As many East Coast hip hop heads know, this past week carries special significance for the legendary hardcore duo Mobb Deep. Last Tuesday marked the 22nd anniversary of The Infamous, an archetype of grimy 1990’s New York hip hop. For the latest episode of “Open Space,” Prodigy of Mobb Deep stopped by MASS APPEAL to talk about how important The Infamous really was; especially after Mobb Deep’s not-so-stellar debut album, Juvenile Hell.
By focusing heavily on production, Prodigy and Havoc crafted the signature sound for which Mobb Deep is known. “The lifestyle that we were living, the lifestyle that we grew up in, the beats just naturally came out like some dark, sinister-sounding, s***,” Prodigy added. “The lyrics were easy after that because the beats pulled the lyrics out of me.”
Thankfully for Mobb Deep, this reinvention of their sound fared well, commercially and critically. The Infamous was certified Gold just two months after its release and remains one of the most revered albums in hip hop today.
Mass Appeal: Tell us about the making of The Infamous
Prodigy: When Juvenile Hell first came out it didn’t do well. We were just learning how to make beats. We was young kids. We didn’t really know what we was doing, Right around the time the album came out, Nas dropped Illmatic. It was just an incredible work of art. Sonically, lyrically, everything. It made us look at ourselves like, ‘What the f*** is we doing?’ Listening to a masterpiece this kid just made and we’re with him every day. We didn’t tell our story correctly and Nas, with Illmatic, helped us to realise that. So we was like, ‘Yo, you know what? We gotta come correct, dawg. We gotta really dig deep and tell people who we are. Share your pain, your fears … everything with the people. Then they’ll resonate with it. We better than what we did,’ And we was like, ‘We ain’t gon’ get another chance after this. If we flop again it’s over.’ We regrouped, went in the crib … mad [beer], mad weed and started grinding making beats.