If there was an album that sent shock-waves through the rap world in 95 it was Mobb Deep The Infamous. What’s even more shocking is that Havoc and Prodigy were only 19 at the time of it’s release. Unlike their first album Juvenile Hell (also a dope album) which seemed to fly right over the heads of most, the Infamous was an instant attention grabber with it’s grimy and atmospheric east-coast storytelling, the songs describe life on the streets of Queens, not boastfully but with stark realism and a fatalistic acceptance that their turn will come soon enough.
it amazes me why The Infamous hasn’t received more credit due to Havoc and Prodigy’s ability to articulate 90’s New York streetlife with such vivid and surreal accuracy. They may not possess the charisma of Biggie or Nas with their stern rhyming styles but it fit’s tracks like Start Of Your Ending and Shook Ones Part II perfectly.
“Mobb Deep’s Finest Hour is a tale of Drugs, Guns and Sticking up the Stick up kids!”
The production is uniformly superb, with Havoc and Prodigy perfecting that unmistakable Mobb Deep sound. Q-Tip lends a production hand on Temperature’s Rising, Give Up the Goods and Drink Away the Pain, also dropping a verse on the latter. Other carefully selected guest appearances include Nas, Wu-Tang Clan members Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, and close Mobb Deep affiliate Big Noyd. The caliber of these guest spots speaks volumes of how respected the young Havoc and Prodigy where as emcees and this album marked Mobb Deep’s transition from a relatively unknown rap duo to an influential and commercially successful one.
Upon it’s initial release The Infamous was well received by rap fans and music critics and gained commercial success spending 18 weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart, peaking at number 15, and it also spent 34 weeks on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, peaking at number three. The Infamous was certified Gold in sales by the RIAA on June 26, 1995. Since then it’s reputation as a certified hip hop classic has only increased, gaining new generations of listeners thanks in part to Eminems hit movie 8 Mile and a string of video game soundtracks including True Crime: New York City, Marc Eckō’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and NBA 2K13. The Infamous is also widely credited as a major contributor to the East Coast Renaissance after years of west coast popularity.
My first encounter with Mobb Deep (like so many of my first encounters with rap artists back then) was MTV Raps and it was Survival Of The Fittest that instantly grabbed my attention with it’s incredibly hypnotic dark production and vivid lyricism.
The CD album you see pictured above is the same copy I bought all those years back and as I write this, Mobb Deep are hitting the road for a 32 city world tour to commemorate the 20th anniversary of this classic album.