Yesterday, hip-hop and rap lovers everywhere were directed to terrible news that Prodigy, the other half of the legendary duo Mobb Deep, had passed away due to illness whilst performing in the Art of Rap Tour in Las Vegas. Joined by other fellow rappers such Mobb Deep’s other half Havoc, Ghostface Killah, Ice-T, tributes have been pouring in all day from renown hip-hop artists in tribute to the influence he’s had on them and his contribution to the rap game.
Real name Albert Johnson was born in a midst of a musical family in New York and from the early age of 16, had already made a guest appearance on the Boyz N The Hood soundtrack, under the alias Lord-T, on the song “Too Young” by Hi-Five in 1991:
Shortly after, he was introduced to Havoc in high school, becoming the “Poetical Prophets” before changing their name to ‘The Infamous Mobb Deep’. Their debut album ‘Juvenile Hell’ came out in 1993, before a year later one of their most renown tracks was released as a single – “Shook Ones Part 1”:
This was the same year NAS had released his biggest record ‘Illmatic’, following a similar lyrical approach and the Notorious B.I.G released ‘Ready to Die’, both big players of shaping the rap scene of the East Coast in the genre’s golden age where the West Coast had taken charge. In 1995 everything changed, their second album ‘The Infamous’ rose Mobb Deep to be one of the most prolific East Coast artists, the narration of street life and the struggles of living in New York’s Queensbridge Houses being center of the record’s subject.
By 1996 they had released their third album ‘Hell On Earth’, debuting at number six on the Billboard Album Chart, continuing on the portrayal of harsh street life and putting them amongst the star rappers of the East Coast which included Notorious B.I.G, Jay-Z, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and Big L.
The duo went on to collaborate with a ton of other artists, released 8 albums, had feuds with the West Coast rappers, broke up and got back together again in the 2010s, all whilst never letting go of their friendship as well as their passion. Whilst they were known for their hardcore, dark gangsta rap, they are to this day one of the most successful rap duos in hip-hop, having sold millions of records and influencing a long line of rappers in the genre. Prodigy himself also had a prolific solo career, releasing 8 albums even through various feuds and legal issues, teaming up with The Alchemist, 50-Cent as well as many more. It’s always awful to hear the death of artists, especially drivers and game-changers like Prodigy for rap as well as hip-hop. His lyrical sense as well as flow are something that hadn’t been seen, it’s very distinctive and anytime he would make an appearance on a song, you could clearly pick him out. There is so much more to discover about him and there are documentaries, interviews and biographies that I recommend checking out to better understand the rapper.
He will be dearly missed by the rap scene, the songs he’s produced over the years have become cults of the genre and will forever stay with us – RIP Prodigy.