Loud Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Ben Ehrenreich
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/25/2006
No hip-hop group has fallen off the map faster or harder than Mobb Deep. The once lethal duo of Prodigy and Havoc has traded in their hoodies and Timbs for the shiny suits of 50 Cent’s G-Unit. Not only have they lost their bite, but instead of chilling street narratives the duo speaks of parties and women. I thought it would be impossible for Mobb Deep to sell out.
This album came out after the mediocre Murda Muzik but before the dismal Infamy. In many ways it’s a throwback to the hardcore style Mobb Deep had a patent on in the mid-'90s. The only difference is Havoc’s stripped down, hardcore production has been reduced to two songs, and heavyweights such as The Alchemist and Rockwilder carry the load.
Prodigy can come off as your stereotypical gangsta rapper, and on some of these tracks he is. Known for his vicious leadoff verse to the hip-hop anthem “Shook Ones Pt. II,” his gift has always been to be deeper and more complex than he initially sounds. With his raw and sometimes monotone flow it’s easy to mistake him for your typical gangsta rapper with no special skills. The difference is that encrypted in that rough flow of his there can be some pearls of wisdom or vivid street depictions. The best example of this is “Y.B.E.,” a track that is surprisingly produced by Prodigy and even more surprisingly one of the best beats on the album. Prodigy delivers a tight verse layered with his reflections on his come-up that at first glance might seem average. It’s only after we look deeper that we see the realness that he provides in his lines.
B.G. shows up and surprisingly holds his own beside Prodigy. This is not always the case, but in the mid-nineties Prodigy’s rhymes were always laced with substance and detail. More recently, it’s a grab bag of absolute gems, and stereotypical gangsta rhymes, but at least the beats are banging.
That’s exactly what this album is, a grab bag. Prodigy “Drops A Gem On ‘Em” was quite possibly the hardest song of the year and his leadoff single “Keep It Thoro” is another highlight; over a terrific Alchemist beat, Prodigy sounds at home and delivers two solid verses. “Three,” another equally great Alchemist beat, is just way too short, at just over two minutes, but it's a highlight on this album. Later, Prodigy hooks up with fellow group member Havoc on “Delt With The Bullshit” and it sounds like a Mobb Deep reunion. Over a creepy Havoc beat, they both deliver classic Mobb rhymes that remind us of their heyday.
“You Can Never Feel My Pain” is hands down the best song on this album, laced with a beautiful beat from unknown producer Ric Rude and providing with a heartfelt look at Prodigy’s battle with sickle cell anemia and drug addiction.
Unfortunately, songs like “Gun Play,” “Rock Dat” and “Do It” are just not memorable. They blend in with the mix of stereotypical gangsta rhymes and do not contain the level of insight Prodigy is capable of giving us. The beats are good but the lyrics don't help the songs stick out, just merging together as one.
This album is very long and has too many skits and tracks that pretty much just serve as filler. There are moments where Prodigy shines and you have hope that he will not lose his gift altogether. This is a must own for Mobb Deep fans because it provides you with enough great songs that will remind you of when they were on top of their game, and even the songs that aren't so great still have great beats, and Mobb Deep fan loves great beats.