Words By Khalid Strickland
Pics By Eric Russ
On Thursday, I attended the listening party for Prodigy’s latest album, H.N.I.C. Pt. 2, at Smash Studios in NYC and it was a pretty cool event. After indulging in the catered soul food and Hennessey that was on hand, I went into one of Smash’s many sound-proofed rooms to preview P’s latest jump-off, along with the other journalists in attendance. Close friends and affiliates of Mobb Deep such as Big Noyd, Un Pacino and Superb (Supreme Clientele’s alleged ghostwriter, no pun intended) also soaked in the album; heads around the room nodded to the concrete-hard beats emanating from the studio’s massive speakers. With top-notch production by The Alchemist and P’s longtime co-defendant Havoc anchoring H.N.I.C. Pt. 2, heads had no choice but to nod.
The album is a welcome return to Prodigy’s dark, edgy and gleefully grimy roots. There’s no gloss to be found here. Voxonic, the company which will be releasing H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 on its Vox Music imprint, has developed software that can translate the album into various languages, using Prodigy’s own voice. Prodigy will be the first Hip-Hop artist to usher in this new technology and challenge the traditional marketing methods. Now the entire world can hear that NYC gutter shit in their native tongue.
Eventually, Havoc and Alchemist showed up at Smash Studios to face the press and speak on behalf of their locked-up comrade. Before the PR people got things under control, the media session was more like a free-for-all. I had to throw some â€˜bows to get through the mosh-pit of unruly journalists, photographers and star-struck groupies (both female & male), but I got to chop it up with Hav and Al. I asked a media-weary (and most likely blunted) Havoc what P’s current incarceration means for Mobb Deep in general.
“On a different level, fuck rapâ€¦ as a person and my brother that I knew for half of my life, it’s a missing piece of the puzzle obviously,” Havoc replied. “Nobody don’t want to see their peoples in jail. I’m just hoping for the best and a quick return.”
“We’re like brothers, and I think a lot of groups, they don’t have that same feeling towards each other,” Havoc explained, touching on how Mobb Deep has hung tough all these years. “So they might have a fallout that they can’t repair. Me and him could never have the kind of fallout that we can’t never repair. Of course, we’ve had our fallouts, like brothers. Brothers fight, but so what? It ain’t gonna fuck with the music.”
With so many rappers getting arrested for gun-related crimes, a lot of critics are quick to rush to judgment. They may not understand the circumstances that make some artists feel that they have to pack a piece. Hav wasn’t concerned about their opinions, however.
“Everybody got their own reasons why they might walk around with what they walk around with. And it ain’t for people to judge, na’mean? If you want to judge, that’s your business. It ain’t my problem. I don’t care either way so it don’t bother me.”
Alchemist, like Havoc, seems to bring out the best in Prodigy with his rugged production. Al and P have gelled on numerous projects, including the hot Return of the Mac mixtape, so I asked him what made working with Prodigy different from collaborating with other artists.
“P just stays on the couch, we’re basically in the same crib for weeks at a time sometimes,” expounded Alchemist. “So it ain’t even like work really. We just do what we do. In the outcome, we get paid to do what we do. But really, working with Pâ€¦ it’s nothing. (We’re) both Scorpios, so we’re both stubborn. He knows how he wants to lay his rhymes, so I can give him a little direction but he really is focused. It’s a blessing to work with Mobb Deep, Hav and P in general.”
In contrast to most of the glittery, straight-off-the-assembly line beats that glaze the airwaves, Alchemist’s production is dusty, grimy and organic. But Al, far from a staunch elitist, has appreciation for all styles of Hip-Hop music.
“I like how things are going, man,” Alchemist said of Hip-Hop music. “It dips and dives. It’s such a big genre that you couldn’t really even generalize where it’s really going. That shit has like, thirty-seven heads going in so many different directions. But what reaches the masses, what I’ve been hearing, is dope. I do different and that’s the one thing I think they would respect as well.”
H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 hit stores on 4.22.08.