Mobb Deep’s sophomore album, The Infamous, recently turned 25 years old, having been released on April 25, 1995. Produced largely by Havoc and featuring notable additional production from Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest—an integral part of their story—and featuring stellar, vivid lyricism from Prodigy and Havoc, this album is an indisputable hip hop classic. Here are 9 thoughts in celebration of an album, and group, who are a definitive part of the 90s hip hop story.
1. I was super late to this album. Much like I was late to A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders or Nas’ Illmatic, hell, a lot of New York City hip-hop of the early-t0-mid 90s that I grew to love as defining albums of my life. I knew all of the singles and videos because I watched Rap City relentlessly, but I wasn’t compelled to dive head first into those albums. I’ve said it a million times, I was definitely more of a West Coast rap head, through and through. And much like those other albums, college is where I became a real Mobb Deep fan. Just so we’re clear, I absolutely loved “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” I just don’t know that I got it, so to speak. New York City, and that boom bap sound might as well have been from Mars.
2. Now that I get it, though, The Infamous is one of those albums that I think is still underrated, though if I’m being honest I don’t love it nearly as much as I think I do, though I could easily put this album into my top 10 hip hop albums of all time. Basically this album is a personal paradox.
3. One day, Prodigy (RIP) will get his flowers. I honestly, honestly think that Prodigy should be one of the people coming up in GOAT convos, and for me, it’s largely because of The Infamous. I’m still impressed by how good he is on this album. For some that’s of a controversial statement than it is for others; all I know is that once I really started to appreciate Prodigy’s lyrical capabilities, I saw him in an entirely different light. I’ve had this debate with several people and most folks think I’m perhaps overstating how good he was, but hell, it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. Whatever, party’s over tell the rest of the crew.
4. Dope samples really can make or break your album. One of the reasons this album works so well, even 25 years later, is not only because Prodigy was in his bag, but they have the almost perfect sound beds for their entire sound. Havoc didn’t exactly change the production game, but what he did do was lace up an album full of darkness and boom bap with enough that never got old or repetitive and had just enough something something to them to keep the listener interested. Havoc killed it on this album. Samples from Al Green, Patrice Rushen, Norman Connors, Teddy Pendergrass, etc., just...worked. There are certain albums where the sample usage isn’t otherworldly, but fit so well with what the artists are doing that it doesn’t even matter. The Fugees The Score is another album in that vein that comes to mind.
5. “Trife Life” is probably my favorite record on an album full of straight bangers. It was the definitely the song that made me listen to the album differently. For starters, I wasn’t even really up on the Norman Connors “You Are My Starship” record, and once I finally listened to it I was blown away by how much I loved the original. But the storytelling on “Trife Life” is insane. For starters, it’s some real young dude shit. For the shot at some ass, Prodigy gathered up a gang of dudes, with some guns, to head to a foreign part of town but his paranoia got the best of him; was it a robbery set up? Was this chick about to stick him for his papers??? It was almost worth it for him to find out, but the paranoia got the best of him. Then Havoc waves a whole tale about effectively being a dude in the projects who robs (and kills) a dude who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, for some ass. Prodigy is telling you how to prepare in this trife life; Havoc explains what happens when you get caught slippin.’ Over that saxophone sample, it’s just perfect. It’s both contemplative and entirely nihilistic. It’s Mobb Deep.
6. “Shook Ones, Pt. II” is perfect. Everything about it.
7. I always laugh when I think about Havoc talking that hardbody shit on interludes, etc. Mostly, just the idea of having to stand in a studio or in front of a microphone and talk about being so real and how you can get punched in your face just for living. It’s comical. And reminds me of the time I saw Mobb Deep with like 30 dudes (literally mob deep)
8. “Survival of The Fittest” is also perfect. Everything about it (as well).
9. One of the reasons why I think Prodigy needs his flowers is because he is opening bar goals. Hell, when I think about writing pieces, I literally think about opening up a piece that hits as hard as, “I got you stuck off the realness…”, or “I put my lifetime in between the paper’s lines…”, or “there’s a war goin’ on outside no man is safe from…” It doesn’t matter for whom or where the piece is going, I think, “How would Prodigy open this up?” And I’m not even remotely joking.