Another important cog in the machine of east coast hip-hop today, with the duo from Queens Mobb Deep. There is a lot of overlap with the other popular east coast acts of the day, and Nas, Raekwon, and Q-Tip, among others, all make an appearance on this album. Their second release, “The Infamous”, is rated as album #369 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time.
More so than Biggie, but perhaps less so than A Tribe Called Quest, I enjoy the bare-bones, reserved sound of this album, even as they spend most of their time highlighting the world of crime they are immersed in as two more who escaped from the projects. The album has a smooth flow, and I like the sound of it in general, one song in particular, but one feature that is unique to this record that I really love are the spoken word preludes that precede several tracks. It reminds me (and perhaps you) that all lyrical music is a form of poetry, and is refreshing to hear the spoken word flow so smoothly. I like all of the preludes, but my favorite is definitely “(Just Step Prelude)”. The two MCs in Mobb Deep are Havoc and Prodigy, and I particularly like the first half of this track featuring Havoc. Like most MCs, the bar of measurement is Rakim, and Havoc is Rakim-smooth on this rhyme.
Most of this album is pretty sparse in terms of instrumentation, which gives us a clear line to their vocals. Every now and then I find a song that comes out of nowhere and becomes an instant favorite, and that happened here with the track “Up North Trip”. Surprisingly this was not one of the singles from the record, but the primary melody and hook, along a great beat, sets the stage for a really catchy song. After the opening intro, the rapping of the verse is set against just the drum beat, and it is really lush when the keyboard joins in for the chorus.
“Shook Ones” was a single and is one of the best examples of the overall sound of the album. It is all very listenable, and I love the softer tone of the rapping, even with the intense messages of a song like this. I have always loved the name Mobb Deep, and I’m glad I can now speak with more familiarity as I keep adding to the playlist and my hip-hop awareness.