|Prodigy||Albert Johnson||November 2nd, 1974 Hempstead, Long Island, NY|
|Havoc||Kejuan Muchita||May 21st, 1974 Long Island City, Queens, New York|
Label: G-Unit/Interscope Records
Mobb Deep are a hip hop duo which consists of rappers Havoc and Prodigy. They are perhaps most famous for their landmark 1995 album The Infamous, and for their hit single, "Shook Ones Pt. II". They are currently signed to G-Unit Records. Although the group hasn't seen a large amount of commercial success, the majority of their albums have been met with critical acclaim, in particular for The Infamous, which is considered an East Coast Classic, in the same league as Nas' Illmatic, and Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die.
Havoc and Prodigy started rapping in the late 1980s when the two met at the High School of Art and Design in New York City. Havoc took on the role of producer, while Prodigy assumed the position of primary rapper. Originally dubbing themselves the Poetical Profits, they later changed their name to Mobb Deep in order to "reflect their reputation on the streets." In their early career, they released the single "Cop Hell".
While both members of the duo were only 17, they released their début album Juvenile Hell, which was led by the single "Peer Pressure". The album sold very poorly and was met with harsh reviews that wrote the duo off as just another hardcore group with little to distinguish them from the rest of the rap world. However, a few songs from Juvenile Hell gained a little recognition, such as "Hit It from the Back", "Locked in Spofford," and "Me & My Crew". Also in 1993, Havoc had a guest appearance in the critically acclaimed Black Moon album Enta Da Stage, on a song called "U Da Man".
Rise to success
Still at a young age, the duo powered themselves to the top of the hardcore rap scene through their straightforward narration of street life. As with their first lyrical production, Mobb Deep portrayed the struggles of living in New York City's Queensbridge Houses. Following its release, The Infamous became one of the most influential hip hop albums of the East Coast hardcore rap genre ever. Their production also was noticed as the beats were often hard hitting and direct, a testament to Havoc, who produced the duos' tracks almost exclusively throughout their careers. Furthermore, the smash hit single "Shook Ones Pt. II", received critical acclaim and was well-received within the hip hop community. Their third album, Hell on Earth was released in 1996, debuting at number six on the Billboard album chart. The album continued their portrayal of a harsh street life, while further pushing them to the forefront of the hardcore rap scene, along with contemporary East Coast rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G., the Wu-Tang Clan collective, Jay-Z, and fellow Queensbridge associate Nas.
In 1999, the duo released the highly anticipated Murda Muzik album. Despite extensive bootlegging (nearly thirty songs of unreleased material leaked onto the internet) and countless delays, the album debuted at number three on Billboard and quickly went platinum — further highlighted by the popular single, "Quiet Storm." Shortly afterwards, Prodigy released his long awaited solo album H.N.I.C., in which the rapper collaborated with other artists (B.G., N.O.R.E.) and producers (including The Alchemist, Rockwilder, and Just Blaze).
Shortly after the release of Murda Muzik, rapper Jay-Z spoke out against the duo, leading to an increase in publicity. Rumour has it that Prodigy took issue with two Jay-Z lines, which he felt were subliminal shots at Mobb Deep. One line from Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter states, "How dare you look at Jigga like I'm shook like boo", which he interpreted as a reference to "Shook Ones Pt. II". These remarks were compounded with a line from another one of Jay-Z's albums, Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life: "What the deal is? (huh?)/Its like New York's been soft/Ever since Snoop came through and crushed the buildings," which Prodigy felt referenced Mobb Deep's beef with Tupac, Snoop, and Death Row Records. Later, at the Hot 97 Summer Jam show of 2001, Jay-Z performed "Takeover", which attacked Prodigy and which he later re-recorded for his album The Blueprint. He also revealed photographs of a young Prodigy dressed up like Michael Jackson in 1983, although Jay-Z claimed it was 1988.
Mobb Deep subsequently released Infamy in 2001. The song "Burn" (featuring Vita) was perceived as a response to Jay-Z's diss on The Blueprint. The album marked a major stylistic change that saw the duo move away from the raw, minimalist, stripped-down beats of their hardcore roots, towards a more commercial fare with such songs as "Hey Luv (Anything)". This transition fostered accusations of "selling out" — upsetting many long-time fans who did not wish to see them veer away from their original style.
Although these stylistic adjustments opened up Mobb's audience to a wider variety, many critics and fans credit Prodigy's feud with Jay-Z as damaging to Mobb Deep's gangster image and record sales (most evident when comparing the platinum-selling Murda Muzik to Infamy which struggled to attain the gold record status). There were no retaliation diss records back from these rappers.
In 2003, the group split with Loud Records and released Free Agents: The Murda Mix Tape in which they proclaimed themselves as "free agents", addressing the group's split with Loud and search for a new label. Jive Records signed the duo later in the year and subsequently released Amerikaz Nightmare in 2004, which was seen by the general rap audience as a weaker release by the two, resulting in poor sales and the subsequent dropping of the duo from Jive.