Prodigy Reveals Nas’ Illmatic Was A Blueprint For Mobb Deep’s The Infamous (Video)
In April of 1995, Mobb Deep released The Infamous, a legacy-ensuring sophomore LP that kept the rugged, unadulterated reputation of Queensbridge alive and well. Featuring Ghostface Killah, Q-Tip, Raekwon, Nas, and others, Prodigy and Havoc’s second album would arrive the same year as equally enduring albums from Smif-n-Wessun (Dah Shinin), Big L (Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous), Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (E. 1999 Eternal), Rae (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…), GZA (Liquid Swords), and The Pharcyde (Labcabincalifornia) but still managed to set them apart as two of Rap’s most authentic voices. But in addition to the authenticity and skillful musicianship the two brought to their work, Mobb Deep clearly approached Rap with a deep appreciation for the Queensbridge legacy founded by artists like Marley Marl, MC Shan, Roxanne Shanté, and also their contemporary, Nas.
Despite releasing their debut LP, Juvenile Hell, a full year before Nas dropped his introductory album, Illmatic, Prodigy says The Infamous was in many ways structured on the album Ambrosia for Heads readers voted the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time. In a recent interview with Mass Appeal, the legendary rapper discusses Nas’ influence on how they approached the structural ideas for their now iconic album. “When Juvenile Hell first came out, it didn’t do well,” he begins near the 1:55 mark. “We were still figuring out what Mobb Deep is, and how we should present ourselves and how the music industry works. Right around the time that album came out, Nas dropped Illmatic and it was just incredible,” he recalls.
Calling the album a “work of art,” Prodigy says “it made us look at ourselves, like ‘what the f*ck is we doing? Look at this masterpiece this kid just made. We with him damn near every day.'” He says their relationship with Nas and the first-hand perspective they had on Illmatic‘s success made Mobb Deep realize “we weren’t telling our story correctly, and Nas, with Illmatic, helped us to realize that, ’cause he told his story so perfect.” Prodigy says he and Havoc then decided that they needed to “come correct and really dig deep to tell people who we are,” arguing that it was crucial to “share your pain, your fears, everything with the people.” “We was like, ‘we ain’t gonna get another chance after this. If we flop again, it’s over.'” That’s when, he remembers, the duo “regrouped, went in the crib with mad 40s, mad weed, and started grinding.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Prodigy details how Q-Tip – who would go on to appear on The Infamous‘ “Drink Away the Pain (Situations)” – helped Mobb Deep catch a big break. At the :53 mark, he shares that he and Havoc, when first starting out, would visit the locations of record labels they found on the back of CDs and wait for notable artists or executives to exit the building. “Nobody would stop for us,” he said of their attempt to land a record deal. “Q-Tip came out the building. We asked him to listen to us, and he stopped and was like ‘aiight.’ He listened to our shit and said ‘where y’all from?’ and we were like ‘we from Queens, yo.'” It’s at that point, Prodigy says, that Tip invited them into the offices to introduce them to industry insiders at Def Jam and elsewhere. “He introduced us to Chris Lighty that day,” remembers Prodigy. “That’s how we met everybody, because of Q-Tip. He brought everybody to us in the office, and we took it from there.”
Also included in the interview are Prodigy’s memories on how he and Havoc approached the recording process on The Infamous, “Quiet Storm,” and more.