Mobb Deep is one of New York Hip Hop’s most hallowed Hip Hop institutions. They were a hardscrabble two-some out of the tradition of Eric B and Rakim and Gang Starr; with Prodigy as the main spitter and Havoc pulling double duty as both chairman of the boards and a serviceable emcee. They were also relentless; with their classic LP The Infamous taking shots at everyone that happened to step out into their paths. For most it was something they had to do, as their first record Juvenile Hell fell on mostly deaf ears. The getback was vicious though, as The Infamous was the darkest street tale compilation of its ilk at the time. Murder, mayhem and life in New York’s Queensbridge projects were the only order of business discussed, so it became a timestamp for a type of gritty New York rap that could only come out of one of the most harrowed places in the country.
Come Saturday (April 25), The Infamous will be turning 20, and the album has aged well. Its production is still as menacing as ever, and of course theirs classic verses like P’s call to arms on “Survival Of The Fittest,” “There’s a war going outside no man is safe from / You can run but you can’t hide forever/ From these, streets that we done took / You walkin’ with your head down scared to look / They shook, cause ain’t no such things as halfway crooks.” Here, to celebrate the wars the infamous Mobb have survived over the course of their long, long career we take a look back at the bridge duo’s most infamous beefs.
After Snoop came through and crushed the buildings on Tha Dogg Pound’s classic “New York, New York” he drew the ire of many an East Coast foe. And, embroiled in the East versus West fight, in what would result in two of our greatest emcee’s untimely deaths, Snoop specifically drew return fire from the Queensbridge constituency including Mobb Deep (along with Tragedy Khadafi and CNN). The following on wax scuffle proved epic, as the new fangled New York fellowship released follow-up “L.A, L.A.” Later on P would claim it was just some “Hip Hop shit,” but the fire seemed to be more than raging at the time.
Another beef that began with the fabled Source awards, Tupac had just signed to Death Row when “New York, New York” rattled through the five boroughs. The empire struck back first with “L.A, L.A,” and never to be outdone, Tupac took up arms for his new brethren with “Hit ‘Em Up.” The video was hilariously low budget, but Tupac went at everyone including the Mobb and P when he shot, “Fuck Mobb Deep… ain’t one of you niggas got sickle cell or something?” Mobb Deep eventually responded with “Drop a Gem On ‘Em.” But this one was about Biggie, who’s “Who Shot Ya” had a paranoid ‘Pac thinking he had something to do with the events at Quad studios that found Tupac battered and shot.
It seems that at some point or another everyone from Q-boro had beef with Nas. P says that the beef began when certain members of Nas’ crew thought the Hempstead born Prodigy had no business representing Queensbridge. He at least said as much in a book he released post prison called “My Infamous Life.” Then when P signed to G-Unit he had some choice words for the emcee, claiming no one listened to Nas anymore, and that he was washed up. But all was squashed once P came home and gave Nas a courtesy call to squash it, though Nas didn’t know he even had a book out.
On the Queens duo fourth album Murda Muzik, Jay Z felt some kind a way about some bars and did exactly what he does best. Yes, the damaging 2001 Hot 97 Summer Jam performance featuring Hov rhyming “Takeover” while visuals of Prodigy dressed as Michael Jackson projected onto the big screen for everyone to see. Then there was the “Takeover” itself and the “we don’t believe you, you need more people” line etched into Hip Hop history. Mobb Deep had a difficult time recovering from the aftermath.
Prodigy vs. Havoc
Warring with other emcees is natural. Within the group itself, though, was quite the surprise. It started when Havoc announced that Mobb Deep was through a few years ago before making some salacious statements to Prodigy via Twitter. By damaging, that means revealing that Prodigy was allegedly in a relationship with a man during his three-year jail bid and had information to back it up. There were even a few jabs flung between both of them. Thankfully, the duo got it back together to complete their The Infamous Mobb Deep album, which released last year.
More rumors than anything that’s been confirmed on both sides, Mobb Deep’s “The Infamous Prelude” from The Infamous allegedly started the beef. Prodigy supposedly took shots at Reggie by saying the following: “All them rap ass niggas wit ya half-assed rhymes talkin bout how much you get high, how much weed you smoke, and that crazy space shit that don’t even make no sense.” Redman didn’t take that well and confronted Mobb at famous New York nightclub, The Tunnel with Keith Murray in tow. What happened next is still mostly shrouded in mystery, though most agree it didn’t end well for the Queensbridge emcee.
Remember that one time Saigon snuffed the fuck out of Prodigy during a show some years ago? Out of all the L’s Prodigy has taken throughout his career, the moment the world watched him get knocked upside the head by the future Love & Hip Hop New York member and creator of the still incredible The Greatest Story Never Told. Sure, video exists of Prodigy chasing Saigon out the club, but everyone knows the only thing that matters is that connect to the face. It’s been years since the incident and maybe the two have patched things up.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is an Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.