Mobb Deep Explains "The Infamous'" Affect On Rap, Havoc Crowns Prodigy "The Best"

HipHopDX caught up with M-O-B-B on the road this week, as the duo shows that some things have changed in their growth, but the essence is still there. Hav admits he never noticed how ill Prodigy is.

A Mercedes-Benz runner pulls over into a crowded summer night on Philadelphia's famed South Street. Smells of grease-soaked beef and cigarette smoke fill the air, as tattooed kids from various sub-cultures troll the sidewalks. A pocket of them are waiting in front of The Theatre of the Living Arts, a historic venue, and Havoc, followed by Prodigy emerge from the black van to greet them.

"Welcome home, P! We missed you, my nigga!" shouts one man, in his forties, smoking a cigar. Prodigy heads in his direction and gives him a pound. Havoc daps it up with a pocket of teenagers, as the pair heads down the sidewalk in search of food, and some quick window-shopping.

Fifteen minutes later, Mobb Deep is in the green-room of the TLA. Prodigy is behind a beaten desk, cycling through three or four chirping Blackberrys. He is next to his teen-aged son, Tshaka, who stares at the wall through his black sunglasses. Havoc leans against the adjacent wall, enjoying a smoke and fidgeting with an impressive black diamond necklace. "It's a light crowd out there," Havoc says cautiously to his partner, as Philly heads filter in for the opening acts. In 25 minutes, it won't be, as Queensbridge royalty takes the stage as part of the Rock The Bells tour this summer, bringing street Hip Hop heroes to a live audience circuit that's missed them for years.

Photo by Robert Adam Mayer

Mobb Deep Explains The Impact Of The Infamous

HipHopDX: It's very cool that Rock The Bells did these side-tours in the week, allowing you guys and Raekwon and Ghostface Killah to perform classic albums in front of smaller crowds. Interestingly enough, your classic LP, The Infamous is your second album. It's funny, as most artists' debut is their fan-championed work. What do you think it is about the second, and the evolution artistically, that pulled so many people in?

Prodigy: The Infamous was the trend-setter, as far as sound and production and lyrics - what we were sayin'. It was like a whole other style, somethin' new that we was bringin' to the table. The quality of music, I would say, was definitely money; it was up there with the top-level shit, 'cause that's what we were pushin' for. We made sure the quality was like that, 'cause we were tryin' to prove ourselves at that time, that we deserved our position.

Havoc: Our backs were definitely against the wall. We were tryin' to make an ill album. [Pauses] Yeah, niggas can't fuck with us.

DX: It's similar to another album being performed on Rock The Bells' stage this year, Enta Da Stage by Black Moon. It's Hip Hop, but it's street, gangsta. P, your whole "Infamous Prelude" track kind of epitomizes that. When you were making The Infamous, how much of it was inspired by the 41st Side, and how much was inspired by the Hip Hop community that might have known you guys from Stretch & Bobbito and whatnot?

Havoc: This may sound like sacrilege, but we wasn't even thinkin' about Hip Hop when we made the album, I kid you not. We was just thinkin' about making a dope album. We wasn't thinkin' about Hip Hop, the genre. We was just thinkin' about makin' a dope, dope album.

Prodigy: Yeah, yeah!

Havoc: So when you hear interludes from P, that's just straight from the heart - straight from the heart.

DX: One take.

Havoc: Yeah. It's not like, "Oh, I fucked up. Let me do it again." If you listen to it, it's not edited. It's straight-through, straight from the heart. So nah, we wasn't thinkin' about Hip Hop. But today, when you ask that question, it is about Hip Hop. "Okay, they did somethin' for Hip Hop." We did it unknowingly.

Mobb Deep Talks About Family, Touring

DX: How important is it for you guys to be on the road together right, since P came home. Obviously, you were quickly in the studio together, but this involves the fans and the Mobb Deep catalog of music...

Prodigy: You definitely gotta stay on your game, man. You gotta always put music out there, always gotta stay fresh. That's what made us last so long; we don't stop. Mobb Deep is like a big touring group, 'cause we definitely have a large catalog of songs to perform on stage, so we definitely take advantage of that, and don't take it for granted.

Havoc: It's truly special. It's something that I can't describe in words, but to have Prodigy's son with us on the road now, is...just somethin' that I can't describe in words. Just to say that Prodigy's son is on the road with us, and I knew [Prodigy] since I was 15 years old, it just wipes everything that you know, from the books, off. It's like fam. [Laughing] And he's sittin' right there, with his shades on, tryin' to look cool! I knew Prodigy before [he was born]. Now to have him here, and to be on the road, it's an experience that I will never, ever forget in my life.

[Havoc takes the recorder and places it front of Prodigy's son]

Havoc: Tell 'em what you think about me? [Laughs] This is for DX, tell 'em what you think,

Tshaka: You and my father...y'all like best friends-tight. Y'all like me and my friends back home. Y'all tight like brothas.

Havoc: Like brothers. So no matter what type of argument we get into...

Tshaka: ...No matter what type of argument y'all get into, no matter what the situation is, it's blood.

Havoc: That's a young dude sayin' it. He sees it. He sees it a close perspective. You know what? We're really like that.

Havoc Says That Prodigy Is The Best Emcee

DX: Along those lines, how do the words from old albums and eras hit you when you're on stage saying 'em again?

Prodigy: It's just amazin' to see the crowd sayin' the words, knowin' how those words affected they life. You can just tell, "Yo, that's they shit." You can see that look in their face. That's we wrote it for. We wrote it to try and have that impact on the world. To see that it worked, we really did it is just inspiring.

Havoc: I have something to add, that's really gonna be crazy groundbreaking. I never that knew that Prodigy was the best lyricist, ever.

DX: That's something that you're realizing on this tour?

Havoc: Every day I realize it. I know it now. But I never knew that he was the best lyricist; I always took it for granted. [Prodigy nods] It's just crazy.

DX: It's interesting that you're sharing this bill with Rae and Ghost. Do you guys perform "Right Back At You" together on this tour?

Havoc: Nah, not for "Right Back At You."

Prodigy: Usually, we just run through it. It depends on how they feel. Sometimes they come out. Usually, we just do it.

Havoc: I must say though, they do surprise us. Like we'll do a song that we did with them, but we're not anticipating them performing it, and Raekwon''ll just float on stage and you just have act [like you were expecting it].

DX: Growing up in Pittsburgh, your music taught me so much about what mid-1990s Queens was like, and even what New York was like. How do you think that era in the city affected your music?

Havoc: Know what? New York didn't affect Mobb Deep's sound. Mobb Deep affected New York's sound.

Prodigy: That's definitely true. The whole generation of Rap before us inspired us. It affected us, it made us want to do what we do. But at the same time, we wanted to create somethin' brand new. We put somethin' out there and people who loved it took a style off of it - dark beats, crazy [lyrics].

Havoc: We affected New York. That's the bottom line, right-fuckin'-there.

Prodigy: Who could fuck with Mobb Deep? Nobody could fuck with Mobb Deep.

DX: [To Tshaka] Have you read your father's book?

Tshaka: Yes.

DX: What surprised you about it? Not necessarily controversy, but did anything you learned surprise you? [Prodigy bursts into laughter]

Tshaka: My father will tell me anything.

Havoc: Lucky bastard!

Tshaka: So there wasn't really anything that surprised me.

[Havoc takes the recorder and leans towards Tshaka]

Havoc: I'm askin' some questions,...is Prodigy "Prodigy" to you, as how other people look at him? Just a little bit, a little bit, do you look at him like that?

Tshaka: No. Not at all.

Havoc: Alright. Are you amazed when people come up to him like, "Oh my God, Prodigy!"?

Tshaka: I'm amazed. But I want; people to come up to him and ask him for his autograph.

Havoc: Does it feel good?

Tshaka: It does feel good, 'cause it's my dad.

Havoc: Is it an inspiration to you?

Tshaka: Yeah, it makes me want to get into the studio and work on my music [and enhance] my creativity.

Havoc: Are you into music?

Tshaka: Yes, 100%

Havoc: How did you get into music?

Tshaka: My father.

Havoc: No doubt. That's my last question. [Laughter throughout the room]

DX: In addition to this tour, what are you guys working on right now?

Prodigy: We're workin' on the next Mobb album. That's it.

DX: That's gonna be next year most likely...

Prodigy: Some time soon. Maybe before then.

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47 Comments

  • TheIVth

    If you think Havoc is better than Prodigy then your perspective is just fucked up. Go back and listen to the song "hell on earth" "the war is on" "recognize and realize pt2" "the saga" "apostles warning" I mean Havoc can hold his own. But better than Prodigy? GTFOH

  • Faustik

    The Infamous is a classic for sure, great album. Hell On Earth id very good too, after that they definitely fell off, still not horrible or anything though. Havoc is solid rapper too, production he does especially on The Infamous is good to great, but yeah they are not the best ever.

  • worldwide

    jay_z himself said there was a time prodigy was the best rapper alive. lyrically jay_z can't see mobb deep. word!

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, of curse. Mobb's lyrics are atmospheric as fuck, but also very simple. Jay is lightyears ahead of them lyrically.

  • I4ANI

    I don't agree that P is the best. But, I can say that when Infamous came out, P was top notch. Shook Ones is definitely one of the best hip hop songs ever. I can say this because I was there, in the early 90's deep in the hip hop culture, that Mobb Deep had a tremendous influence on hip hop, and the direction it took for at least the next decade. Pretty much no body got heads more open than Mobb. They were simply the sh*t. They are all-time greats

  • illone

    If we're talking before Prodigy's 1st solo album, the Prodigy was 100% better lyricist than Hav - no doubt - don't fight it - you can't. But on and after the 1st solo album, Prodigy's lyrics went way, way, way down to hades, again - dont't fight it - you can't. Havoc has been a solid MC the whole time though. He was never bad, just Prodigy was so good at first it may have seemed that way.

  • Bowski

    Mobb Deep is hands down the best duo in hip hop followed by EPMD in my opinion. If EPMD never split up in the 1st place they would've easily been my number 1 duo, but the Mobb has been CONSISTENT regardless of label issues, their music speaks for itself.

  • Anonymous

    h.a.v.o.c. way much better than P. Check out Havoc on "Trife Life Part 2"

    • Doubl Negative

      Word! I was gonna post the same comment. That second Trife Life joint is a great anecdote and proved rappers can be adroit poets and raconteurs. It's one of the few rap records I've learned by rote and I always karaoke the fuck out of tat song.

  • theJTCollective

    Mobb Deep arguably the best duo in Hip Hop, I thinnk the only duo right now holding it down would be the Clipse, just my opinion. check out this video link of http://www.youtube.com/jointtendency Mobb Deep Live at the House of Blues Sunset we couldn't believe there isn't more quality footage with good audio of them performing.

  • gaetarick

    Seen Mobb Deep this past May @ the House of Blues in Los Angeles ... Dopest frshest, hypest show I've ever been to in life!

  • HipHopAffilate

    talent of the day watch this talented producer chop Martin's Theme song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4kMrPF0QRI

  • tah

    One of the best still going strong..anyone who does'nt respect these cats and their contributions to hip hop are some silly haters that are in dam-right denial of their incredible energetic fight music... Fuck your mainstream billboard rap, and jay Z with his wayne, pop culture rap and trend following swagger stealing music which inspires nothing and means nothing.

    • Anonymous

      I'd say Raekwon is one of the most influentiona just ahead of Mobb. Raekwons album was the whole reason Big L put out "Lifestylzes...", Jay Z put out "reasonable doubt", BIG to put out "ready to die", Mobb put out "the infamous", 50 "get rich...", and any other drug-kingpin/hustler style album

    • Anonymous

      Oh, you're a silly hater then? Jay's contributions to Hip Hop >>> Mobb Deep's.

    • Anonymous

      firsts album dropped at 26 still going plat and 12 number 1 albums in a row

    • Anonymous

      nah man jay set trends in the game since early 90s

  • Anonymous

    Mobb Deep will always have a spot reserved in the hip hop history books no matter how many haters or other artists wanna talk shit about them

  • BeenaBee

    Affect?? You editors work backwards sometimes but none the less good article...

    • Mike

      No. Affect is used as a verb; effect is a noun. So, the headline should say effect. It would be correct if it was, "Mobb Deep Explains 'The Infamous' and How It Affected..." Affect can be used as a noun in psychology, but definitely not here. But no one likes the Grammar Police, so the mistake is no biggie.

    • Anonymous

      You can use affect or effect depending on how you ask the question and what type of answer you're looking for. It works for this article.

  • The B

    Bullworth, Prodigy & KRS-ONE not Rick Ross. Thought I would specify that for the young heads.

  • The B

    Aite listen, first of all Prodigy is a stronger lyrcist than Hav, Hav just likes to get his shit off. Nobody had a sound like Mobb Deep in 94-98. Prodigy can get very deep and has a way of making you "see what he's sayin" when he spits, very sincere. i.e. "cradle to the grave". Fuck what he does in his personal life, his shit is ill. Just like Rick Ross, so what he was a C.O. his music speaks for it's self he's still overall embraced. Check out Bullworth that joint he did with KRS-ONE. See I bet most of yall dont know about that! I can go on & on!! Lol. Know the Ledge!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    havoc is way better then P.

  • THE-XFACTA

    I dont care who dissed Mobb in the past, their music speaks for themselves. Plenty of classic, at least 2 classic albums and dont sleep on P's HNIC and HNIC 2...

  • Swerving Classics

    Go hit The Like Button, Spread The Word. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Swerving-Classics/112365972198561

  • cmon son

    one of the best 2 man groups to ever do it nuff respect

  • biglu

    @badnewzxl GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT TRU LIFE AND THE GI'S NEVER TOUCHED P OR HAV!!! U SHOULD KNOW BY NOW THAT THEY WERENT THERE WHEN IT HAPPENED. IT WAS DJ MUGGS,GZA,ALCHEMIST,AND PEOPLE AFFILIATED WITH THE MOBB! STOP SPREADING BULLSHIT

  • Anonymous

    Nas and Mobb Deep

  • Simone SasAppeal Santos

    Nobody's effin wit P when it comes to spittin REAL ish. The Infamous definitely reps as one of the fittest LPs to survive. P messages are heartfelt, he's the HNIC in my book. I feel P's pain__ SAS

    • 2 piece crack

      nah when it comes to spittin that real street shit and talkin bout dark shit hes beeen thru and seen styles p is the king dmx comes second

  • basim3

    p is the best rapper in the world and when he reads this i hope he disses me on a song LOL

  • rick

    I actually just finished reading P's book. Shit is crazy!!!!!!!! It made me go back and listen to all their albums. It gave me a different perspective about their music and made me respect P even more. Go read that book you dumb niggas!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Havoc Says That Prodigy Is The Best Emcee are you smoking crack????????

    • trag3dy

      Prodigy is 1 of the illest rap niggas alive.. crack aint an option to realize that neither my nigga

    • Anonymous

      @ mack we aint no haters we just speak the truth but i can imagine that the truth hurts.

    • Mack

      thank you for the support. clown ass haters are forming an internet support group out here! nobody was talking about street conflicts, personal lives and rumours like you gossipin ass hoes. They were talking about his lyrical skill in front of a microphone. Herbs

    • Anonymous

      @ badnewzxl: thanks for your support! and your message tells the truth about this bitch ass prodigy. Also the bitch was slapped by Keith Murray and he wanna do a song with correctional officer named Ricky Ross. lol a convict and a correctional officer on the same song.

    • badnewzxl

      THANK YOU! I've always thought Prodigy was overrated as fuck. This nigga talks about being hard all the time, yet 1) Tru Life made the nigga and his whole crew show they birthmarks AND took ALL they shit, 2) Jay sonned the nigga worse than anyone who's ever been sonned AND the nigga didn't do SHIT about it when he had a chance to, and 3) the nigga gets beat the fuck up on the reg! Then the nigga gonna write a bullshit book about a bunch of bullshit and put his own niggaz (e.g.Ty Nitty) on blast (which makes him no better than Superhead) and then support Lupe's retarded claim that Obama is "the Biggest Terrorist." What a fucking idiot. Add to this, the fact that the nigga has ONE good album and has been as irrelevant as Canibus, AND the nigga was hoe enough to join G-Unit after 50 used that niggas beef with Jay to diss Jada in Piggybank (Jada don't fuck wit me if you wanna eat/ I'll do ya lil ass like Jay did Mobb Deep) The best rappers of all time dissed this lame ass nigga (Pac, Jay, Nas) and the igga ain't EVER got back at them hard. What a bitch....

  • rodney

    Great, great group. I think both are underrated. Havoc's lyrics are way stronger than he gets credit for. Hope they use samples and ill sounds for whatever's next. Blood Money hurt my heart and my ears, and was a key part of G-Unit falling off.

    • biglu

      MOBB DEEP IS DEF ONE OF THE MOST UNDERATED GROUPS IN HIP HOP!

    • Ghost of Hip-hop Past

      Thats crazy because I think Havoc is a doper lyricist and rapper that Prodigy.....Very Underrated.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Im sure his lyrics wouldnt have been sampled, If he wasnt a strong on the mic(INI - Faking Jax). If they want to make another classic album I suggest they start digging through dilla's archives like raekwon did. Add that to some strong beats from Havoc and It could be epic. But they probably wont do that.

  • GAallday

    Looking forward to seeing them this weekend at RTB. Wish they would perform murda musik tho