Monday, October 17, 2016

Revisiting Prodigy's "HNIC"

After three straight excellent albums with Havoc in the form of "The Infamous," "Hell On Earth," and "Murda Muzik," as well as multiple guest appearances, it was clear that Prodigy was well established heading into the year 2000. He was such a hot commodity after the Platinum selling "Murda Muzik" that it was all but guaranteed he would drop his first solo album, the appropriately titled "H.N.I.C." I received this album as a Christmas gift in 2000 (and of course I still own that same original pressing), so this revisit does have some nostalgia behind it. Plus I had it in my ride a few weeks ago (as of this posting), so it didn't take long for the idea to come to me that I should give it "the revisit treatment." So, with all that said, let's head back to 2000 for Prodigy's solo debut, "H.N.I.C!"

Release date: November 14, 2000

1. "Bars & Hooks (Intro)
I always thought Bars & Hooks was a creative name for this duo. Recently signed to Infamous Records at the time, the two men introduce us to the album, leading us into.....

2. "Genesis"
Produced by Prodigy

"Get your shit together dunn, see between the lines/Stay awoke to the ways of the wickedest kind"

I would've been ok with a third verse here, but it's all good. After the Bars & Hooks led intro, this 2:49 banger was the perfect way to bring in the actual album. P just flows like fine wine here; no hook needed, just straight bars with a small breather in between. 
*5 out of 5*

3. "Drive Thru (Skit)"
This was an audio clip from the hood classic "Menace II Society," the scene where Caine jacks a dude at a drive thru for his system and the rims on his ride, "cause he damn sure won't gon pay for em."

4. "Rock Dat Shit"
Produced by Bink Dogg

The underrated Bink Dogg comes through with an ill beat for P to just go in on. The first verse finds P as gangsta as ever, and check this out, while the second verse is aimed at the ladies, P pulls no punches with his words and he's just as gangsta as far as the ladies are concerned. "Ay yo I'm just kidding, but yo I'm not playing." Yes indeed.
*5 out of 5*

5. "What U Rep"
Featuring Noreaga
Produced by Hang Men 3

First off, this was a good song linking up one half of Mobb Deep and one half of CNN (Capone-n-Noreaga). I also want to address P's line, "ay yo Nas, fuck that nigga just say." Now, according to, Jay-Z had some words for Nas at Summer Jam 1999 and this line was P's way of "riling Nas up." I don't know how true any of this is, especially regarding the '99 edition of Summer Jam, but we all know how and when the Nas vs. Jay-Z started and it wasn't from this song.
*4 out of 5*

6. "Keep It Thoro"
Produced by The Alchemist

"Temperamental, I snap quick, very touchy/Ay yo my attitude is all fucked up and real shitty/I rap like no one out there can fuck wit me/You feel different, niggas see me, I throw a TV at you crazy/Bitches say P you crazy/A Pain In The Ass, nah, but fuck you, pay me!"

I have NO problem calling this a fast paced, apply titled banger, because that's exactly what we have here. This is 3:06 of unadulterated, aggressive Mobb shit, featuring an ill sample of Jack Mayborn's "Music People"; somewhat of a hidden gem even though it made some noise at the time, also appearing on the "Backstage: A Hard Knock Life" compilation album. 
*5 out of 5*

"Bang this, cause I guarantee that you bought it/Heavy airplay all day wit no chorus, I keep it thoro nigga!"

7. "Can't Complain"
Featuring Twin Gambino and Chinky
Produced by Prodigy

The Love Unlimited Orchestra's "Rhapsody In White" was sampled WELL for this one, a day in the lives of P, Twin and Chinky. Speaking of Chinky, I really liked her interpolation of Queen Latifah's "Just Another Day" during the hook, which of course continues to make me think about that song each time I bump this one. I won't go the full monty here, but it's damn close.
*4.5 out of 5*

8. "Infamous Minded"
Produced by Robert "Shim" Kirkland

"There's no protection when I'm on the mic/You couldn't fool me if you trained all of your life/You's a chump, I'm a champ/You broke, I'm top dolla/Niggas got a whole lotta mouth, that's no problem/Fake thugs lay down, real killas don't yell it/Bring it don't sing it nigga, use intelligence/It's evident you not murda material/When you all along you pose wit gun in the mirror yo"

P comes through with ANOTHER DOPE song with no hook (he seemed to be very good at those). You know a beat is dope is hell when you still bob your head and smile 16 years later when you bump it. Some may call this a remake of BDP's classic "Criminal Minded," I'm not sure if I do, but he did take a few elements from that song and incorporated into this slice of quality Mobb shit. SO. DOPE.
*5 out of 5*

9. "Wanna Be Thugs"
Featuring and produced by Havoc

This, loyal reader, is a full fledged banger, and at 2:51, it doesn't overstay its welcome. Havoc brings such a TIGHT beat to the table for himself and P to catch wreck on, IMD style in the year 2000. Man this is some dope shit.
*5 out of 5*

10. "Three"
Featuring Cormega
Produced by The Alchemist

To this day, I'm still not sure why this was titled "Three,"  but it is what it is. P and Mega represent on this Alchemist production, and you guessed it, there's no hook involved, just straight bars. I may be overrating this one, but even though it's somewhat brief and to the point, it gets the job done.
*5 out of 5*

11. "Delt W/ The Bullshit"
Featuring and produced by Havoc

"Cause I done dealt wit the bullshit, lived through the bullshit/So put a clamp on them loose lips, my niggas do kill shit!" 

The DOPENESS continues with this one, another Havoc produced banger. This joint, like song #9, may be "half short & twice strong," but man you can't deny the effectiveness. (I had this in the ride a few weeks ago and it's something about this song that sounds so damn good at night, riding down the highway/interstate with the driver side window halfway down.)
*5 out of 5*

12. "Trials Of Love"
Featuring B.K.
Produced by The Alchemist

B.K. is another artist I still don't know too much about to this day, however, she blends with P nicely on this tale of the trials (and tribulations) of love. What makes this song work, to be fair, is how B.K. stands her ground in P's presence, even saying "she'll be goddamned if she be a nigga's dumb bitch." Any type of song like this, battle of the sexes, etc, can succeed if it works well, and in the case of this song, when both parties hold their grounds, it creates a very good dynamic. Alchemist also provides an ill sample courtesy of Lou Bond's "To The Establishment."
*4 out of 5*

13. "H.N.I.C."
Produced by EZ Elpee

This title track is about what you would expect and P all but makes his points as to why he's the HNIC, the boss, the "Captain Crunch dog."
*4 out of 5*

14. "Be Cool (Skit)"

15. "Veteran's Memorial"
Produced by The Alchemist

P dedicated "the rest of his life to all his niggas that passed (away)." You can feel the pain in P's lyrics as he rapped, and speaking of pain, he talks a lot about that on this album and I'll touch on that more at the end.
*5 out of 5*

16. "Do It"
Featuring Mike Delorean
Produced by Rockwilder

Mr. Delorean was credited with a feature here, but the only voice I've always heard on this one is P's; it doesn't sound like any other voice was present. Lyrically, P was all over the place here and not in a good way. We have certainly heard better from him and Rockwilder for that matter.
*3 out of 5*

17. "Littles (Skit)"
In a nice touch, P and Littles come with a freestyle reminiscent of what P did with Big Noyd on the "Just Step (Prelude)" from the classic "Infamous" album, leading us into.....

18. "Y.B.E."
Featuring B.G.
Produced by Prodigy

Whodini's classic "One Love" is the ultimate sample for this dope song, as P and B.G. not only represent themselves and their respective clicks as rappers, but as young, black entrepreneurs and it works here. Speaking of B.G., I'm not a fan of his (outside of his 1999 album "Chopper City In The Ghetto"), but honestly, he had some very good, noticeable chemistry with P and his presence didn't take away at all from this song. And when they say, "stash your first million and live off the interest," that's some VERY good motivation.
*5 out of 5*

And here's the Bars & Hooks assisted remix, which appeared on a few mixtapes in 2001.

19. "Diamond"
Featuring Bars & Hooks
Produced by Just Blaze

Wow, talk about something that most probably don't even remember as we speak: producer Just Blaze linked up with Prodigy for a track, and keep in mind P's album came out two weeks after Jay-Z's "The Dynasty Roc La Familia" was released, which was the album that gave Blaze and a few other producers their first exposure. As for this song, I respect the desire to achieve success (in terms of record sales) and striving to break records, but real talk, only a select few artists, especially in hip hop, will ever see "Diamond" sales, and unfortunately, the Mobb, together and individually, may never see those types of sales.
*3 out of 5*

20. "Gun Play"
Featuring Big Noyd
Produced by Rockwilder

When you consider the title of this song, you would expect something a little more hardcore. Don't get me wrong, it's ok, but it's a missed opportunity. Revisiting this, I don't think P was a good fit for Rockwilder's production, he didn't click here or on "Do It."
*2.5 out of 5*

21. "You Can Never Feel My Pain"
Produced by Ric Rude

As put it, this is P's "deeply felt reflection on his struggles with sickle cell anemia." You can hear and feel the pain in P's voice throughout this entire song, definitely the most personal song of his career. He talks about being born with sickle cell anemia and essentially enduring "permanent, physical suffering." In addition, it affects his mood (the ladies ask him why he always look mad), having to drink away his pain when he's depressed, he doesn't joke, play games, etc, all because of the pain. I'll always have love for 2Pac, but man in retrospect, it does seem cold for him to bring up P's struggle with the disease in the vicious "Hit Em Up." An excellent closer here and after listening to this, you can never feel Prodigy's pain and I agree with him. I do wonder how things are going for him these days in terms of continuing to cope with this pain. And one more thing, Angela Bofill's "Gotta Make It Up" was a perfect choice to sample for this song.
*5 out of 5*

22. "H.N.I.C. (Outro)"
For those who remember (and still watch) Morgan Freeman's classic "Lean On Me", you know which line closes this album

Wow, this is such an excellent (debut) solo album. Still riding the momentum from 1999's "Murda Muzik," Prodigy fired on all cylinders with "HNIC" and to this day, it's quite the underrated gem. Lyrically he was still sharp and he was definitely inspired with the top notch production, minus the two Rockwilder produced track. And since I've frequently talked about what happened with Prodigy on this blog in 2001, I'll go in a different direction for a bit. This Certified Gold, 4.5 star album spawned two sequels, "H.N.I.C. Pt. 2," which was released on April 22, 2008; this may be in my collection and I still go back and forth as to whether it's due for a revisit or not, and "H.N.I.C. 3," the LESS said about that one the better. Overall, "HNIC" still holds up exceedingly well today. For newer fans, this is a strong recommendation to check out, older heads, revisit it the next time you're looking for something to bump at the crib or in the ride.

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