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Rap Biographies: Mobb Deep

Mobb Deep
Mobb Deep, also known as The Infamous Mobb Deep, is a hip hop duo made up of Havoc and Prodigy. Both members are natives of Queensbridge, New York City; located in Long Island City. They are perhaps most famous for their landmark album, The Infamous, and their accompanying hit single, "Shook Ones Pt. II".

Mobb Deep started at the age of 17 as educated juveniles expressing lives deteriorated by the ghetto. The lives they lead involves pain and anger beyond the daily routine of normal teenagers. When they are forced to live in housing projects and look up to the street hustlers, who are making money and getting the attention. They rebel by rapping , cause they have talent and they know they wont be locked up.They release Juvenile Hell in 1993 and they recieve instanst attention from producers, DJ's and, record labels who see they talent and want a piece. The Large Professor remix and the DJ Premier tracks are evidence of these occurences. After being signed to Loud Records in 1994 they recoreded and prepared for the release of their sophomore album The Infamous Lp. This was recieved with great praise from critics and buyers alike.

It spread from the ghetto to the 'burbs with a cult following baised on singles like " Shook Ones pt.II","Survival of the Fittest", and "Temperature's Rising." Which boosted their statis talent wise and reinforced street credibal rhymes. With the 96' release of Hell On Earth, the evidence of older, wiser, more laid back references, produced.

Acknowledged as the more skilled member of the duo Mobb Deep on the mic, Prodigy spent years making a name for himself alongside partner Havoc on acclaimed albums such as Hell on Earth (1996) and Murda Muzik (1999) before releasing his first solo album, HNIC, on Loud Records in late 2000. With this album, Prodigy teamed up with a roster of outside producers such as the Alchemist and Rockwilder, trying to prove his own without Havoc's production to carry him. And even though Havoc did appear on two tracks, Prodigy undoubtedly proved himself to be a visionary solo artist, even going as far as to produce a couple songs himself. Though the album didn't elevate him to the superstar status of Jay-Z or DMX, Prodigy did win the hearts of both critics and fans alike as he had with his work in Mobb Deep, dropping harsh reality-based rhymes about the darker side of urban life with an unbalanced and sedate flow.

Prodigy and Havoc met one another while attending the prestigious Graphic Arts High School in Manhattan. Growing up in hostile environments that included the prevalence of poverty, drugs, and gang violence, Mobb Deep attempted to express their life experiences through rapping. They released their first album, Juvenile Hell, in 1993. At a time when East Coast hip hop was dominated by the jazziness of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and the Afro-centric stylings of Brand Nubian and Public Enemy, their style of music eschewed the popular conscious hip hop of the time, and reflected the harsh climate of New York City in the late-1980s and early-1990s. Because both Prodigy and Havoc were still in their teens at the time of their debut, many were surprised by the violent nature of the album. Although the album was not well-received by the public, it displayed the raw talent of the duo; the unique chemistry of Prodigy's lyrical delivery combined with Havoc's melancholy beats. Through this unique style, the duo were signed by Loud Records, and began recording their second album, The Infamous in 1995, which would establish the duo in the hardcore hip hop community.

Still at a young age, the duo powered themselves to the top of the hardcore rap scene through their straightforward narration of street life. As with their first lyrical production, Mobb Deep portrayed the struggles of living in New York City's Queensbridge. Following its release, The Infamous became perhaps one of the most influential hip hop albums of the East Coast hardcore rap genre. Their production also was noticed as the beats were often hard hitting and direct, a testament to Havoc, who produced the duos' tracks almost exclusively throughout their careers. Furthermore, the smash hit single "Shook Ones Pt. II", received critical acclaim and was well-received within the hip hop community. Their second album, Hell On Earth was released in 1996, debuting at number six on the Billboard album chart. The album continued their portrayal of a harsh street life, while further pushing them to the forefront of the hardcore rap scene, along with contemporary East Coast rappers such as Notorious B.I.G., the Wu-Tang Clan collective, Jay-Z, and fellow Queensbridge associate, Nas.

In 1999, the duo released the highly anticipated Murda Muzik album. Despite extensive bootlegging (nearly thirty songs of unreleased material leaked onto the internet) and countless delays, the album debuted at number three on Billboard and quickly went platinum-further highlighted by the popular single, "Quiet Storm". Shortly afterwards, Prodigy released his long awaited solo album H.N.I.C. (2000), in which the rapper collaborated with other artists and producers (including The Alchemist).

Shortly after the release of Murda Muzik, rapper Jay-Z spoke out against the duo, leading to an increase in publicity. At the Hot 97 Summer Jam show of 2001, Jay-Z performed the freestyle, "Takeover", which attacked Prodigy and which he later re-recorded for his album, The Blueprint. He also revealed photographs allegedly of Prodigy wearing a dance outfit in 1988.

Mobb Deep subsequently released Infamy in 2001. The album marked a major stylistic change that saw the duo move away from the raw, minimalist, stripped-down beats of their hardcore roots, towards a more commercial fare with such songs as "Hey Luv". This transition fostered accusations of "selling out" -upsetting many long-time fans who did not wish to see them veer away from their original style. Although these stylistic adjustments opened up Mobb's audience to a wider variety, many critics and fans credit Prodigy's feud with Jay-Z as damaging to Mobb Deep's gangster image and record sales (most evident when comparing the platinum-selling Murda Muzik to Infamy which struggled to attain the gold record status). Not to be fazed, Prodigy noted that his lifelong bout with sickle cell anemia and his feud with Jay-Z had changed his outlook.

In 2003, the group split with Loud Records and released The Murda Mixtape which proclaimed "Free Agents" on the cover, addressing the group's split with Loud and search for a new label. Jive Records signed the duo later in the year and subsequently released Amerikaz Nightmare in 2004, which was seen by the general rap audience as a weaker release by the two, resulting in poor sales and the subsequent dropping of the duo from Jive.

In June of 2005, Prodigy and Havoc surprised fans when they announced that they had inked a deal with 50 Cent's label G-Unit Records. Upon signing to the label, the two artist created new pseudonyms to accompany the atmosphere within the G-Unit records, which is often cited as upbeat, flamboyant, and wealth driven. Havoc became Hollywood and Prodigy became V.I.P., both in which shared commonality in their original aliases. 50 Cent had a connection to the duo, as he grew up in nearby Jamaica, Queens and also had used Havoc as a producer for several different beats for Lloyd Banks & Tony Yayo. The relationship strengthened as Mobb Deep and 50 Cent each received tattoos to pledge their loyalty to each other. Prodigy has the words "G-Unit" tattooed on his right hand and 50 Cent has "Mobb Deep" tattooed on his wrist. Upon signing to G-Unit, both Prodigy and Havoc were given new Porsches, a gift for two artists who had received very little monetary compensation in the past.

Mobb Deep has finished recording their new album, titled Blood Money and was released on May 2, 2006. Prodigy speaks candidly about the project and its potential to capture back their core audience. It features G-Unit members 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, and Young Buck. This will mark their seventh release. As one of the most recognizable names in hip-hop, it is hoped that G-Unit will help Mobb Deep attract a new fanbase. As Havoc stated shortly after the deal, "As an artist, you want to be able to reach the furthest audience as you can. We put in hard work on our previous albums and still hit our core fan base. The difference this time around is that more people will hear this product this time." Despite this, many of the Mobb's longtime fans are skeptical as G-Unit is known for their mainstream crossover music and fear that Mobb Deep will conform to this style. In the outro from the lead single from Blood Money, "Put 'Em in Their Place," Prodigy addresses such concerns, implying that the group did move to G-Unit for financial success: "It's our means... Curtis... "Million Dollar Budget" Jackson/Go 'head be mad at that man, he's the one who made us rich/You ain't the only millionaires on the block no more/.../We filthy rotten rich... (yeah) and we takin' advantage..."

The album was leaked onto the internet on April 19, 2006, almost two weeks before the retail release. It was rumored that the leaked version was not the full version of the album, meaning there may have been more tracks to come out on the actual album. However, this was proven wrong when the album was officially released on May 2.

Early on, Mobb Deep gained their critical acclaim for a dark, dynamic, grimey sound with haunting melodies--Havoc's production--that to many represented "street" in a way not done by many or any before. Additionally, Prodigy's penchant for starting off a verse with an attention-grabbing line, writing compelling rhymes based heavily on Queensbridge slang, and a rambling but clear delivery appealed to fans on the lyrical aspect.

For some time, Prodigy was the star MC of the duo, Havoc sounding less focused on the lyrical aspect and more on production. This continued until The Alchemist was brought in to do a few beats for each album, after which Havoc seemed to begin concentrating more on his verbal prowess, slowly developing his own style. After the beef with Jay-Z, Prodigy changed his style, rhyming words less and slowing down his delivery, while Havoc increasingly contributed more to the rhyme end of the duo. It can be said that Havoc has become the better lyricist of Mobb Deep in recent years. Prodigy's change in style can be somewhat attributed to the fact that he has sickle cell anemia, but this cannot be sure.

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