The Infamous...

Mobb Deep

RCA, 1995

http://www.mobbdeep.ws

REVIEW BY: Jedediah Pressgrove

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/19/2009

“I’m gonna have to get on some old high school s___, start punchin’ n____s in they faces for livin’.”

Prodigy – Havoc is the other half of Mobb Deep – unloads this hilarious line during “The Infamous Prelude.” Most rap groups reserve short tracks like this for skits, but Mobb Deep make statements. Prodigy is fed up with fake thugs and doesn’t want to be associated with any of them. But what I like most about “The Infamous Prelude” is this smidge of modesty: “And believe me, I know very well I can get shot, stabbed, or fucked up, too, whatever. I ain’t Super N____. I’m a little skinny motherf_____. It’s all about who gets who first, though, you know what I’m saying?”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Throughout The Infamous… you get the sense that Prodigy and Havoc aren’t glorifying or criticizing thug life in New York. They share facts and reserve judgments for another party. And if they threaten someone (“You wanna bust caps? / I get all up in your area / Kidnap your children and make the situation scarier” from “Eye For A Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)”), you know the threatened party screwed around in the wrong game.

The album is dark. Beats are harsh and stripped, you can often hear static, vocals reverberate in the emptiness, and any nonviolent moment is blissful. Ever wanted to dive into a bleak musical hole? Try “Trife Life” through “Cradle To The Grave,” a five-track stretch that, both lyrically and sonically, gets more and more unsettling. After that you get a nonviolent song, “Drink Away The Pain (Situations),” with A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip tearing it up as usual (Tip also coproduced the track). “Drink Away The Pain (Situations)” reminds me of “Life’s A Bitch” from Illmatic by Nas – street-smart poets abusing drugs to escape reality. Cheery, isn’t it?

The collaborations are inspired as well. Nas and Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon – two rhyme-smiths I always welcome – appear on the discordant “Eye For A Eye (Your Beef Is Mines).” Mobb Deep regular Big Noyd shows up four times, his best work on the Q-Tip production, “Give Up The Goods (Just Step)” (these guys clearly like using parentheses in song titles). Another superb guest is Crystal Johnson, whose singing on “Temperature Rising” is delightful soul on such a dark album.

I’ll be the first to admit that humor is a big reason why I enjoy rap, but I don’t think this album needs as much of it. There are a few humorous moments (I already referenced “The Infamous Prelude”), but they’re wrapped with serious material. The Infamous… is real-world storytelling, no bull. As daunting as the content may seem, it’s quite easy to listen to the album all the way through. The production, vocals, and lyrics have a uniform magic about them. The best albums always do.

Rating: A

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© 2009 Jedediah Pressgrove and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA, and is used for informational purposes only.