It seems it's not a Mobb Deep album unless it comes out amidst some air of controversy.
Trying to do the almost impossible and follow up their 1995 classic The Infamous with '96's Hell on Earth, the duo of Prodigy and Havoc received mixed reviews, despite going gold. Then their 1999 album, Murda Muzik, got bootlegged heavily (three versions hit the streets before the actual disc made its way to stores), not only causing multiple delays in the LP's release, but resulting in the removal of several songs.
The arrival of Infamy is no different. There's the unsettled beef with Jay-Z and the Roc-A-Fella family, disses being directed toward Prodigy by former collaborator and friend Nas, not to mention whispers on the streets that the Mobb Deep are going soft, spurred by the new album's R&B guest appearances. But to hear the team from Queens tell it, things could not be better.
"It feels good," Prodigy said last week about the LP coming out. "I just can't wait 'til it hits the streets and hear everybody's response. It's on the shelf with the classics."
If the reception of the album's first two singles — "The Learning (Burn)" and "Hey Luv (Anything)" — are indicative of how the rest of the album will be embraced, then Infamy will live up to Prodigy's declaration that it's one of their most galvanizing efforts.
"Ain't nothing wrong with mixing the two together," he said of bringing smooth crooners 112 into Mobb Deep's usual belligerent musical makeup for "Hey Luv (Anything)," which is going over big with the ladies. And female support "ain't really nothing that new," he continued. "The girls were always into the music."
"To a person that's new to Mobb Deep, they probably would think that 'Y'all got more shorties,' " Havoc said, building on his partner's thoughts. "We've [always] had shorties at the shows — now it's more publicly known because the song has been accepted."
Prodigy admitted that the beef with Jay-Z kept them on their toes while recording. "I mean, it [didn't] help or hurt," he said before regrouping his thoughts. "It is what it is. Maybe it helped a little bit because it helped us go harder."
The Mobb Deep/Roc-A-Fella saga began last year when Prodigy publicly took exception to Jay-Z's lyrics on 1998's "Money, Cash, H**s" ("It's like New York's been soft ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings"), saying that while Mobb Deep stayed on the front line of the East Coast/West Coast war, Jay remained silent.
Jay broke his silence in a big way this summer at radio station Hot 97's Summer Jam concert when he premiered his much-talked-about battle anthem "Takeover" and displayed pictures of a young Prodigy in dance garb (see "Jay-Z's Special Guest A Thriller For Summer Jam Crowd"). Everyone has been looking at Mobb Deep to retaliate ever since.
"Actually, it was difficult not to say something," Prodigy said. "Everybody was like, 'When you gonna say something? When you gonna make a song?' We ain't even caring. ... We're just doing our music."
In August at the Source Awards, shortly after Prodigy screamed, "F--- Jay-Z" while presenting an award (his profanity was edited out for the show's television broadcast), he said backstage that there would be no retaliation. However, on Infamy, he calls out his nemesis on "Crawlin": "Punk muthaf----/ Female ass ni---/ The ho-- rapper/ H to you know ... / You are now being crushed by these black Mobb gangstas."
"It's something to just get to the point, bottom line, in and out," said Prodigy, adding that he doesn't know if a resolution is in sight. "We ain't stressing that."
Prodigy also isn't stressing what Nas has to say about him on the Stillmatic LP. "Before I would've told you Prodigy was my dog ... / I always knew he wanted my downfall," the MC — who lumps Prodigy in amongst traitors and cowards — spews on "Destroy and Rebuild."
"I don't even know [why he did that]," Prodigy said. "I don't even have nothing foul to say about that dude. He's cool with me."
On the contrary, Nas said he let Prodigy's indirect disses slide for years but got fed up when P. appeared on Cormega's "Thun & Kicko," where Cormega had some disparaging comments for him.
"I tell him on the record, 'I love you Prodigy,' at the end" Nas said. "Dog was my little man."
Infamy's "There I Go Again" with Ron Isley probably sums up the Mobb's situation best.
"That's like saying, 'Damn, here I go again grabbing my steel,' " Prodigy said of the track's theme. "Nonstop drama, one thing after another. Once you get one step ahead, you get thrown back 10."