BY BRIEN EDWARDS It’s been nearly two decades since Mobb Deep’s East Coast hardcore lodestar The Infamous was released for public consumption. To mark said milestone, the straight-outta-Queens duo has re-released the album — this time as a double album titled The Infamous Mobb Deep that includes 17 bonus tracks featuring the likes of Snoop Dogg, Bun B, Juicy J, and Nas. Even better, Havoc and Prodigy have reunited for a summer-long tour in support of the new album that stops at the TLA on May 8th. Recently, Phawker sat down with Albert “Prodigy” Johnson to discuss Mobb Deep’s hiatus, internal feuding, and the current state of hip-hop.
PHAWKER: The Infamous Mobb Deep is your first album since 2006’s Blood Money. Why the eight year gap between albums?
PRODIGY: Well, we put out the Blood Money album around 2006 — something like that — and you know, we went on tour — launched a couple world tours with [50 Cent] and Eminem. When I came back, I started working on my next solo project which was Return Of The Mac with Alchemist. I dropped that around 2007, and then I got locked up for three years.
PHAWKER: For doing what?
PRODIGY: Yeah, I got caught with an illegal firearm in my car, and they sentenced me to three and a half years in prison. During that time, Mobb Deep was kind of quiet because I wasn’t around. You know, I dropped a few solo projects is what I was doing — dropped H.N.I.C Pt.2, and I dropped a project called Product of the 80’s which I was showcasing two of my artists, Big Twins Gambino and Un Pacino. So, yeah. I did the three years out of the three and a half — they knocked off the half — the six months for good time, and then I came home in 2011, and went back to Mobb Deep.
PHAWKER: But then Mobb Deep went on hiatus in 2012 due to some feuding between Havoc and yourself — what happened exactly?
PRODIGY: That was just us going through our little differences. Every group or relationship, they always go through their differences, and maybe personality clashes or whathaveyou — disagreements — and being that we live in the age of social media with the Internet and everything, it spilled out to the public, you know what I mean?
PRODIGY: That was nothing. That was like a small thing. We understand that our music and our friendship — our career — everything that we’re doing — is more important than little bullshit arguments or disagreements.
PRODIGY: Nah. We love each other. [Havoc’s] my homie. We’ve been through a lot together — real shit that we’ve been through — life and death situations we been through. We created Mobb Deep together and had a lot of success — been around the world together — did a lot. So, between us, nah — we good.
PHAWKER: In the eight years since Blood Money, hip-hop has changed quite a bit — what are your thoughts on some of the “new school” artist, and where do you guys fit in with that new brand of hip-hop?
PRODIGY: First of all, we cemented our brand, and our brand is written in stone in hip-hop — that’s never going nowhere. We created an era along with Wu-tang, Biggie, Nas, and we created a sound and we set the landscape for the whole entire 90’s — what it’s supposed to sound like, look like. So, that’s never going nowhere no matter the trends — every trend you can think of, we’ve been through eras — we’ve seen this shit come and go. It’s just another day to us, you know what I mean? That shit ain’t going nowhere to us. But as far as the new school, as far as the new artist and shit, to me, Kendrick Lamar is my favorite rapper out of all the new artists. I been said that before he really got popular like that, his album came out, and I was telling people listen to it. I didn’t even know him, know what I’m saying? I’m just a fan of his music. But, to me, he’s like the one that stands out the most out of the new artists. I definitely like the other artists like A$AP Mob — I like Wiz Khalifa — a bunch of different artists, but Kendrick to me has that quality I’m looking for, and the uniqueness, and the creativity, and the look of an entertainer of hip-hop.
PHAWKER: Speaking of Kendrick Lamar, the Internet exploded when he dropped that controversial verse on Big Sean’s “Control” calling out J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Wale, Pusha T, Meek Mill, ASAP Rocky, Drake, Tyler The Creator and Mac Miller. Others just thought it was par for the course. What was your take on that?
PRODIGY: I mean, he shook things up. He shook things up with that verse. I likes it like that. That’s my style — I like shaking shit up. I like starting trouble, you know what I mean? That’s how I came up as a young’n. Yeah, I like that type of shit. We need more of that. We need more of that nowadays, because it seems like ever since 50 Cent had his success with the hardcore gangster music and all of that — the reality of what 50 does — to me, it seems like the powers that be, in the music industry were kind of afraid of that. To me, if I can make a good assessment of what happened to hip-hop in the past seven to eight years, I think the commercial success of 50’s hardcore music scared a lot of people. I think they were scared that someone like that had a lot of money and power, and he wasn’t conforming to whatever the norm was — he didn’t give a fuck. He’d speak out against whoever saying “Fuck this person. Fuck that person. I’m a corporate power”. He didn’t care — he’d speak his mind. I think that scared a lot of people with positions of power, and it kind of motivated them to change the direction of the sound of hip-hop — make it more friendly — make it more commercial and get away from all the hardcore stuff. I kind of see that that’s what happened, you know what I mean? The powers of radio, TV, distributors, the retail stores — it kind of shifted in a way. All those records are deliberate — like, somebody did that on purpose. Not an all the way bad thing, but I think it was purposely done.
PHAWKER: It’s just different. Okay. Alright. And finally, you and Havoc met in high school, making this ride about 20 years long now, with both of you heading into your 40’s — if you had to do it all over, would you do anything differently, and why?
PRODIGY: Nah, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I wouldn’t do it differently because it made me who I am and made me think the way I think. Shit happens for a reason — shit don’t happen by a mistake.
PHAWKER: You guys are approaching 40, not getting any younger, but how long do you think you will continue rapping for?
PRODIGY: As long as I feel like it. Tell Mick Jagger how long is he going to go for. B.B.King — all these dudes — Eric Clapton — R.I.P James Brown — all these motherfuckers, man — ask them that same question.