Book Review: My Infamous Life by Albert "Prodigy" Johnson & Laura Checkoway

There are also considerable moments that in recent media have left rappers frazzled. Discussions of Capone-N-Noreaga and the "snitch factor," Keith Murray almost losing his life to Prodigy's gun, Nas being Mobb Deep's frenemy, a jackin' Jay-Z, and 50 Cent turning out to be Mobb Deep's biggest ally.

Albert “Prodigy” Johnson is one of Hip Hop’s most enigmatic figures. As one half of legendary Hip Hop outfit Mobb Deep, Prodigy has lyrically fused hustling and drug money with conspiracy theories in a way that can only be the product of a beautiful mind. Some say he’s crazy (some might be right), but Prodigy has held no punches (literally) about the man he is and has music that coincides with the life he leads. Not too many other rappers can boast that level of honesty. While serving a three-year bid for criminal possession of a weapon, Prodigy finished his life story that was years in the making. My Infamous Life could be accurately described as a “tell all.” However, that’s what Prodigy has always done in his songs. This is just an extension of that.

Famed music journalist and documentarian Laura Checkoway did an excellent job of piecing together literary polaroids of Prodigy’s life. The book begins with a history of Prodigy’s family – his grandfather was Budd Johnson, legendary Jazz saxophonist who worked with the likes of Quincy Jones and Dizzie Gillespie among others. His grandmother, Bernice Johnson was a Cotton Club dancer with Lena Horne before later opening her own dance academy The Bernice Johnson Dance School. Music was in his blood. The book ends in prison, with Prodigy having served over two of his three year term before finally reuniting with partner in rhyme Kejuan “Havoc” Muchita. Dispersed throughout the novel are “present-day” anecdotes while Prodigy is serving his time.

Hardcore Mobb Deep fans may know much of the stories Prodigy tells – how he felt it was no coincidence that Biggie called himself “Notorious” after Mobb Deep went by “Infamous”, how Mobb Deep almost signed to Bad Boy, and so on. For the New York Rap aficionado, the book details the beginnings of Queens Hip Hop in the ‘90s and moves over to Brooklyn and beyond as the book progresses. We learn that Lil' Kim and Mary J. Blige both propositioned Prodigy, but only one woman held his heart, his wife KiKi (despite numerous tales throughout the book of P cheating on his Mrs.). Prodigy goes in depth about his struggle with sickle cell, from dancing the pain away at his grandmother’s dance school as a child (as evidenced by the photo Jay-Z placed upon Hot 97’s infamous Summer Jam screen thanks to Ashanti) to learning that healthy eating made him feel better, yet drugs and alcohol left him frequently hospitalized. Considering a good portion of the book was penned in a clockless prison, the timing is off in parts (i.e. discussing 1997 before discussing 2Pac’s death in September of 1996). Prodigy might also be too complex for such linear ways of thinking. There are also considerable moments that in recent media have left rappers frazzled. Discussions of Capone-N-Noreaga and the “snitch factor,” Keith Murray almost losing his life to Prodigy’s gun, Nas being Mobb Deep’s frenemy, a jackin’ Jay-Z, and 50 Cent turning out to be Mobb Deep’s biggest ally. However, while Prodigy reveals many arguably embarrassing stories about other rappers, he fails to discuss the story of rapper Tru Life jacking him during a session with DJ Muggs (as detailed in the Beef DVD series).

The most important piece of My Infamous Life is Prodigy’s relationship with Havoc. The two were friends since high school, and despite disagreements over recording contracts and Prodigy moving out of the home the two bought together, it’s clear the love is there. The two are brothers – at times Cain and Abel – but brothers nonetheless.

Despite the fact that My Infamous Life ends in prison, it could be defined as Prodigy’s success story. Many aren’t fortunate enough to exit the system, and as Prodigy’s book enters bookstores as he leaves jail, one can only hope he’ll never go back.

Purchase My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy

15 Comments

  • Anonymous

    Tru life didn't jack prodigy dumbass listen to the beef dvd with the volume turned up next time bitch

  • Darren

    Ima big fan of prodigy muzik he jux speakin da truth of hos infamous lyfe he not dry snitchin he jux tellin us his fans dat went thru alot of shit like spendin 3 yrs in prison he jux makin a comeback for hia carrer

  • Bjay

    Gotta Copp This!! Word Up!!

  • Guest

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koN-yF4ySQs Skywalker - Barton Block

  • Larock

    Prodigy was never Jacked by tru life.It was the "infamouse mobb" more specifically GOD Father who has held at gunpoint.mobb deep (havoc & Prodigy) never in that studio durring that incodent.

  • Bryant

    If u watch the beef DVD closely havoc and prodigy was not at incident that happened with tru life affiliates of Mobb deep was but not the actual two members the DVD clearly states that and from all that beef shit where is tru life now? About to do life when keeping it real goes wrong This a great book I enjoyed it call it what u want motherfuckers always got something negative to stay He just telling things like it happened

  • BC-TW

    This was a well-written review. Prodigy isn't dry snitching, unless that's the new term for exposing truths about certain people. If Capone was a star witness against Hav's brother then that can be verified in court records, which are available to the public. That is true snitching. Is it snitching to say that he believes Ashanti and her mom are responsible for giving Jay a picture of young P dressed up like Mike Jackson? It's not like P painted a flattering picture of himself. He was a gun-obsessed rapper with a cocaine problem and an admitted rapping ability that worsened as the years passed. He's just telling it like it is, or should I say he's just telling it as he remembers it. Can't fault him for that.

    • Anonymous

      I'll keep it real I've always been a fan of Cnn and Mobb but if he ain't have the heart to speak on it when it happened obviously pone had him under pressure and this is an issue they all decided to keep in house in QB.Pone from QB, P not.Speaking on Nore getting in a Shootout in QB,Delorean,E money and Preme there's an unwritten rule What's in the street stays there P crosss the line.Still I got love for the music that's all that matters.

  • DATRUE

    one this nigga got his assed kicked by Keith Murray,and two this nigga yaps to much....For real I have never heard a nigga yappin so much bullshit. He knows that every nigga that goes to jail these days won't even have a chance of success. P was already struggling to push units, i doubt if many if not any people of my generation even know what hiphop REALLY IS.

    • Anonymous

      Since when getting punched in front of 5-0 means you got your ass beat? You a fucking stupid wigga shut the fuck up talk about how keith murray goons got cut up by infamous mobb and if you think its a lie why they on hush mode? Exactly bitch

    • Suge Knight

      I second that. Nigga should not chat shit about others(like many in the industry).

  • therealjay

    it may be real issues that happen but p is str.8 up dry snitchin in this book. this book is a tell all. wonder why he left out the incident wit tru life... LOL

  • Yozo

    Prodigy aint shit talking he's telling the truth of what happened and if some rappers effed up, now u know it

  • Anonymous

    He just said he was done with all the beef yet it sounds like this book is primarily shit-talking on other rappers.