From The Vault: Prodigy ‘H.N.I.C’ Album Review (December 2000)
A consistent MC, Prodigy builds on his previous work, defies audience expectation, and steadily increases his fan base with each accomplishment. His solo debut, H.N.I.C. (Head N***a In Charge), introduces listeners to a side of him that isn’t always rocking Mobb Deep’s tried-and-true gun-blast formula. As a result, H.N.I.C. stands as a slight departure and a vivid portrait of P as an artist.
H.N.I.C. is an invitation into the happy, sad, and violent world of Prodigy’s life. On “Veteran’s Memorial,” he offers a sobering reflection of his early days, when he and his fellow Mobbster, Havoc, would record demos and shop record deals. Instead of another “listen to my demo” routine, he includes details about the many friends who have died and aren’t here to see him shine. Prodigy addresses familiar Mobb topics on “Lumbar Support” and “Y.B.E.” (featuring Twin and B.G., respectively) but from a different angle. He expresses sadness at the thought of young black men choosing to earn money through illicit means and blows holes in the theory of “survival crimes” along the way.
The most personal track, “You Can Never Feel My Pain,” offers a candid discussion of his struggle with sickle cell anemia. After describing his love-hate relationship with the prescription drugs that keep him alive and lamenting about his inability to engage in sports, he tells his rap peers that their complaints about money and living in the projects can’t match his more severe, life-threatening problems.
Between thought-provoking meditations on life and art, P squeezes in a few of the hardcore club bangers that keep him paid. “3,” featuring Cormega, opens with a booming orchestra that fades into lustrous harp crescendos; the hypertense title track sounds like an action-movie theme. Then there’s “What U Rep,” on which he and Noreaga team up over an ill harpsichord to humiliate peers with likes like: “Queens n***as like to shoot/ Ain’t afraid to fight/ While you n***as wear Pampers/ Like the cradle tight.” Producers such as Havoc, The Alchemist, EZ Elpee, and P himself give H.N.I.C. enough hard snare snaps and gloomy strings for the hardcore Mobb fans while redefining the formula with upbeat tracks and jumpy piano chords and samples.
Overall, H.N.I.C. is an outstanding combination of diverse sounds and complex themes. As long as Prodigy is rapping, the bridge ain’t over.