Lord knows what Havoc and Prodigy have been doing since 1996, but the
sound of Murda Muzik tells us they certainly haven't been
listening to the evolving production styles of their fellow New York
rappers. Much like their previous albums Juvenile Hell
(1993), The Infamous (1995) and Hell on Earth (1996)
Murda Muzik is thick with slow, gritty grooves and jagged
rhymes about the rough and tumble hustler's life in the New York borough
of Queens. And that's exactly what's wrong and occasionally right
about this album. Mobb Deep don't demonstrate much growth as artists on
Murda Muzik, but when they do hit their mark the results are
The songs here are spare, midtempo and mostly hook-free, forgoing the
influences of West Coast G-funk and Southern bounce that have been
appropriated by East Coasters like Noreaga, Ja Rule and Jay-Z. The
Infamous spawned two modern classics in 1995 using this method
"Survival of The Fittest" and "Shook Ones Pt. II" but
Havoc and Prodigy should know they can only rest on their laurels for so
long. Lyrically, though, the group is sharp as ever especially on
"It's Mine" (with Nas), "Allustrious" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Where Ya From" (with
Eightball) but not quite sharp enough to make the listener forget
they've done better work in the past.
People with booming car systems may want to pass on Murda Muzik,
because there is basically no bass to rattle the fine china with as you
cruise by. When the bass does show up, such as on "I'm Going Out" (RealAudio excerpt) and
"Where Ya From," it feels like a revelation, a hint that there may be a
series of better tracks around the corner. Sadly, those tracks never
Also on the disappointing tip are the album's numerous guest
appearances. Without fail, every single rapper blends in with the group,
adopting the same roughneck monotone delivery style. Now, if you're
asked to guest on someone else's song it probably means they want you
there for your distinctive style. So why gifted rappers like Nas,
Eightball, Raekwon, Lil' Cease and (especially) Lil' Kim felt the need
to mimic Mobb Deep's style is a mystery.
Someday someone is going to come along and revolutionize New York's
hardcore rap sound, much as Def Jam did in the late '80s, Wu-Tang Clan
did in the mid-'90s and Timbaland did in the latter part of this decade.
There's no way to predict what the sound is going to be, but if history
repeats itself, this as-yet-unheard sound will completely flip the
manuscript and be copied by lesser acts until it's diluted thus
setting the stage for a new revolution.
Mobb Deep helped popularize the spare-beats-and-strings East Coast
hardcore sound. Perhaps they titled this album Murda Muzik as a
statement that the sound needed to die, that this album would be the
last splash for an overworked hip-hop subgenre.
We can only hope, but I'm not holding my breath.