October 19, 2007

Prodigy of Mobb Deep - H.N.I.C. (November 14, 2000)

In 2000, Prodigy took a break from running alongside (his Mobb Deep cohort) Havoc into hip hop obscurity to release the solo album he had been tantalizing fans with ever since The Infamous dropped. He secured a solo deal with the almighty Loud Records and set out to create an identity as an individual, as opposed to one of many cogs in an Infamous machine.

He utilized this opportunity to work with beatsmiths that would normally have no place on a Mobb Deep album, if only because Havoc's beats at the time would have put them all to shame. He didn't have to look far for his guest appearance budget to be spent, though; all of the usual suspects appear on his first solo album, H.N.I.C. (which I don't really need to spell out for my two readers, do I?), which hit stores just in time to be enjoyed with your Thanksgiving turkey and your inevitable awkward family situations.

H.N.I.C. was met with mild critical acclaim and sold over five hundred thousand copies in a little more than a month, proving that the audience was out there. What those numbers don't tell you, though, is how many fans actually sold their copies of H.N.I.C. to the local used CD shop. You see, Prodigy's lyrical prowess had been taking a beating ever since the release of the Mobb's fourth opus, Murda Musik. The poetry he spit on The Infamous and Hell On Earth (I don't look at Juvenile Hell, because he was like, what, ten at the time?) placed him on a rather high plateau, one which would be impossible for any rapper to sustain, so it's possible that, at this point in his career, he was coasting. Murda Musik met with a lot of opposition due to its lack of growth in its subject matter; H.N.I.C., when you put it in those terms, is more of the same.

H.N.I.C. may not have sat well in the hearts of the Mobb fans (as proven by the fact that Mobb Deep's record sales plummeted with each subsequent release, and Prodigy himself didn't release another solo album until 2007), but it did do hip hop a much needed service: it secured producer The Alchemist a permanent place in the Mobb studio as an official member of the Infamous Mobb collective; one of his contributions, the first single "Keep It Thoro", sold this album to many listeners, all by itself; it's that good.

True story: when I went to Best Buy to pick this CD up back in 2000, I came across a group of Asian businessmen who were directed to the rap aisle by a clueless employee. They were looking for The Prodigy, or, more specifically, the song "Firestarter", and were told by the name-tag that this is what they wanted. (This is the reason why the album cover reads 'Prodigy of Mobb Deep', not 'Prodigy'.) They kept examining the back of the jewel case, not finding what they were hoping for, and I'll admit, I let this continue for a few minutes, just to amuse myself. Before they left, though, I went to the rock aisle and gave them what they really wanted, but only because The Prodigy's The Fat Of The Land fucking rocks, even today.

But that's neither here nor there.

1. BARS & HOOKS (INTRO) (FEAT BARS N HOOKS)
Your paint-by-numbers rap album intro, where Prodigy's weed carriers (who, oddly, are not affiliated with the Infamous Mobb) big up their homey. Yeah, I can't imagine why nobody gives a fuck about Bars N Hooks anymore.

2. GENESIS
This song should have been the first track, seriously. Although it's patently hilarious that he mentions his ability to paint vivid images with his lyrics, since he lost that ability two Mobb Deep albums prior.

3. DRIVE THRU (SKIT)
...

4. ROCK DAT SHIT
This is the kind of beat that Prodigy wanted to rhyme over, causing him to temporarily disband the Mobb to work solo? Really?

5. WHAT U REP (FEAT NOREAGA)
Prodigy really didn't need to spin off into a solo career to work with Noreaga, of all people, did he? At least P keeps his cool here, even with Nore shouting shit at random intervals, like a rapper on Ritalin.

6. KEEP IT THORO
Poor spelling aside, fantastic song. Still works today. The line where he threatens to throw a TV at you is still great. Now, why didn't The Alchemist produce the entire album again?

7. CAN'T COMPLAIN (FEAT TWIN GAMBINO & CHINKY)
I like Twin's gravelly voice. Prodigy actually produced this track himself? Color me impressed. This track is actually pretty good.

8. INFAMOUS MINDED (FEAT BIG NOYD)
This old-school homage is not bad, but that would be because of Rapper Noyd's almost nonexistent participation.

9. WANNA BE THUGS (FEAT HAVOC)
Havoc was nice enough to provide guest vocals and instrumentals for two tracks on H.N.I.C. While they both sound weak (when compared to their earlier work together), this song would be the better of the two.

10. THREE (FEAT CORMEGA)
This track wouldn't have sounded out of place on Cormega's The Realness, which makes sense, if only because Mega completely outshines his host.

11. DELT W/ THE BULLSHIT (FEAT HAVOC)
Sounds like something from the Murda Musik cutting room floor. Should have remained there.

12. TRIALS OF LOVE (FEAT B.K.)
It doesn't matter that you've never heard of B.K. before; this song is awful.

13. H.N.I.C.
EZ Elpee produced a track that sounds surprisingly boring.

14. BE COOL (SKIT)
...

15. VETERAN'S MEMORIAL
I actually like this track. I won't be bumping this in my hovercraft or anything, but it's a mellow, reflective listen.

16. DO IT (FEAT MIKE DELOREAN)
Meh.

17. LITTLES (SKIT) (FEAT LITTLES)
I was never really impressed with Littles. He's technically proficient, but I always thought his skills would have been better suited to his other line of work, as Mobb Deep's unofficial manager (or something to that effect). I admit, though, that it is fascinating to hear about how much love he has for Prodigy and Havoc, considering that today, he can't stand them, due to a falling-out they had (something to do with The Alchemist, if I remember correctly; I may have my hip hop history mixed up a bit).

18. Y.B.E. (FEAT B.G.)
I suppose having B.G. on a song back in 2000 is equivalent to having the super-overrated Lil' Wayne on your album today. Hell, they even sound similar, but that says more about Wayne than B.G. I won't lie, I actually liked B.G.'s "Bling Bling", but that doesn't mean I think this song is any good, or even justified in its existence.

19. DIAMOND (FEAT BARS N HOOKS)
This song is so awful that it almost doesn't warrant any comment other than "meh"; however, when you find out that this one of Just Blaze's early production efforts, you can, at the very least, lie and tell other backpackers that you've followed Justin's career ever since 2000. if you take anything away from this track, let it be that.

20. GUN PLAY (FEAT BIG NOYD)
If you get this far in the album, you'll be fighting your body's natural impulse to fall the fuck asleep. The trite beat doesn't help your argument, either.

21. YOU CAN NEVER FEEL MY PAIN
Prodigy's song about living with sickle-cell anemia. I don't feel the need to comment more than just that.

22. H.N.I.C. (OUTRO)
...

FINAL THOUGHTS: H.N.I.C. comes off as Prodigy's effort to record every musical idea that had ever crossed his mind up until that point, since he wasn't guaranteed a second shot at solo fame. As such, it's about eight to twelve tracks too long, and that's not counting the unnecessary skits. The issue that I have with H.N.I.C., though, is Prodigy's need to have assistance on almost every single song here; there are only a handful of tracks that feature him by himself. Can it be that he wasn't confident enough to believe he could hold the attention of the listener all by himself, since he had only rhymed alongside Havoc before this album? Whatever the case may be, Prodigy's lyrical ability may have taken a turn for the worse, but on H.N.I.C., he shows sparks of the old energy, giving Mobb Deep fans the hope that the true P will come out to play. (Although we may now have to wait a few years, due to Prodigy facing several years in prison on that recent gun charge, but you know what I mean.)

BUY OR BURN? While not entirely successful, H.N.I.C. is worthy of a purchase from the used CD store, but I wouldn't spend more than four bucks on it. Pick it up and witness the slow death of a hip hop giant (that would be Mobb Deep, not Prodigy alone).

BEST TRACKS: "Keep It Thoro"; "Can't Complain"; "Three"; "Veteran's Memorial"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Mobb Deep - Juvenile Hell
Mobb Deep - The Infamous
Mobb Deep - Hell On Earth
Mobb Deep - Murda Musik
Capone-N-Noreaga - The War Report
Big Noyd - Episodes Of A Hustla
Cormega - The Realness

12 comments:

  1. man wtf ur the wackest reviewer ever bro,this album is sick Never feel my Pain is classic nuff said,u can just skip reviewing a classic song bruh,the rest of the album is decent,but id spend 14 dollars just to listen to never feel my pain in my car so basically ur review is shit

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  2. I'm pretty sure this review ended with a recommendation for a purchase. If you're willing to spend fourteen dollars to listen to only one song on repeat, more power to you, but there are charities out there that could probably put the money to better use. Also: drugs. You can buy a small amount of drugs for fourteen dollars. Maybe then Noreaga's wack-ass elementary ad-libs would sound refreshing.
    Thanks for reading, though, and I appreciate your comments!

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  3. You really think the title track is boring? Thats one of my favorite songs on the album.

    Maybe you have a gigantic collection or something, but i feel like 80% of the music you review is boring.

    PS, just because alchemist does a whole album doesn't (contrary to his name) make it golden... see "Return of the Mac".

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  4. You may not like the music that's being reviewed, but you continually visit the site, which I appreciate. And I actually am prone to agree with you on your Alchemist comment.

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  5. Hey, sorry, the earlier anonymous was me-

    i didnt mean i thought the music you reviewed was boring- quite the opposite, actually, because the reason i come to check these out is because you review a ton of albums i own. Rather, i was implying that you actually tend to say a good portion of what you hear is "boring". I know you're a self-confessed jay-z "stan" and you seem to love Ski as a producer... but what else do you like?

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  6. No worries, Steve. No offense was taken; I just appreciate the commentary.

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  7. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessNovember 21, 2007

    I'm going to take this opportunity to implore you to review Cormega- The True Meaning. I feel like you were pleasantly surprised by The Realness when you reviewed that gem. Why not try his sophomore release? I don't have an internet connection right now, but it looks like you've been pretty active. I appreciate your efforts, Max. You and Dart Adams are the two best WRITERS in the blogosphere. Just to whet your appetite: "Does freedom have a meaning if you're trapped in your ways?/ I'm Queensbridge's most respected rapper, that ain't gonna change/"

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  8. Felonious, I'll see what I can do, since I've always appreciated your comments. It may be a while, though, since my copy of that disc is somewhere in the bottom of a crate.

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  9. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessNovember 26, 2007

    Thank you for considering it Max. Loved the Supreme Clientele write up by the way.

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  10. What the fuck happened to Prodigy after Hell on Earth? I just don't get it. Despite a few decent beats here, this is just garbage. What's the point of having other producers make beats for you if you already have one of Hip-Hop's greatest working with you? Even after Mobb Deep fell off, Havoc still had some great production, especially on Murda Muzik and Infamy. As for the rapping, Prodigy's voice sounds all fucked up and annoying on this, and most of his verses are retarded.

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  11. RICK RUDERMay 09, 2009

    this album was the last of prodigys greatness, u dont really give it any credit at all! and u have confirmed to me that you are some pussy ass whiteboy, becuz u enjoy The Prodigy Fat of the land!! hahahahhahaha twat, go back to listening to the charts, u aint got a clue what real fuckin hip hop is....

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  12. AnonymousJuly 06, 2017

    I would lambast the shit outta you for preferring Wanna Be Thugs to Delt with the Bullshit, but you've a long history of proving that you have lost your goddamn mind, so I simply won't sweat it and say: whatever floats your boat.

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