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29.07.2015 admin
As golden age rap suddenly gave way to West Coast gangsta in the early '90s, an East Coast variety of hardcore rap arose in turn, with Mobb Deep initially standing tall as one of New York's hardcore figureheads on the basis of their epochal album The Infamous. Prodigy (Albert Johnson, born November 2, 1974) and Havoc (Kejuan Muchita, born May 21, 1974) grew up in Queens, specifically the Queensbridge area, yet met in Manhattan, where both were students at Graphic Arts High School.
When they did return in 1995, it was on a different label, Loud Records, and with a significantly developed approach.
A year later, in 1996, Mobb Deep returned with a follow-up, Hell on Earth, which was a little slicker than The Infamous yet still emphasized hardcore motifs. When Mobb Deep resurfaced, in December 2001 with Infamy, they showcased a new willingness to reach beyond their fan base.
Then came a surprise announcement that 50 Cent had signed Mobb Deep to his G-Unit family and that an album would be forthcoming. It used to be easier to pretend that an album was its own perfectly self-contained artifact.
Their shared love of hip-hop resulted in a natural companionship, and while they were still teens, the two young men had themselves a record deal with 4th & Broadway, a major rap label affiliated with Island Records. On The Infamous, Mobb Deep (comprised of Prodigy and Havoc) set the tone for future generations of hardcore New York rappers, from G-Unit to Dipset. In 1993, the label released Juvenile Hell, a confrontational album featuring noteworthy production work by DJ Premier and Large Professor, who both within a year's time would move on to produce the debut of another young Queensbridge rapper, Nas. 2," but it was a solid album all around, featuring also the in-house production work of Havoc and a couple high-profile features (Nas, Raekwon). The song got some airplay, thanks in part to its hook, which is sung by the R&B act 112, and its video, which played up the song's air of seduction.


Too, Mobb Deep had become omnipresent on the New York mixtape scene, releasing all kinds of streets-only material in attempt to re-establish themselves. But albums are more permeable than solid, their motivations, executions and inspirations informed by, and often stolen from, their peers and forbearers. Subsequent releases from the duo were likewise influential, especially Hell on Earth (1996).
Not much came of Juvenile Hell, however, and it would be two more years before Mobb Deep would return. The Infamous was more hardcore than its two key stylistic predecessors, Illmatic and Ready to Die; the beats were darker and harder-hitting while the rhymes were downright threatening yet still inventive and crafty. So when it took over two years for Mobb Deep to return with a new album, Murda Muzik, not released until April 1999, the rap landscape had changed significantly. Nonetheless, Infamy proved to be a relative disappointment commercially, and it seemed like Mobb Deep was beginning to see their popularity erode with each passing year.
It evidently worked, as Blood Money debuted in the Top Ten of Billboard's album chart and brought more exposure to Mobb Deep than the duo had enjoyed since their late-'90s heyday.
However, by the late '90s, Mobb Deep was no longer setting trends; in fact, they seemed to be following them, and they lost some of their stature as subsequent generations of hardcore rappers arose.
Moreover, there were no crossover hits like "Big Poppa" or "Juicy." In fact, there were no light moments at all. Mobb Deep now had significant competition, and since Murda Muzik offered few innovations and lacked the spark of the duo's past two albums, it was met with some disappointment.
It didn't help, either, that around this time the duo -- and Prodigy, in particular -- had been attacked by Jay-Z on "Takeover." And too, that Loud Records would go out of business, leaving Mobb Deep without a label deal.


Not everyone was convinced by the group's makeover, however, as the G-Unit approach was substantially more polished than the Mobb Deep of The Infamous. For a few years, Mobb Deep struggled to reclaim their commercial standing, until they eventually drifted into the G-Unit camp, where they signed a lucrative deal to join 50 Cent and company. For the next few years, from roughly 2002-2005, Prodigy and Havoc tried to regain their footing. Still, Mobb Deep found a new generation of younger listeners -- the large G-Unit market base, in particular -- who were mostly unfamiliar with them.
Blood Money (2006), Mobb Deep's first release under the G-Unit banner, rekindled interest in the veteran duo, who enjoyed a substantial uptick in sales and airplay. It had been over a decade since The Infamous, after all, and Mobb Deep had been out of the spotlight for years. By this point, not even the fan base was all that interested; it had been eroded with each passing year, leaving few faithful.
Then, in early 2008, Prodigy went away to prison to serve a three-year sentence, putting Mobb Deep's future in question.



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