Rap fans have been blessed to have witnessed some incredible dynamic duos in the art form, but few have managed to build a legacy as strong as Mobb Deep’s. Comprised of Prodigy and Havoc, the duo, which once performed under the name Poetical Prophets, released their debut album, Juvenile Hell, in 1993. After making the name change to Mobb Deep, they really came into their own on The Infamous — the group’s sophomore album which debuted in 1995. Earning a gold plaque and establishing themselves as rap’s newest purveyors of hardcore, Mobb Deep returned with their anticipated third album, Hell on Earth, in fall of 1996.
Led by the promotional single “Drop a Gem on ’em,” which doubled as a diss track aimed at 2Pac, and the album’s official lead-single, “Hell on Earth (Front Lines),” the LP debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and earned the group their second consecutive gold plaque. While devoid of a hit single, Hell on Earth was critically acclaimed and has gone on to be deemed a certified classic and is often mentioned with the same reverence as The Infamous.
At the time of Hell on Earth’s release, rap was packed with premier wordsmiths, including The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay Z, and Raekwon. Prodigy’s glowing performance throughout the album’s 14 tracks elevated him into the conversation of being one of the best pound for pound lyricists in rap. Havoc, who also showed and proved with a flurry of potent bars, also upped his stock as a producer with Hell on Earth, refining his sound and crafting some of rap’s most beloved instrumentals.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Hell on Earth, VIBE gave the album a few spins and picked out its best songs, from worst to first. Where does your favorite stack up?