It hasn’t
been good to be a member of Mobb Deep
lately. Despite being signed to one of the most prominent record labels out (Interscope), and affiliated with a
high-profile, top-selling crew (G-Unit),
the Queens duo of Prodigy and Havoc have seemingly come up on the
short end of the stick for most of their careers.

However, it wasn’t always like that. During New York’s Hip Hop renaissance in the
mid-nineties, Mobb Deep’s dark,
callous sonics were the perfect antithesis to Nas’ gifted storytelling and The
Notorious B.I.G.’s
boom-bap-heavy masterpieces. Powered by Havoc’s lethal soundscapes and Prodigy’s unflinching, non-rhyming
cadence, “Survival Of The Fittest” and the instant vintage “Shook Ones, Pt. II”
propelled the sophomore album, The
Infamous
, to legendary status.

The crew would continue to pump out consistently hard-hitting albums over the
next five years, until finally achieving platinum status with Murda Muzik, prompting Prodigy to release his own gold-selling
solo debut. But as quickly as that momentum had gained, it was seemingly lost
when Jay-Z “infamously” attacked Ballerina P at a concert six years ago.
Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to regain their past glory since,
releasing underwhelming, mediocre albums.

Finally after what seemed like a lifetime, Prodigy
showcased a return to form with his Alchemist-anchored
Return Of The Mac earlier this year.
Hoping to match his partner’s voracity, Havoc
finally releases his long-awaited solo opus, The Kush. Unfortunately, the album’s mixed results leave a lot to
be desired.

Much like their last two group efforts – the underrated Amerikaz Nightmare and the over-glossed makeover found in Blood MoneyThe Kush finds Havoc
spending time with his cold-hearted bluster. The album’s jump-off “NY 4 Life”
finds him proclaiming his hood authority over a relatively meek beat, but the
action officially kicks in on “One Less Nigga,” where he verbally hawks down
would-be tattletales over menacing organ pumps, and continues with the
slow-burning “Ride Out.”

Throughout The Kush Havoc keeps the production as gloomy as
ever, perhaps in an effort to match his Infamous
days – and for the most part it is either a hit or miss. The conga drums of “Hit
Me Up” work well against his baritone vocals, and he bounces off the creepy
stutter-steps of “Get Off My Dick” with unrestrained harangue. Havoc is at his creative peak, however,
when he takes a clever snip of an old Jackson 5 song for the paranoia-inspired “Be
There.”

Unfortunately, the album inevitably gives way to his newly acquired G-Unit arrogance, and his shiny-suit, Hollywood Hav guise bulrushes the show,
mucking up the cohesion in the process. The boring ode-to-the-riches anthem “Balling
Out” is anemic at best, but perhaps his worst crime is when he uses the same Billy Brooks sample found in A Tribe Called Quest’s instant-vintage “Luck
Of Lucien” to brag about bagging models and ducking the press on the album’s
lead single “I’m A Boss.” But perhaps his biggest mistake is allowing his
long-time piff pocketers more than their fair share of air time, as verses from
Un Pachino, Nitti and the hypocritically-named Nyce do nothing but slow down the already mundane pace of the
album.

Instead of stepping out on his own, The
Kush
unfortunately gives listeners less reason to wonder why Havoc has played the back for so long,
while Prodigy has remained the
(sometimes-swollen) mouthpiece of the crew. Perhaps now he’ll stick to crafting
those moody heatrocks more often.