By Anteneh Gebre
Artist: Mobb Deep
Album: The Infamous
Release: April 25, 1995
When I stopped sleeping on it: March 1, 2015
If you’re reading this it’s too late. LOL JK you good fam. Welcome to Throwback Thursday. I’m your host, ya boy, and most importantly, your guilt free guide to prolific albums people look at you like a crazy person for not knowing, Anteneh Gebre. It’s not your fault you don’t know these gems too well. Maybe you were too busy listening to the music of the present to go back. Maybe you’ve just never heard of it. Don’t worry about it; happens to the best of us. Throwback Thursday is where I take you back and share a great album that I somehow missed.
The Infamous is the second album by Queensbridge rappers Prodigy & Havoc, aka Mobb Deep. The album was an instant commercial success, debuting at number 15 on the Billboard 200 (which is incredible considering it’s a hardcore rap album. It also spawned the classic records “Shook Ones, Pt. II” and “Survival of the Fittest”. The Infamous is widely considered a classic album and received the once highly coveted “Five Mic” rating from The Source Magazine.
I’ve always known the name Mobb Deep because as a hip-hop nerd you just hear these things in passing. A friend of mine played “Shook Ones, Pt. II” for me a few years ago and I liked it, but I still put the album on that long list of music I’ll go listen to when I run out of new releases to enjoy. I even ripped the library’s copy of the album to my laptop but I just never gave it a chance. I had forgotten it was even in my iTunes. It wasn’t until I saw a conversation this past Sunday about how great The Infamous was on Twitter that I wanted to listen to it (shouts to @BosNaud and @Combat_Jack). I put the Clippers/Bulls game on mute and pressed play on “The Start Of Your Ending (41st Side).
For the next hour and six minutes, I was totally entranced. The album’s full of stories that take you into the life of young men just trying to survive in the largest public housing project in the United States (Queensbridge Houses). For example, “Temperature’s Rising”, tells a story about Havoc’s brother (Killa Black) who has to leave town after (allegedly) committing murder. While the stories are phenomenal, there are great songs where the duo simply flexes their lyrical talents such as “Give Up The Goods (Just Step)” featuring Big Noyd and “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)” featuring Nas and Raekwon. The album is produced predominantly by Havoc and Prodigy with some help from Matt Life, Schott Free, and Q-Tip (credited as The Abstract). The beats are haunting, utilizing minor chords and a great deal of samples of soul records.
When the last song finished playing, I was blown away. It was similar to Nas’ Illmatic, which I think is the perfect album, in the best ways. Very 90’s, very raw, very real. If you haven’t heard the album yet, I can’t recommend it enough.
Favorites: “Temperature’s Rising” and “Drink Away The Pain (Situations)”