out of 5*

15. "Shook Ones Pt. II"

Before I begin to talk about this CLASSIC, let the record show that there was a part 1 to "Shook Ones." Granted, it's the lesser known version, but it's just as dope. Check it out below.

Dope right? Well, continuing on, no amount of hyperbole can put Mobb Deep's finest and most memorable work in its proper context, definitely one of my favorite songs (and beats) of all time. Prodigy's opening two lines, "I got you stuck off the realnest/We be the Infamous, you heard of us, official Queensbridge murdereres," are some of his most often quoted lines, truly his best verse ever, opening and/or otherwise. As mentioned during the intro, whenever this video came on, no matter where I was, I watched it, and it remains the song that forever defined their legacy in hip hop. Chances are when you think (or hear) of Mobb Deep, this joint comes to mind. Classic material.

"Son they shook, cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks/Scared to death and scared to look" -Prodigy

*5 out of 5*

16. "Party Over"
Featuring Big Noyd
Co-Produced by Matt Life

I guess some good things must come to an end right? Well in this case, this incredible album closes on a tight, apply titled note. Some people I know don't care too much for this song, but I always thought it was dope (and still do). Overall, a fitting closer.
*5 out of 5*

Man, even 20 years after its release, I did NOT want this album to end and it sounds just as good today as it did when I was first listening to it with 10-11 year old ears. Simply put, this is one incredible album and to say it's better than "Juvenile Hell" is a COMPLETE understatement; Prodigy and Havoc really evolved as men and artists, rather quickly, and that certainly comes across on this album. The production is NICE, one of many albums released in '95 that captured the high quality sound of East Coast hip hop and lyrically it's great stuff. Havoc was good all around, but Prodigy stepped up in a huge way and this album by far represents some of his absolute best work ever behind the mic (the follow up "Hell On Earth" certainly gives it a run for its money). "The Infamous" is my #8 favorite album of all time, one of the best albums of '95 and truly one of the greatest albums of all time. A VERY enthusiastic 5 stars for this classic.

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