Acclaimed since the mid-’90s as one of Rap’s greats for a fearless disposition far superior to his smaller stature, Prodigy’s career has been nothing short of turbulent and eventful to date. From incarceration woes to health concerns and beefs with the likes of the previously prevalent Keith Murray, long-standing Hip Hop king Jay-Z and most significantly former Mobb Deep teammate Havoc, his well earned reputation for resilience accompanies each dramatic twist and turn encountered. On the heels of this summer’s H.N.I.C. 3 (critically panned as a drastic departure from his grimy street routine), Prodigy has created a parallel between his infamous nature and old school gangsterdom with The Bumpy Johnson Album.
Returning to familiar form, this latest series of songs stands to extend Prodigy’s lifeline and renew faith in what was a recently waning talent. Assisted by frequent production collaborators The Alchemist and Sid Roams for the bulk of the project, the veteran’s renowned deadpan approach takes front and center for a set that is enjoyable due to both nostalgic value and its novelty. As expressed on “Change,” “The One & Only” and “Told Y’all,” Prodigy’s urgency towards reminders of his musical prowess likely stems from just now becoming established as a fully independent entity for the first time.
Though Prodigy’s legacy could be seen as a lyrical crutch for a fair portion of this release with lines such as “I’m not the punchline rapper, my style (is) more smooth” on “Go Off,” he manages to challenge himself and listeners almost two decades removed from his era of higher prominence. Current developments include a delivery that is more aggressive than ever on “Recipe For Murder,” tackling racism, politics and religion on the bold “Black Devil” and the thought out concept of “Medicine Man,” which likens his verses to having healing powers and addictive traits. Nearly charged with overstaying his welcome earlier this year, these moments reflect an artistic growth where few would have predicted Prodigy capable of making anymore impressive strides.
The Bumpy Johnson Album celebrates Prodigy’s longevity as he continues mastering perseverance, his knack for surviving rough neighborhoods and other general obstacles detailed on “Stronger.” While his typically threatening tone is present throughout much of the material, an increased sense of wisdom is found (possibly resulting from his 2008-2011 jail stint) showing potential for further enlightenment down the line. Aside from being subject to repetitive self-important content regarding his accomplished act, fans should wind up reassured this dynamic emcee is back on the right track holding his own without a partner or popular misplaced features to boost his visibility.