“When we did The Infamous album, Q-Tip came in to help us. He [basically] executive produced the album. He tweaked some of the beats and he produced like two joints for us (‘Give Up the Goods (Just Step)’ and ‘Drink Away the Pain (Situations)’. He was really guiding us on the production side. The sounds and the drum loops and certain things like that [Q-Tip] really helped us out on. We definitely got a lot from him.
We definitely thank him for that. When I first heard [‘Shook Ones’], I knew it was something different right there. Havoc actually made that beat in his mom’s crib in the projects. Hav was in the crib making beats and me and his little cousin and a bunch of us were outside just chilling. And we had come upstairs, Hav was making the beat and we were like, ‘Yo, what’s that?’ And Havoc said, ‘I don’t know…some bullshit. I’m about to erase it and make a new one.’ And we’re like, No, no, no [laughs]. Don’t erase that, yo. That’s fire right there. What are you doing???’ We had to make him keep the beat! That was ‘Shook One’s.’ That’s how that came about.
Being on [‘Eye for an Eye (Your Beef is Mines)’] with Nas was incredible. You know how ill he is, and now we are doing songs together. It definitely made me feel good about myself and my group to know that we are doing something that Nas felt good enough for him to hop on. We all looked up to him. He was the illest. I felt like we finally got to that level. Son is respecting our shit now. He’s coming to out videos, doing little cameos and hopping on songs with us. So that felt good. It was like, ‘We good now.’ Now we just gotta keep this feeling going.
We were just really pushing hard, especially me. I was pushing hard to prove myself worthy of being within Mobb Deep, my new circle of friends in Queensbridge, and to prove myself worthy of being in hip-hop music period and for the fans to even pay attention to me. I was in show-and-prove mode. That’s where my head was at [during] that time. I wasn’t going to let nothing stop that or nobody tell me that I’m not good enough. There were some significant things happening in our lives. There were a lot of shoot-outs and craziness just going down. We would be going to parties like 30, 40 of us. We were just having fun.
We’ve been through a lot…bottle fights, with razors, all kinds of craziness. And when you are going through that you got to talk about it in a song. I doubted that a lot of people [our age] actually saw this kind of stuff. We were just talking about the things that we were going through and things that were going on in our neighborhood and around us. It was just important to tell that because there was nobody out there telling those stories. Especially young kids that was our age. The groups that were out our age were like Kriss Kross. When we did Juvenile Hell we used to tell those type of stories on that album, even though we had a lot of improving to do. We came from that angle because that’s how we were living.
The Infamous taught a lot of people things. A lot of fans have come up to us—fans that were five to 10 years younger than us when that album dropped—later on in life they would come up to me like, ‘Yo, my older brother used to play that album for me. That’s how I learned a lot about the streets and certain things.’ Things like that just made me realize [The Infamous] was a really important album.”
"LA,LA"--Tragedy Khadafi, Mobb Deep and Capone & Noreaga (1996)
“What sparked all this off was Tupac [was] shot at Quad Studios. I knew a lot of the people who were around him at that time. I didn’t realize that we had the same friends in common. Later on in life I made that connection. Eventually, throughout all the drama, me and Pac would have been friends at the end of the day. But it started when somebody tried to rob him. Tupac had guns on him, he pulled out, so they shot him. He found out what happened; who it was and why it was, so he decided to take that and use it as a publicity stunt to sell records. And this is what was told to me from inside sources. I know the truth. So basically he took that, used it, and stuck it on Biggie. And at the same exact time Snoop Dogg [and the Dogg Pound] had put out a song called ‘New York, New York,’ kicking over our buildings. He [even] kicked over the tallest building in Queens at the time, which was at the time was the City Bank building over on Long Island City. So we took that disrespectfully.
We were down south at the time on a little vacation in North Carolina. We were watching videos and we were like, ‘What?!!!’ We jetted back to New York the next night and hit the studio. So we connected with Tragedy and he was working on his new group Capone-N-Noreaga. We decided to do a joint together [called ‘LA LA’] and Stretch Armstrong produced it. We did that, put it out and started going at them. Had the video and all that. So when Pac and Snoop seen that Pac was like, ‘Oh…okay. I’m going at all of them from New York!’ [laughs] He started to go at us and Biggie and drove Nas and Jay-Z in there for some strange reason. It didn’t even make sense why he threw Nas and Jay in there. He must have been some type of psychic or something because Jay wasn’t even hot at that time. I think ‘Aint No Nigga’ just started playing. That was weird why he threw Jay in there. So that’s how it kind of sparked off. It just escalated from there.
I was a little bit [regretful about recording ‘LA LA’]. But if we had it to do over, we would have did the same thing. We would have still been upset with them kicking over our buildings. It would have still escalated. Who knows where it would have went eventually. I definitely don’t wish death on nobody. I don’t want to see nobody get killed. And when we found out that Tupac had been killed we were sad about that. Even though we were ready to just do whatever when we seen each other—because we knew it was going to be serious when we saw him. So when that realization hit that he really got killed I was kind of glad that we never got the chance to bump into each other because it would have been a mess.”
Hell on Earth--Mobb Deep (1996)
“At this time, I think there were four or five people that got killed that were in our inner-circle. My father died, Hav’s brother, one of our man’s Twin, another one of our man’s Yammy…some real strong people in our life died at that time. All back to back, within months of each other. It was just crazy. It all happened while we were making [Hell on Earth]. And because of that, it took us two years to make that album. It was just hard. I guess that’s why the songs were coming out [so dark]…the lyrics and the beats. What we were feeling emotionally was coming out through the music.
[You could hear just from the title track] that we were really going against the grain. We lost a lot of strength. The people that died at that time were the people that would have killed somebody for us. If something was to happen in the streets, these were the people that were going to do something for real before anybody. Now they were taken away from us, so we felt like we had to really become stronger to make up for that loss and really be aggressive now, and not play any games with people now. Just come out the door buggin’ and wildin’.”
"The Game"--Pete Rock feat. Raekwon, Prodigy and Ghostface (1998)
“This was an ill song right here…a crazy beat. This was just an amazing song, man. When I heard that beat I was like, ‘Wow.’ And what Raekwon and Ghostface were rhyming about, it just took my mind somewhere else. On that song I was talking about a lot of spiritual stuff dealing with the whole spiritual realm. There was also the whole secret society type of realm. When people listen to that song they might not understand what I’m saying, but if you really listen to it and do your homework you will be like, ‘Oh wow…that song is deep.’”
“Big Pun was like Mobb Deep’s no. 1 fan. Pun loved Mobb Deep like you wouldn’t even believe. Everybody used to hang out at the Loud Records office. We used to smoke weed, chill and just laugh and joke with each other. It was our little club, hangout spot, and our [‘label home]. Pun was a comedian…he would make you laugh real quick. He liked to pull practical jokes on people. He was just a funny motherfucka.
So one day, Pun was like, ‘Yo, come hang out with us in the Bronx; come to my crib.’ We used to go to clubs together and just wild out and have fun…me, Pun, Fat Joe, and a couple of my homeboys from around the way. We would do a lot of shows together…a lot of touring together. From that, we ended up doing [‘Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)’]. Inspectah Deck is incredible with his. That verse on ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ is one of my favorite verses ever.”
Murda Muzik--Mobb Deep (1999)
“We feel like every album we have something to prove. It comes from the Juvenile Hell thing and people wanting to see if we were flukes or not. After Hell on Earth that same feeling was in the air: Can these dudes actually do this again? Biggie had come out and really changed the game. Everything was flashy after that; Versace, Jay-Z started coming with his type of music. It was like a whole other style had crept in. It was more musical, more flashy…that’s when it started to creep in and gain momentum. So that was another thing that we had to defeat. Just going against that grain and doing what we do, and making it work.
When I first heard the ‘Quiet Storm’ beat I was coming into the studio late one night. Havoc and Noyd was in the studio working on the beat. I was like, ‘Damn, that shit is ill right there.’ It was mad up-tempo, real fast. It was way in the 100’s. It reminded me of some house music. [But] Noyd and Hav were leaving to go do something, and I was like, ‘Y’all leaving? You ain’t recording on this right here???’ And they were like, ‘Nah, we’ll be right back.’ They left and didn’t come back [laughs]! So I was like, ‘You know what? I’m getting on this beat and I’m going to make a whole song to it. I’m taking this right here.’
At the time, I was working on my solo album, so I thought [‘Quiet Storm’] was a nice one to snatch. I recorded it and when they heard it they were like, ‘Aw man!’ The first person I gave [my version] to was DJ Clue. And Clue was filling in for Funk Master Flex at the Tunnel at that time. So when we would go to the Tunnel on Sunday, suddenly Clue started playing it. It wasn’t mixed or nothing. I think he had got it pressed up on wax. So I’m at the Tunnel and we are partying and shit, and all of a sudden [‘Quiet Storm’] comes on! I’m thinking, ‘Why is he playing this in the club?’ But then I seen the people reacting to it. They must have heard it on his mixtape. After that, every weekend they would play it in the Tunnel. And more and more people would like it, and would start dancing to it when it came on. So that’s how that song really got hot. After that, I saw the reaction like, ‘Oh, we got something here, kid.’ Even Hav and them were like, ‘This is something...’ Then we decided to put it on a Mobb Deep album because we needed a powerful single.
We treat Mobb Deep more important than anything else. Mobb Deep was priority no. 1 over Prodigy or anything else we can do. So we grabbed Lil Kim and put her on the remix to the ‘Quiet Storm’ joint, and that really helped to boost the female following of Mobb Deep. I was there when Kim wrote it and was recording it. So it was just like crazy to see the whole process. I was like, ‘Wow…she’s ill.’ It brought a lot of ladies into buying our albums. That had a lot to do with Murda Muzik being so successful.
When Alchemist came into the picture it was just meant to be. Some of our friends were working with Cypress Hill out in Cali and they had met Alchemist. So they kept telling us, ‘Yo, we got this kid who makes beats.’ We go into the studio and I was like, ‘Oh, this white kid looks like he’s from Compton how he was dressing [laughs].’ He put his little beat tape in and I was like, ‘Whoa…he got some shit right here, man. This kid is nice.’ Right away I was like, ‘Yo, let me get this beat for the Murda Muzik album, son.’ That sparked off that relationship. Ever since then we’ve just been working with him. So it was good to add a little new flavor, a new sound into what we already had.
[Going platinum] was great. But at the same time, I really didn’t care about the plaque part of it. I was more, ‘Where’s the platinum money at?’ [laughs] I can’t sell a platinum plaque. This is not real money, right here. So the realization hit me even more like, ‘Damn…we actually making these dudes rich over our hard work.’ We signed to a label thinking, ‘We just made these dudes in the past four, five years, $50 million.’ And we made some good money…a few mil here and there. But we made these dudes put-your-grandkids-through-college money. That’s what [the success of Murda Muzik] made me think about.”
“With that first H.N.I.C. album, my plan with that was to make some more money. We started to see a pattern of a Mobb Deep album every two years. So when I saw that pattern I was like, ‘Wait a minute…I can make some money in between there.’ Two years was a big gap. We had so many songs…thousands of songs. And all these songs were just sitting there. So I decided, ‘You know what? Let me take these songs right here, and cut me a check.’ A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, you leaving Mobb Deep? You going solo? P and Hav not fucking with each other no more.’But it was nothing like that.
I was just filling that space. And it definitely worked. On ’Keep It Thoro,’ Alchemist really stepped up to the plate with that one. He was like, ‘Yo, I got something for you…check this out.’ We recorded that in Manhattan at the Sound Track studios. [When I rhymed ‘I’ll throw a TV set at you, crazy’], I was just rapping, having fun. You be so angry that you just wanna pick something up and hit somebody with it [laughs]. That’s how I was feeling. I was actually working on H.N.I.C. at the same time I was working on Murda Muzik. We were just in that zone. I was also working on the Murda Muzik movie, writing that script. There was a lot going on.”
Infamy--Mobb Deep (2001)
“On the Infamy, I could definitely say I was starting to feel myself. I was really being cocky about everything. I started going in a real bad direction when we were working on that album. Then on top of that, I had a little feud with Jay-Z. And what I did was instead of using the Art of War and the 48 Laws of Power—and both of those are real laws you can put into practice—I was writing angry. I wanted to do something to this nigga [laughs]. It was coming out in the lyrics. I know how strong we are as far as the streets is concerned. I know our strength and what we can do. So when I heard somebody talking like that…What??? You out of your mind or something?’
Instead of being strategic and being calm, and being regular and just doing what I do, I was angry. I got emotional about it. So when you get like that you not thinking clearly. You are not going to make the right moves. You are going to make moves based on your anger instead of being strategic and thinking clear.
I was going the complete wrong way in life. Havoc was just like, ‘Whatever you want to do, P.’ I was basically [telling Jay-Z], ‘Listen man…when we catch you, we gonna beat the shit out you [laughs].’ You could tell the difference when you hear a song like [Nas’] ‘Ether’ that was going at Jay at that time. Because Jay was going at me and then Nas jumped in and we all started going at it. So when Nas came with ‘Ether,’ it just shut everything down. Prodigy got knocked out the picture. Jay almost got knocked out the picture. If he wasn’t so smart and powerful, that song would have done him in. I could tell by listening to Nas’ song that he really just approached it the right way. I definitely commend him on that one because to this day I know Jay…it hurts him to listen to that song [laughs].”
Amerikaz Nightmare--Mobb Deep (2004)
“Sometimes record deals happen based on who you know. That Jive deal happened because of our connections in the music industry. We could have got a deal from anywhere. We were getting offers from Warner Bros., and from Universal. My man worked at Universal…Kedar [Massenburg]. He really wanted to do the deal with us, but we chose Jive because Chris [Lighty] was in there. I think that’s how it happened. Chris was like, ‘We are going to make it [happen] right over here.’ [But] when we got in there, I think Jive didn’t really want to do that. It just didn’t work out.
[But] Amerikaz Nightmare is definitely one of my favorite albums. That album is crazy. We talk about that album a lot. And it did its normal numbers. It just didn’t pan out with the label. I feel like our creativity stepped up at that time from Infamy to Amerikaz Nightmare, I got a little bit more back on track, but I was still in that little funk.”
Blood Money--Mobb Deep (2006)
“What was good about [our deal with 50 Cent’s G-Unit] was that Loud Records was good for us because we helped to build that label to a certain point. They made a lot of money off of us and the Wu-Tang Clan. They’re whole structure was built off of Mobb Deep and the Wu, so there was an emotional attachment with Steve Rifkind (founder and head of Loud Records). This was his baby…he wanted to see us succeed. It was like, ‘What’s the budget for the Mobb Deep album? Nah…add some more to the budget. Make sure that works.’ So we lost that. We were left to find somewhere where we could have some kind of success still. We were not the main focus [at Jive] because they had all these crazy major artists that sell way more records than us. We just never had that after Steve.
So when 50 came in he was inspired by Mobb Deep’s music. That’s what made him want to start rapping. He’s from Queens; we had a lot of friends in common, so we just seen the same attachment from 50 to our music. He genuinely wanted to see Mobb Deep succeed. He wanted us to be in certain circles; wanted us to have a certain type of lifestyle. When we saw that and saw it was genuine, we were like, ‘Yeah, we need to make this deal, son.’
[‘The Infamous’] video shoot was crazy. I be watching that video like, ‘Um, um, um.’ Those were good times [laughs]. Basically it was a Super Bowl party we threw at 50 Cent’s crib. And we invited all the DJ’s from around the country, the mixshow DJ’s, and all the ladies that we knew that were video girls and all that. All of our friends came through and we just did it up. We had a lot of fun. We just happened to shoot a video in between all of that.
I was happy with the way [Blood Money] turned out. But one thing I could say, and I didn’t notice it until I was locked up. I’m sitting in prison for three years and I got time to sit and look at life outside in. So I’m listening to the album, and I have never realized how many songs 50 was on. We had [Lloyd] Banks, [Tony] Yayo, [Young] Buck…they were on so many songs on [Blood Money]. And I’m like, ‘Wow…why the hell did we put them on all these songs?’ I never realized that we did that while we were making that album. When we was [recording] that album, we was just having fun with our new crew. We were making music with our favorite group and they were making music with their favorite group. We didn’t realize what we were doing.
We never took the time to say, ‘Yo, hold up, stop everything. Yo listen 50, you got to come off of three songs [laughs]. Banks, you just get on this; maybe Yayo, you just do the chorus.’ It was too much. At first people used to tell me, ‘That album is too G-Unit.’ People didn’t really know how to say. Or maybe I wasn’t taking it the right way. But yeah, I see what they were saying now. That album is definitely too G-Unit because G-Unit was on too many of the songs on that album.”
Return of the Mac Prodigy
H.N.I.C. Pt. 2--Prodigy (2008)
“This is an extension of the first H.N.I.C. On this one, [again], I was really going against the grain with a lot of stuff. I had a song called ‘Real Power Is People.’ I was saying money is worthless…fuck jewelry, fuck rims…let’s spend it on our protection. That was my mind state at that time. I wanted to do something different because I seen that everybody was doing the same things, and I don’t like doing the same things as everybody else. I come from the era where niggas don’t bite off of each other. So I try to be different. My whole mentality on this album was that I’m not rocking jewelry anymore. I’m going to start a new trend. I make the songs the way I want to make them. If I feel like making a song with 32 bars and no chorus, I’ll do that. If I feel like making a one bar chorus, I’m going to do that. I’m going to be creative, I’m going to be unique, and I’m going to be different. H.N.I.C. 2 is just the start of that.”
The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP--Prodigy (2011)
“I learned my lesson from doing the Return of the Mack album. Because when I look back on it people were actually thinking that was my album. It sold whatever. So [you learn] that money is not always the most important thing. What’s most important when it comes to our music is making sure our brand has stayed strong at a certain level, and doesn’t come down from there. So when I was working on this EP I decided to make it for free this time. Because someone could have easily paid me a lot of money for a new Prodigy album after I just came home from jail. But I didn’t do that. I’m not going to have people call this an album. This [will be] a free download EP of some songs. I put that out there because I know people want something…they want to hear what’s going on in my mind after I came home from jail. They want to hear what kind of music I got, how I’ve been writing.
But our first priority right now is Mobb Deep. I’m not really trying to sell anything else except for a Mobb Deep album. It’s coming along crazy. [We’ve done] hundreds of songs already since I’ve been home. We reached out to Nas…I worked out my little differences with him so we could start recording songs again. We’ve been working on some features, some surprise guests on the album that’s crazy. Right now, we are just free agents. We just working on the album and then we’ll figure out the label situation.
[I wrote My Infamous Life book] because of my families’ legacy and [my legacy] in the entertainment industry and in the music world. My great, great, great grandfather was in politics. He was one of the people who built and founded Morehouse College. I got a crazy family history that a lot of people don’t know about. So I felt like that needed to be put out there and preserved for my next generation together as a story so they can see where they come from. Also, dealing with my sickle cell anemia that I was born with, I got it under control. [I wanted to show] how I learned to defeat that. And dealing with the music industry with Mobb Deep and the ups and downs we’ve been through and how we’ve maintained to stay together through all the bullshit in the industry.
We just really trying to take it there for the next 20 years of our career. Our whole goal with Mobb Deep is to be one of the longest lasting, most consistent rap groups in history. We are really trying to make history. And we are definitely going to do that. Everyday me and Havoc are in the studio constantly on our P’s and Q’s. We can’t let these people write us off like we are washed up or we fell off. Our goal is to show people that we here for as long as we want to be here. It’s up to us when we want to slow down and stop. Big Noyd got a couple of songs with us. It’s the same thing, but we sound more crispy. Of course with the digital age, the beats sound more crispy…the beats are on a new level. We updated the lyrics. We telling the same story over and over again, but you have to be real creative to know how to do that.”