Earlier this week, the hip-hop community lost one of its greatest lyricists and storytellers when Mobb Deep's Prodigy passed away at the age of 42. The iconic rapper died Tuesday from what is believed to be complications connected to sickle cell anemia—a disease that he'd battled since birth. In the days that followed, fans, friends, and peers within hip-hop shared stories and heartfelt tributes. On Thursday, Noisey published a previously unreleased interview from 2015 with Mobb Deep about the making of their highly celebrated 1995 album, The Infamous. There, Prodigy reflected on the group's first release, Juvenile Hell, looked back on his youth in Queensbridge, and remembered the group's feud with 2Pac. His quotes deserve to be framed and mounted in a museum.
Here is Prodigy talking about getting dropped from Island Records after Mobb Deep's debut album, Juvenile Hell:
It was kind of embarrassing for us. We thought we knew what we were doing. We'd made an album. Bought our gold chains and gold teeth. We got on TV. We was like, "we doing it." But then we got a reality check and got dropped. So we went back and just listened to the music that was coming out. Nas, Main Source, Biggie. Niggas that was making dope hip-hop.
We was embarrassed that our first effort at hip-hop didn't stand up to what was out there. It was like, are we going to be this wack-ass group who no one remembers? Who made an album that didn't go nowhere? Meanwhile, all these other dudes are being successful and making incredible hip-hop. We needed to get our shit together.
Prodigy talking about what it was like growing up in Queensbridge:
When I said "I'm only 19 but my mind is old"—at that time when I said that line, I was 18. In my lyrics, I used to always state two years ahead. I did that to make it seem like we were ahead of our time—a time capsule almost. It had never been done before.
That's one of my favorite lines in rap music. What were the things you were thinking about when you wrote that lyric?
What I meant was, all the stuff that I'd been through in my life—dealing with sickle cell and just dealing with life period. It forces you to grow up quickly. I was forced to deal with the pain and hanging in the streets and wilding out. It makes you think like an adult and make adult decisions and be way more mature than your actual age. We'd been through so much. At 19, I felt like I was 40.
What he had to say about Mobb Deep's feud with 2pac:
On "Survival of the Fittest" we was like "Thug Life we still living it." 2Pac had his Thug Life thing that he was promoting. When he said that and put that into the universe maybe he didn't realize that we started that slang. We would say thug life because that was the shit to say.
We wasn't trying to diss 2Pac. We didn't have any problem with 2Pac. We liked his music. But I think he took offense to it. That said, it's not really where the problem actually started, but that was a seed planted in Pac's mind.
The real problems started with Pac when Snoop made the "New York New York" song where he kicked over the buildings. We took offense to that. You stomping through New York and kicking over Queensbridge buildings?
We made "LA LA" to stand up for our state and Queens. When we did that, 2Pac had just got signed to Death Row and was just working on his album, and when he heard that, he was like, "I'm going to be the one to ride." And just so incidentally, he and Biggie were beefing at the same time.
Read the rest of the interview here.
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