Havoc and Prodigy lifted the skirts of rap’s underground with their ground breaking album “The Infamous” in 1995. The dark and expressive production, paired with the violent paranoia from Havoc and Prodigy garnered critical acclaim for Mobb Deep.
Although there was plenty drama to go around (contentious rap beef, gun charges, a jail stint, internal fighting, hacked Twitter accounts, to name a few), Mobb Deep has carved a place in hip-hop history. The Queensbridge, New York duo will stop at Cervantes Masterpiece Theater on Friday for the hip-hop group’s reunion tour. Here are the top five moments from the infamous Mobb Deep that have left an indelible mark on the history and culture of rap music.
5) What’s Beef?
There was a time when Mobb Deep was tangling with almost every rapper that touched a microphone. Tupac’s track “When We Rode On Our Enemies” was directed at the two, with Pac heckling Prodigy’s sickle-cell disease. The two retaliated with a diss song of their own “Drop a Gem On Em” from “Hell On Earth.” On Nas’ 2001 album “Stillmatic,” he admonished Prodigy to “keep disloyal n***** out of his circle” on the song “Destroy and Rebuild.” The most famous beef, though, is the passive aggressive back and forth that took place with fellow New Yorker Jay-Z.
4) The Alchemist
We have Mobb Deep to thank for bringing Alchemist’s production skills to the masses. The now Shady Records producer was used exclusively by Mobb Deep for “Murda Muzik.” His boom-bap structure and down-tempo soul samples were just the touch to define Mobb Deep’s sound. You can hear touches of the Alchemist’s sound even today, emulated by hit-makers like Drake’s go-to producer Noah “40” Shebib.
3) “Shook Ones Part II”
Boldly declaring “ain’t no such things as half-way crooks,” this track is the “call them out” anthem of hip-hop’s history. The breakout single from “The Infamous,” Havoc and Prodigy use their verses about determination and street-life as a battle cry. You’d be hard pressed to find any golden era hip-hop head without this ubiquitous track through the headphones.
2) The “dun” language
Hip-hop jargon is a beautiful thing. Mobb Deep used the speech impediment of a friend to carve its own style of slang called “dun language.” According to Mobb Deep the story goes like this: In the ’90s calling your fellow rap head “son” was a prominent greeting and title. Havoc and Prodigy’s childhood friend Bumpy’s speaking obstruction prevented him from pronouncing the word correctly, turning “son” into “dun.” The two ran with the concept and created an entirely new way of speaking that became so popular it was used by Ben Stiller in Diddy’s video, “Bad Boys For Life.” These days its usage is more of a nostalgic indicator of rap’s golden days.
1) Ballerina P
Some say that Jay-Z caused the eventual downfall of Mobb Deep at the Hot 97 Summer Jam concert in 2001. While Jay-Z performed “Takeover” he used a photo of Prodigy dressed as a ballerina as a backdrop. After years of subliminal rap lines directed at Jigga from the Mobb Deep camp, Jay-Z finally got the upper hand. Mobb Deep’s resurgence was thwarted by the audacious move and the nickname “Ballerina P” would stick to Prodigy like glue.
Ru Johnson is an arts and culture music writer living in Denver. You can follow her on Twitter here.