Mobb Deep’s The InfamousClassic album spotlight
Arts and Entertainment Editor Released in 1995, Mobb Deep’s The Infamous is one of the more haunting rap albums that follow in the glorious tradition of hardcore 90’s New York rap. Mobb Deep, like most rappers of that era, focused on portraying the decayed state of New York City that they had grown up in. But whereas an album like Nas’ Illmatic carries a distanced and thoughtful view of his Queensbridge projects, Prodigy and Havoc, the two members of Mobb Deep, rap from a perspective much closer to that of the downtrodden kids terrorizing those projects.
The cohesive set of beats collected for The Infamous were largely self-produced. However, Q-Tip, the driving member of A Tribe Called Quest, oversaw much of the album during its making. Amidst the brick-cold atmospheres that Havoc crafts, there are subtle touches of Q-Tip’s typical jazzy elegance. For example, “Trife Life,” mangles Norman Connors’ “You Are My Starship” into a menacing baseline while also looping Connors’ cloudy horns to give the track a more languid feel. On “Drink Away the Pain (Situations),” Q-Tip adds his touch again, providing an ambiance similar to Tribe’s Low End Theory, but even more stripped-down.
The duo’s raps suggest they partake in much of the project violence that they describe, but they hardly glorify their actions. The crimes detailed are brutal and the group carries an unhealthy distrust of the world around them. Big Noyd, a close affiliate of the group, at one point freestyles about stressing over court dates and violating probation—he flatly asks himself, “how the fuck I get in this tight situation?” Then there’s “Shook Ones, Pt. 2,” a track that gained attention after being used during some of the overly-elaborate Rocky rap battles in 8 Mile. Feel good rap films aside, Prodigy’s opening verse on the track stands as a gripping distillation of the savage criminal lifestyle.
A year later, Mobb Deep would follow up their album with Hell on Earth, an album that drops the soul and jazz altogether for crackling horror soundtracks. It’s a well made album certainly worth checking out, but The Infamous remains as Mobb Deep’s crowning achievement.