18 June, 2013@7:43 am
It was a sad day in the year of the group’s 20th anniversary, that we saw Mobb Deep suddenly break-up, after Havoc publicly blasted Prodigy via Twitter, followed by a leaked audio recording of Hav spitting more vitriol towards P. While rumors of the group’s demise date back almost a decade, they have always kept it together, and even in this case, which resulted in a Prodigy dis track slated for Havoc’s 13 LP, “Separated (Real From The Fake)”. Havoc and Prodigy have since patched things up, yet have still chosen to release separate solo LP’s (Havoc’s 13 and Prodigy’s Albert Einstein w/ Alchemist) within a month of one another. This begs the question whether this is internal competition (friendly or otherwise), or smart piggyback marketing, à la Jay and Kanye. The answer? Probably a little bit of both.
Neither member directly touches upon the events of the last year on either project, although lines from each rapper’s album definitely stand out. Hav says on “Life We Chose”: “All that beefing shit is corny, nigga, faker than the Twitter beef”, while P seems to go in a little deeper on the opening track of his LP, “IMDKV”, with a much more in-depth verse that seems to mirror last year’s scenario: “Niggas wan’ do when you see me off camera / Nigga strip who? I’ll beat you till you lavender / You banned from the functions and concerts, cancel son / Void that, you can’t cash that, stop frontin’ / You ain’t never see me in the streets while we was beefing / Talkin’ ’bout I white flagged you and said it’s all peace / When you know damn well it’s apocalypse season…”.
But indirect lyrics can be aimed at virtually anyone, with sort of a “if the shoe fits” mentality. That said, it’s easy for them to vehemently deny that there is any beef still lingering, in a Rolling Stones / Eagles / A Tribe Called Quest we-hate-each-other-but-we-still-tour-together fashion. Considering that Hav appears on Prodigy’s LP, take that how you will.
Havoc’s 13 was released in April via Nature Sounds, and is a decidedly different album that P’s Albert Einstien. Hav produces all but two of the album’s thirteen tracks, giving the LP an unmistakably post-Murda Muzik Mobb Deep sound, yet is more comparable to P’s solo debut, H.N.I.C., which attempted to hit several different audiences with a multitude of styles.
But 13 is mostly rooted in polished up versions of dusty samples, such as on “Favorite Rap Stars” (feat. Raekwon and Styles P), which re-freaks the old Smut Peddlers “One By One” break (Lyn Christopher’s “Take Me With You”), and beefs it up with heavy, Dre-like pianos and synths. Hav’s found a way to shine up many rare crate dug gems of unknown origin, all over this LP, such as on “Life We Chose” and “Colder Days”, giving them a bigger studio sound. Titles like the aforementioned two tracks pretty much define the subject matter of LP, which is more or less par for the course on any Mobb Deep album.
While Hav does try to go outside of the QB boro on the Twista featured “Eyes Open” and the silky “This World” with Masspike Miles, rarely does he stray off course. “Tell It To My Face” with Royce Nickle Nine absolutely shines, while later additions to the album “Hear Dat” and “Already Tomorrow” show a solid consistency throughout.
But for an album that teems with tough guy talk and cold tales of the struggle, it’s interesting to hear it end on a somewhat positive note, on “Long Road”, where Havoc reflects on his career thus far, thanking “the higher power” for the events that made him who he is today.
This school of thought, however, is exactly what separates 13 from Albert Einstein, which presents Prodigy as a prison-system hardened, evil bastard, unwilling to conform to whatever the industry expects from him, such as Hav’s attempts at capturing southern or R&B audiences. Nope, Prodigy’s album is perhaps the darkest, most uncompromising material he’s ever recorded, steered by the dirty, unpredictable production of Alchemist, who unlike Havoc, chooses rawness over cleaner, studio shine. Listening to both albums back-to-back in an iTunes playlist immediately draws this line in the sand, taking a sharp, darker turn once “LMDKV” rings in. Driven by a brooding, 70′s horror film piano backdrop, and unapologetic first verse (which again, may be aimed at Havoc), shows a clear difference between the two rappers’ approach to the creative process.
“Give Em Hell”, which starts off with a sample from The King Of New York, mirrors Prodigy’s post-prison mindset, as Chris Walken’s Frank White says hauntingly “I must have been away too long, because….. I feel no remorse.”, before dropping into one of Al’s signature chopped loops for P to shine on. This sentiment continues throughout the album, reaching it’s pinnacle on “Confessions”, a soliloquy of chaos that finds P unapologetically catching one of his enemies on the street, killing him in front of his daughter, then considering how it will traumatize her, just before pistol whipping the “little hoe” and skating off. Damn, dude?!?
While this type of socially irresponsible lyricism is reprehensible, what it also says is that P has managed to not only shock even this jaded old listener that has heard it all, but all while painting an incredibly vivid picture that you can’t help but visualize in horror. Ladies and gentlemen, Prodigy is back.
But this is not before several other stand out moments on the album, which plays incredibly throughout it’s sixteen tracks, with Alchemist constantly surprising the listener with his volatile production style. Al blazes uncharted territory with tracks like “Stay Dope”, “Dough Pildin”, “Breeze”, and “Curb Ya Dog”, bringing the best out in P’s flow, which has been under scrutiny over the past few years. “R.I.P.” (w/ Havoc and Raekwon) plays like the b-side to Hav’s own “Favorite Rap Stars”, while “The One” (w/ Action Bronson) finds the two feeding off Al’s cracking guitar licks.
Truth be told, Alchemist’s production is what makes Albert Einstein such an ill record, almost to the point where his name should be listed first. P’s time away has given him time to get lyrically physically fit, and reignited the hunger that made “Keep It Thoro” such a strong record.
All in all, despite their differences, Havoc and Prodigy have released a pair of strong solo albums, and perhaps the competitive spirt between the two has lent to this. 13 is good, Albert Einstien is great. Here is hoping they can once again combine their talents and create something truly classic. Long live Mobb Deep.
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