It can be argued that Mobb Deep member Prodigy hasn't been the same since one Shawn Carter infamously (no pun intended) aired his childhood tap-dancing background almost seven years ago. What used to be intensely nihilistic, wise beyond his years rapper with a complex simplicity like no other had slowly deteriorated from a possible top-tier emcee to a - in laments terms - a haphazard shell of his former self, none more blatantly obvious than his retaliatory barbs hurled at Jay-Z on Infamy.
It wasn't supposed to have been like this for the Queens, New York duo. After a slow but steady climb from the depths of the unpolished, sickle wielding street-hop found in Juvenile Hell, Havoc and Prodigy had finally achieved platinum sales with 1999 with Murda Muzik, powered by the effervescent yet wonderfully dank Quiet Storm. However after the Summer Jam attack things went sour, and the Mobb was suddenly once again on the outside looking in. one G-Unit signed contract later, and Havoc and Prodigy's careers seemed to be still stuck in neutral.
Amazingly, it was P who took the first step towards redemption, dropping the corner heat rock Return Of The Mac last year and restoring the faith for many who had thought the clock had long run past 14:59. Before having to serve a three year sentence for a gun charge, Prodigy quickly banged out an album, the results of which is the lackluster at best H.N.I.C. Pt. 2.
If there were any hope for a continuation of the 70s-drenched blaxploitation soundscapes found on Return Of The Mac, they are quickly dashed by newcomer Sid Roams' creepy twangs and Prodigy's outlandish conspiracy theories on the album's opener "Real Power Is People". While long time co-conspirator The Alchemist leaves his marks on nearly half the album, the results are decidedly less Uptown Saturday Night than it is "The Shining", similar to his work on the first H.N.I.C. Fortunately, Al's trademark sticky thump remains unwavering, offsetting Sid's hit-and miss productions.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Prodigy's lyrical content, which teeters between flaccid, boring, faux-tough guy and flat-out baffling at any given time. Given the relative short time he had to make this long player, it's almost forgivable to allow the multitude of rushed tracks and forced concepts such as the clichéd "3 Stacks" and the violent outbursts from Big Noyd on "It's Nothing". While the sinister bounce of Al's tag team with a semi-focused Prodigy on "Young Veterans" (complete with the requisite Nas and Jay-Z name drops) shows promise, the "Spanish Remix Teaser" of the album's lead single "A, B, C's" is simply laughable.
Even after the unbridled brilliance of Return Of The Mac, Prodigy takes yet another thirteen steps backwards with H.N.I.C. Pt. 2. Had P simply followed the format he used last year, he may have had another notch under the win column. Unfortunately with bland beats and sorry rhymes this is a shoddy send-off disc he leaves behind during his government-sponsored vacation.