July 5, 2007

Mobb Deep - Hell On Earth (November 19, 1996)

Hell On Earth is the third album from Mobb Deep, the second released on the mighty Loud Records, home of Raekwon, dead prez, and Rainbow Brite. Havoc and Prodigy were coming off of their massive career reinvention The Infamous, which was both critically and commercially successful, and decided to continue down that yellow brick road by giving the fans what they wanted.

Hell On Earth is, on its surface, more of the same. Before people assume a lack of artistic growth, though, you should understand that Havoc produced every single beat on this album, unlike on The Infamous, which gives Hell On Earth a consistent feeling that is sorely lacking on every Mobb album forward. Prodigy also seems to have spent his Infamous royalties on getting his Masters in English, as his lyrical prowess steps the fuck up; Hell On Earth contains the best lyrics from P that we will ever hear. His descriptions of life in the ghetto, his constant paranoia, and violent imagery will haunt you for days. Or, at least, you'll find his lines as quotable as Homer Simpson's.

Havoc and Prodigy also had enough pull to include their weed carriers on several tracks, and they, surprisingly, do not disappoint, unlike their eventual cohorts in the Gorilla Unit. Hell On Earth is, simply put, an actual album, unlike today's horrid singles collections marketed as albums.

No rap album intro here, just Havoc proclaiming "You know how we did on the Infamous album, right? Aight, we gonna do it again, son." With those two sentences, Havoc sums up why this album sounds so damn good.

The 2Pac diss song, which still sounds great today, even if Prodigy gets some of the facts about the Pac robbery incorrect.

Taking a simple programmed drum machine loop, Havoc and Prodigy spit some powerful boasts, and when you hear P say "Me and my man pioneered this violent n---a rap shit", you'll be inclined to believe him, even though it's clearly not true. I have it on good authority that Young MC was talking about busting some moves with his AK well before Hav and P made it out of their kiddie rapper days.

Method Man always sounds like he's damn near embarrassed that he has a Grammy on his mantle (which, from what I understand, he actually is), so when a hot beat provides him the opportunity to tarnish his Hollywood image, he's quick to bite. Well played, sir. Also, props to Havoc, since he somehow convinced Loud Records to release an album where he spouts the line "Dead your shorty like abortion". Eminem couldn't even get Interscope to do that shit.

Havoc's solo song, which is ostensibly a sequel to The Infamous's "Trife Life". The beat here is better, but the rhymes are a continuation of the lame set-up raps of the original.

Havoc sounds like he can't keep up with his own beat, so Prodigy and that Domino's Pizza guy outshine him.

Utilizes a sample from Cypress Hill's "Illusions" to good effect. You don't even care that General G is some unknown rapper you'll probably never hear from again. The Mobb were fiercely loyal with their weed carriers.

Prodigy's rhymes were chosen as a Hip Hop Quotable in The Source, but that was back when the magazine mattered. Raekwon can't help but sound weak in comparison, but the Chef comes off alright. Havoc is relegated to the chorus.

Rhyming over a dark, organ sample and the drums from Tribe's "Bonita Applebum"? Fucking awesome. Also features some of my favorite Prodigy threats: "You'll be running for dear life so far you might fall off the map/Fucking with P, you need the gat/At least you'll have the opportunity to bust back." Also should be noted that this is NOT a sequel to "Shook Ones Part II", and also has nothing to do with that Francis Ford Copolla smushmortion.

I love the scratchy piano samples over the drum loop. I also choose to ignore the fact that Prodigy rhymes the terms "face off", "face off", and "face off" in the span of three bars, since I love the sample that haunts the end of the track. I also love italics, which I'm sure my two readers have figured out by now.

I hate this fucking song. I hated it when I heard it on the radio, I hated it when I saw the video, and listening to it again, I really hate it now. The beat is plodding and really fucking boring, and it sounds completely out of place on Hell On Earth. I admit that Prodigy has some good lyrics on this, but hip hop music is about the marriage between the beats and the rhymes, and if one part falters, the whole package suffers. I don't give a fuck if anyone disagrees with me on that fact. (The only people who would disagree would be people who didn't like my Ras Kass write-up, anyway.)

Look past the fact that it sounds like Big Noyd is rhyming about having sex with some random guy (listen to the lyrics again to see what I mean), and this song sounds pretty hot. And, side note for Noyd: I don't discriminate. Whatever makes you happy; I don't judge personal choices, just musical output. But if that's not your thing, maybe you should read your verses a bit more carefully before stepping into the booth.

In my area, this was actually the first song I ever heard from Hell On Earth, since they played it on the fucking radio. Seriously. I never heard it there again, but this song was enough to hype me up for the album. I didn't find out about "G.O.D. Part III" as a single until I read The Source.

Prodigy ends the album with a master's class on lyrics that will replace that whale in your nightmares. He would never sound this good again, Murda Musik be damned. Even though he starts with a Star Wars reference, of all things.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you're looking at consistency, Hell On Earth is much, much better than The Infamous, as nearly every song on here sounds fantastic. (Sorry, "Hell On Earth" fans, but that song is terrible, and you won't be able to change my mind. Unless you pay cash.) However, there is no one song on here that is better than "Shook Ones Pt. II". That shouldn't deter you from listening to one of the better Queensbridge contributions to the rap game, though.

BUY OR BURN? You're questioning me on this? Buy this shit! And while you're shopping, don't forget to pick up some milk and deodorant. I'm just saying.

BEST TRACKS: Another Mobb Deep lovefest, another opportunity to say that every track is great, except for "Hell On Earth (Frontlines)".

(Agree with the review above? Support this blog and its author by leaving comments below!)


Mobb Deep - The Infamous
Mobb Deep - Juvenile Hell
Big Noyd - Episodes Of A Hustla
Method Man - Tical 2000: Judgement Day
Method Man - Tical
Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
Nas - I Am...
Nas - It Was Written
Nas - Illmatic



  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 06, 2007

    I'll grant you the weak beat on "Hell On Earth", but Prodigy's last verse is so good that it makes up for it. Just like a hot beat can carry weak lyrics, Prodigy's masterpiece should prevent anyone from skipping this ever. I'm happy that you pointed out P's lyrics in general on this album as they were phenomenal. He was killing everything during this period, soundtracks, guest appearances, unreleased tracks, everything. If only he would have dropped a solo album featuring nothing but Havoc production in '96 or '97. He fell off harder than anyone ever has. The friendly ghost inhabiting P's body these days makes me sick. It's like watching Jordan on the Wizards.

  2. What can I say? Score another one for 96' east coast hip hop. It was a great year. I quote the RZA when I say, "this is real MC'ing." Peace.

  3. AnonymousJuly 23, 2007

    This shit is a MUST BUY just for the liner notes with lyrics, and that ghetto ass last supper picture!

  4. Hell on Earth better than The Infamous?

    That's the funniest thing I've read on this site.

    The Infamous is like an A+, Hell on Earth is an A.

    Usually I agree with you, but not here. That's an egregiously incorrect statement. Maybe you should listen again . . .

  5. JAMMQ - I disagree. The Mobb stepped their production and rhymes way up on Hell On Earth (except, oddly, on the title track), so for consistency, Hell On Earth is a better album. I mentioned in the original review that there is no song on here better than "Shook Ones", and that still holds true. However, there also aren't any tracks on here better than "Survival Of The Fittest", "Give Up The Goods", "Eye For An Eye", etc. The Infamous had much better compositions that, when combined, are much better than this entire album, but The Infamous also included tracks like "Drink Away The Pain", which, while it was good, it wasn't all that great. And the prelude before "Give Up The Goods" bugs me because I just don't prefer skits that feature acapella freestyling.

    However, I think we can both agree that, with the exception of a handful of singles, the rest of the Mobb Deep catalog trends downward.

    Thanks for reading! Loving your comments!

  6. Reasonable people can disagree.

    Much respect for posting comments of people who disagree with you.

    And the Mobb catalog doesn't trend downward after Hell on Earth, it descents like the Road Runner off a cliff with an anvil tied to his feet.

    But I'm guessing I'm feeling the same way about Mobb Deep that you(and most of us do) about Wu-Tang, or Mets fans feel about Dwight Gooden's career, Britney Spears fans feel about . . . well you get the point.

    Anyway, great site.

  7. why dont u like hell on earth (frontlines)? that song is sick,anyways its your opinion

  8. Hell on Earth (frontlines) is my only essential selection from this album. I prefer the tinny drum snap to Havoc's Infamous productions (which frontlines sounds most like). There's a bassier depth to the productions on Hell on Earth which normally would be fantastic but over Mobb verses just makes them sound, well, ordinary. And of course, the end was nigh...

  9. AnonymousMay 09, 2009

    Great review. You'd think the man who wrote apostles warning would sell out, but there you go

  10. Yo the title track is ill. you just don't have the ears to get the beat that's all and I say both the Infamous and this one are tied up as great albums and a classics in their own rights

  11. Max, I'll pay you $5 via Paypal to like Front Lines. I love that track.

    I played this album the other day ... seriously, who on earth can dismiss Havoc's '90s productions? They're almost hypnotic. I don't think I have ever pressed the Skip/Next button when playing a song from this record.

  12. u stupud, stupid kid, u dont like hell on earth(frontlines)??? god u are one weird blogger

  13. Hell on Earth (Frontliners ) is one of the best songs on this classic album..P was a an aids infected carnivorous savage on that song...sick!!!! I've always felt this album could go toe to toe with the infamous though most ppl dont agree with that but this album was def not a fall off in anyway..hav killed the production

  14. Hell on Earth was little bit better than Infamous. Only album which Havoc did all the production and P's at his prime. Other than that H.N.I.C was his best work in my opinion!

  15. "(front lines)" is the calm at the eye of the storm, i think. the way it sounds so calm while stating the bare facts, that something resembling hell is indeed here on earth but we still stand tall and survive, is the point.

  16. front lines is classic material and the whole lp is an undisputed gem, can't deny that ...

  17. How can you dislike the title track? still one of the dopest joints to this day.. and that beat IS fire, get some fuckin' hearing aids or something..

  18. Pretty good review. But I agree with the comments that the Hell on Earth track is absolute fire. P stands out on this track like he does on Apostles Warning. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. You might like broccoli, but I don't. And as for comparing Hell on Earth to the Infamous, it's impossible. They are completely different albums. They are both good, just enjoy it.

  19. I like your review. I just dusted off this album for a listen (from my external harddrive) and am again blown away by how solid it is. I remember at the time it came out it seemed to be a little distasteful to have a 2Pac diss track after he just passed...but that was just poor timing (guessing Pac nor Mobb knew he would pass in September...and their album was probably a wrap by then).

    Definitely a classic...through and through...zone out to it.

  20. Drop A Gem On Em is sick... Excellent album! Surprising that they followed a classic up with another classic; that's very rare.

  21. Probably the best back to back albums ever in hip hop. (which makes the rest of their work so depressing) And you know what? I agree with Max, while nothing on here beats Shook Ones or Survival of the Fittest or Eye For An Eye, EVERYTHING ELSE is better than what The Infamous has to offer...so i will say this is Mobb Deep's best album

  22. AnonymousJune 16, 2013

    I'm so surprised you don't like Hell on Earth Max. The instrumental is just ridiculously dope, and Prodigy tucks into it with glee. Seriously, this is one of the best beats on the album, anything but boring.

  23. Damn, on this album prodigy sounded so threatening and menacing, ominous, intimidating...

  24. Hell On Earth (Front Lines) is one of the standout tracks on the album. But it's an incorrect statement that Hell On Earth is better than The Infamous

  25. Brilliant album... my favourite hip hop album ever. The shit that Prodigy spit on here is just insane. Mobb deep even has some great tracks with more "standard" hip hop beats instead of their signature eerie sound. Rare Species, Back at You, Gusto, Thun and Kicko, etc. Yo Max, I read P's autobio, Hav wrote his verse on Peer Pressure. Also "Trials of Love" from HNIC features his wife as the other rapper. Apparently took her about 30 takes to get it!
    Even P admits his lyrics fell off during the INfamy period. Listening back now, they absolutely fell off worse than anyone. "Drop a Gem on Em" is a proper diss track, while "Crawlin" is JUST FUCKING TERRIBLE.

    Great review!