Speaking to Mobb Deep’s Prodigy is like having a conversation with your favorite college professor. He’s knowledgeable on a variety of topics, but only reveals enough about each to imply he knows better. At 15 years old, Prodigy read the conspiracy theorist bible Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper. He read it four times just to make sure he ingested all of the information completely. That repetition until you get it “right” has echoed throughout his entire career. From constantly bettering himself lyrically as one half of Mobb Deep to the unfortunate repeated arrests, Prodigy is no stranger to multiples.
In 2008, he entered prison for a three-year term for criminal possession of a weapon. After a series of arrests in his past, this was the one that stuck. Perhaps his jail term was how he finally got it “right”, as his term (which ended in March) led to the completion of his autobiography My Infamous Life, along with over 200 new rhymes and a changed man. Admittedly sober and back on a natural diet of spirituality and exercise, Prodigy is gearing for the September release of Mobb Deep’s eighth studio album. While currently free agents, the Queens rap duo may still drop the album on G-Unit with 50 Cent. It’s all up in the air, and P is fine with that.
With a new lease on life, Prodigy plans to give Hip Hop what it’s been missing for so long: self-awareness.
HipHopDX: What has life been like for you since you were released from prison?
Prodigy: It’s just non-stop work – hundreds of songs, been in the studio making madd songs and doing a lot of interviews. We’re just starting to do a lot of concerts now, so we’re getting back on the road. Just catching up with all this technology, all these new websites. Just gettin’ back out there, nah mean? Gettin’ the word back out there.
DX: Do you find it’s difficult being a veteran rapper in a market where there’s a new younger rapper trying to make his way in every five minutes?
Prodigy: Nah, I mean, that’s just the way the game is. You’re always gonna have new artists coming out constantly. It’s a good thing. I just take it as, you know, that’s just the business. I was once that young rapper trying to come out with my single, so it’s all good.
DX: Did you have any idea your book would cause so much backlash after you came out of jail?
Prodigy: I knew some people were gonna not want certain information out there. I knew some people were probably gonna get upset about that. It’s just all real. I wouldn’t…I’m a pretty levelheaded, smart individual. I wouldn’t put no false information out there. That’s not my style. I deal with real people and real things. It’s consequences when you put false information just to try and sell a book. I would never do that. I’m not that style of a person. I just put my point of view from what I’ve seen and from what I’ve experienced in the book and put it out there for people to enjoy and for people to read.
DX: One thing that struck me in the book: you mentioned how Ashanti’s mother went to your grandmother’s school. You inferred that Ashanti was the reason the picture of you reached Jay-Z and was put on the infamous Hot 97 Summer Jam screen in 2001. Have you ever confronted her about that?
Prodigy: Nah, because it’s not even that serious. I don’t even care. Number one, I don’t know if it’s true or not. That was just something like, maybe. That was the best-case scenario I could figure like, “How could that happen? Oh, that’s the connection.” And it did most likely. But, really, it’s not even that serious for me to go say something about it or anything like that. When you’re writing an autobiography, you’re just telling a story about going through the whole timeline of your life. That was just one of the things that just so happened to have happened.
Prodigy On Sobriety And Recording Without Drinking Or Drugs
DX: Are you back to your super healthy lifestyle you’ve spoken about?
Prodigy: Yeah, definitely. I eat right, exercise everyday and just stay focused on what needs to be done.
DX: A lot of artists claim when they’re on substances their creative output is better. When you’ve spoken about it though, it seems like it’s the opposite.
Prodigy: It’s definitely [better] when you’re not under the influence. Your head is clear, focused, and you think clearly. When you’re high and under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you’re not thinking clearly. Your mind is cloudy, your thoughts are cloudy. That’s definitely not true. People may want that to be true because it sounds cool or they might like for it to be true. But it’s not true.
DX: In your new material, is any of it inspired by what you went through in jail?
Prodigy: Yeah, it’s definitely gonna affect some of the lyrics. It’s gonna influence some of the lyrics because it was an experience that I went through. But it’s not all about that. I may throw it in there a few times here and there, but, we touch on a lot of different subjects. We don’t, like, stick with one thing.
DX: Are you working on a release date or a title for the next Mobb Deep album?
Prodigy: Yeah we’re shooting for like September, an end of the summer type thing. We’re throwing around titles right now.
DX: And it’s back to the formula of just you and Havoc?
DX: There was an article recently that broke down how Havoc did the production for “Shook Ones Pt. II”. Did you have any idea how complex it was to make that beat?
Prodigy: Yeah, I know how Havoc makes his beats and like he really chops it up and breaks it down. He does a lot of crazy stuff to the beats.
DX: What would you say is the easiest and the hardest part of working with Havoc?
Prodigy: The easiest is that we’ve been doing this for so long that’s just natural for us to go in and make these songs. Like with anything in life, the more you practice the better you get at it. We make songs everyday; that’s probably the easiest thing for us. The hardest…probably just dealing with each other and our own individual opinions, because you know when dealing with individuals, opinions will differ sometimes. Sometimes you like this, or you don’t like this. We always gotta find that common ground. That would probably be the most difficult thing about having a partnership [laughs] with anybody.
DX: You two keep a very low profile when it comes to your working relationship. Any major disagreements between you two have never been really publicized. It always seems like a strong team effort and no real rumors of Mobb Deep ever breaking up. Was that something you two agreed upon early on?
Prodigy: That just went without saying; it was natural. That’s just how we move. Certain things are definitely gonna get out there after a while…whatever it may be. We’re not worried about none of that anyway. We good.
DX: What’s your current label situation? Last we heard you were free agents.
Prodigy: Yeah, we still free agents. We really concentrating on making music, but we’ve been taking meetings here and there hearing what people have to say about offering us deals. We’ve been talking to 50 [Cent] still and talking to a couple other companies. So we’re just hearing what they have to say and hearing the different offers so we can decide what route we want to go. Whether it’s staying independent or going with a company, getting a distribution deal. There’s a lot of routes we can go right now.
DX: So G-Unit might still be an option for you, once again?
Prodigy: Yeah, definitely.
DX: You spoke really highly of 50 Cent in your book; how he respected your opinion and your creativity even in board meetings.
Prodigy: Yeah, 50, man, he’s a good dude. We love him to death. That’s our fam.
DX: What was your reason for initially leaving G-Unit?
Prodigy: It was really a technical thing in the contract. When G-Unit [Records] didn’t have a distribution deal for a little while, there was a clause in our contract that released us. In the contract it protects us. It says that if the time period where the label has no distribution goes for so long, we’re able to get released. The contract is void. So that’s what happened basically. The contract got voided out when they were getting their new deal. Yeah, it was just a technical thing.
Prodigy Claims He Was One Of The First Emcees To Speak About The Illuminati
DX: Early on you began to speak about things like conspiracy theories inside and outside of your rhymes. It seemed as though people were a little unwilling to listen. Do you feel people are more willing now to digest what you have to say about those topics?
Prodigy: Yeah, I think people little by little…they were probably listening to my lyrics and little by little it started to spread. It spread around so much that people were more curious than ever before about certain things. Like when I said the Illuminati back in ’95-’96 on that LL [Cool J] song (“I Shot Ya” Remix)”, nobody had heard of that before. Or at least nobody ever said it before. So that was like a first. It probably took a while to spread around and build the curiosity in people.
DX: Do you feel with rappers now talking about the Illuminati or people assuming rappers are in the Illuminati, it’s become more trendy than informative?
Prodigy: It’s definitely trendy. It’s just a name…an old name for a particular group of people. That’s probably not even their name anymore. That was their name way back in the days. They probably have all different kinds of name changes over the years because they don’t want people to know or keep tabs on them. It’s just the most popular name, because it sounds cool or whatever. It’s definitely a lot of that trendy thing going on. People don’t really understand what [The Illuminati] really is. They just hear it, it sounds cool, and they want to repeat it or whatever. They don’t really know or have a good understanding of it. The whole thing is just to be aware, aware of what’s going on. A lot of people, they just be taking it too far without really understanding what it’s all about.
DX: Do you ever get concerned about the things you say that someone might try and come get you for it?
Prodigy: Nah, it’s not like back in the days. It’s too late for people to try and change anything. Only God can change it now. There’s no revolution where you could pick up guns and try to fight [laughs]. That’s not gonna happen. Only revolution is spiritual revolution within yourself and personal revolution where you try to change yourself for the better. It’s in God’s hands now.
DX: Are your kids making noise about pursuing music or entertainment of any kind?
Prodigy: Yeah, my son. He’s into singing and rapping. He’s definitely an aspiring R&B singer slash rapper. We just made a song in the studio last night as a matter of fact. He’ll be doing his thing out there soon.
DX: Were you at all hesitant to have him pursue music?
Prodigy: Yeah, a lil somethin’. Not really though. I let them choose their own paths. I just guide them in the right direction.
DX: It seems like you’ve had a frenemies relationship with Nas. Will we ever see a major collaboration with you guys?
Prodigy: Yeah, definitely. We’ve been making some joints since I got home. That’s definitely gonna happen. We have that one joint “Dog Shit” that’s out right now that we made when I got back. That was one of the first songs I made when I got back. We’ve got a couple of joints in the stash. You’ll definitely hear a lot of that.
DX: How much material did you write while you were gone? Did you have a whole book of rhymes?
Prodigy: Man…I wrote about 200-something songs. I came out with two big ass journals. My man Alchemist, he likes to call them the “Book of P-La Volume 1 and 2.” [Laughs] I wrote a whole lot of songs. I have a lot of songs I didn’t even record yet, I’ve got hundreds of songs.
DX: That’ll keep you good for a while.
Prodigy: Yeah we’ll be aiight for a while with all that. [Laughs]
DX: If there’s one thing you’d want to pursue after coming out of jail – outside of music – what would it be?
Prodigy: Outside of music? It would probably be in the music industry and doing some more books.
DX: Are you going to continue writing books?
Prodigy: Yeah, I’ve actually got two or three more books that are in the works to follow up the autobiography.
DX: Did you ever think you could put out a book?
Prodigy: It was just bugged out to see it in my hands. When I finally had the book I was like, “Wow, this is crazy. I wrote a book.” It’s definitely a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to do something like that.
DX: What are some of the concepts for the other books you’ve got coming out?
Prodigy: Well, I really can’t talk about some of them…
DX: NDA… (non-disclosure agreement)
Prodigy: [Laughs] I can talk about one of them. It’s a continuation of the whole prison experience, because I didn’t really get into that with the autobiography. It was more about my life outside of prison. One of the books I wrote talks about my prison experience. It’s all about my prison experience, actually. When I wrote this autobiography, I wrote about the whole prison experience with that. I decided to take all prison stuff out and save it for another book. It was like why put all that out [at once], when I could just break it off into two books and make more money? It was another check I could get, so I decided to put little parts of prison throughout the book. Then I took the rest out to put another whole book out about that.
DX: If you had one regret in your whole career, what would it be?
Prodigy: If I could pick something, it would probably have to do with keeping Mobb Deep independent so all of the money would come to us. That’d be the best thing to pick. [Laughs] The way my grandmother raised me as far as teaching me the business and being independent and owning and operating your own business. It’s just instilled in me to want that and to do that. Like I’ve said, though. I don’t really believe in regrets. Things happen for a reason. That’s how I see it, as far as Mobb Deep’s career. Everything’s happened for a reason. We’ve been blessed and we’ve been good. There’s really nothing for us to regret.