As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mobb Deep‘s monumental sophomore album The Infamous, I pause and say to myself, “Damn, Prodigy is really dead.” Prodigy has been gone for three years now. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when he passed. I was at work walking through the lobby, going through my Instagram feed, and when I saw Nas’ post with the caption that read, “R.I.P. Prodigy,” I yelled, “Yo, what the fuck man!” I called my brother over the intercom and said, “Son, Prodigy is dead kid.” The way I was acting you would have thought I knew Prodigy personally. I only saw him once in 2001 at a show back home in North Carolina. Like many other 80s babies, Prodigy and Havoc helped curate the music for our lives soundtrack.
The infamous was the first album I bought with my own money. I was on a trip with my boy scout troop leader and he found the tape and listened to it and said, “Look, you’re either gonna head my troop and stop listening to this filth or you can go.” It was on that cold February day in 1997 that I can say I married Hip Hop officially. It was because of Mobb Deep that I stopped listening to Tupac for several years because of the diss records. Me and my bestfriend, Bryan, actually got into a fight with these cats over Mobb Deep because we said, “Man, fuck Pac.” It was a three-on-three scuffle, but the other kid with us ran off. That’s 20 years of memories. That’s why his death hit me so hard.
Mobb Deep was a huge impact in my own sound of music. Prodigy’s delivery made him one of the illest lyricists I’ve heard in my life and he was a vivid storyteller as well. That verse on “Nighttime Vultures” earned him a hip hop quotable and you can’t tell me you can’t envision that.
“I can recall an eight man brawl three men fall / Bullets flew I had to drug my man behind a wall
Left a wet trail, delivered these slugs like air mail / Directly at the cat that made my man blood spill…” — Prodigy
When I interviewed Cormega and asked him about Prodigy, he said:
“I respected Prodigy because he wasn’t one of those rappers who wanted to hear your verse first and then he wants to do his verse. He had mad confidence in his craft.” — Cormega
For more on the Cormega interview, click here:
Son of Queensbridge: Cormega (Interview)
Over the years, Prodigy did several collabs with Nas like, “Eye for an Eye,” “Live Nigga Rap,” “Tick Tock,” “It’s Mine,” and many more. You can tell that both kept each other on their toes like a friendly competition. But I still think P got him on “Tick Tock”. I’m glad that they squashed their beef before he passed.
When I found out that P was supposed to be on the Havoc produced Biggie joint, “Last Day,” but turned it down because he wasn’t part of Big’s crew, can’t lie, I was a little pissed like, “Dude, do you know how epic that would have been?!” The legend of Prodigy is even more epic knowing that he went head up with Tupac, Nas, Keith Murray and the most notorious of them all, Jay-Z.
I remember how pissed Prodigy was in that Source Magazine interview when he talked about how Hov handled the east coast/west coast beef. If I’m not mistaken, he said something along the lines of, “When the beef was on, you was quiet and wanna talk when the beef was over.” Prodigy followed that with a few diss records. Of course Hov didn’t take that too lightly and at the now infamous Summer Jam plastered a picture of a young dancing Prodigy. According to Prodigy, Hov possibly obtained the pictures from Ashanti because she was once a student at his grandmother’s dance school. I can’t lie, I thought that move would’ve killed P’s career. P still got a gold plaque for Infamy and another gold plaque for H.N.I.C.
Mobb Deep didn’t make, quote on quote, “club music.” But when “Shook Ones” comes on in any club, I promise you that even the prettiest chick in high heels is gonna go crazy like she got on Timbs and a Champion hoodie. People forget that Havoc went off on “Shook Ones” also, but there’s something about Prodigy’s verse that does something to you.
When “Quiet Storm” dropped, I was happy that the mainstream recognized what me and so many others knew. P was that nigga! When we talk greatest MC’s ever, you have to put P in that conversation. He spit bars with Pun, Raekwon, Nas, Jadakiss – you know, some of the best ever. At times, Prodigy pissed people off. Example of that is his controversial book, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy. Some of the things he said I personally wouldn’t have said publicly, but that was P.
Till this day, I regret missing his concert at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC. I said in my head, “I’ll catch him next time.” Unfortunately, that never happened because four months later he was gone. Prodigy helped influence a generation of MC’s and I’m sure his music will influence others for many generations to come. Although he’s no longer here in the physical, anytime you hear the line, “I got you stuck off the realness…,” you know that Bandana P is still living on. Rest well, my dude. Catch you on the other side.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. The list goes on and on and on…