13, released by Nature Sounds, is an album whose gestation occurred at a pretty weird time in Havoc's life. During the recording process, Havoc broke down and called out his rhyme partner Prodigy on Twitter, levying insults and homophobic comments in his general direction, as rappers are wont to do these days. Hav told the media that his phone had been hacked, but later admitted that no, he was just really fucking pissed at Prodigy, and had been for quite some time. It's natural for anyone whose identity is so closely associated with that of a group setting to want to venture out on his or her own, but Havoc torched his bridge with the glee of a pyromaniac, even going so far as to record and release a Prodigy dis track, "Separated (Real From The Fake)", that you two can easily find through a Google search.
However, at the beginning of 2013, Mobb Deep reunited, most likely because of the dollar signs in their eyes that appeared when both men realized that the twenty-year anniversary of their sophomore album, the groundbreaking classic The Infamous, was coming up in a couple of years, and they began touring together. Hav had a change of heart and removed "Separated (Real From The Fake)" from 13 (although he found it impossible to erase the track's existence from the Interweb), and even invited Prodigy to contribute to a remix to one of the album's actual songs, since the project had already been locked for mastering.
13 continues Havoc's quest to become as known on the microphone as he is behind the boards. To that end, he actually doesn't produce every track on here: a few of them feature colleagues working alongside him, and a couple of them were ceded to outside acts entirely. The few friends he invited to the party all line up with Mobb Deep's collaborations of the past, aside from a guest turn from Royce da 5'9", whose inclusion was pretty much Hav's way of claiming that he's aware of current hip hop trends and wishes to capitalize on them just like any other sane rapper today.
Not a bad way to start things off: at least Havoc sounds more invested than he did on Hidden Files. He still isn't the greatest rapper, or even a very good one, but he at least aims to please on “Gone”, as his threats and thug posturing sound pretty good over his beat, which isn't especially Mobb Deep-ish but doesn't have to be, since this isn't a Mobb Deep song. The hook is a bit of a stretch, as the rest of the track has nothing really to do with being “Gone”, no matter which definition of the word you use, but this was still enjoyable enough.
2. FAVORITE RAP STARS (FEAT. STYLES P. & RAEKWON)
What also is a bit of a stretch is including Havoc on a song featuring both Styles P. (of The Lox) and Raekwon (of the Wu-...oh come on, even if you've only glanced at this blog for three seconds you'll know where he's from by now) with that particular title, but if you think about the guests as being our host's favorite rappers, this becomes oddly sweet. Hav's beat is simple but interesting, and he appears to be happily trounced lyrically, as both The Ghost and The Chef run circles around him with their bookends. Sure, I would have rather swapped out Rae for Jadakiss, or The Ghost with Ghostface Killah, but I still liked this one enough. Nothing memorable happens on here, but it was alright.
3. LIFE WE CHOSE (FEAT. LLOYD BANKS)
Havoc reconnects with his former labelmate Lloyd Banks, who is still a member of the G-Unit (a collective that is probably on its last legs, let's be real here, although they're still out there trying, damn it), a crew Mobb Deep was affiliated with for the length of approximately one album, for “Life We Chose”. Over a dramatic instrumental, our host co-produced with FMG, Hav and Banksy wax poetically about the hustling that neither man has to really do, given the fact that they're both successful (one more than the other – guess which is which!) rappers, but claim that they still live through, and even though neither man says anything remotely awesome or awe-inspiring, they're also not awe-ful. Yes, that was a bad joke. They're not all winners, you know.
4. COLDER DAYS (FEAT. MASSPIKE MILES)
At least it isn't called “Cold World”. Havoc's obviously been listening to older Mobb Deep albums, as his performance aims for an in-his-prime Prodigy, but although he doesn't quite hit that mark, he lands on “some of the best rhymes he has ever spit”, which counts for a little. The Hav / FMG beat is alright, if a bit too much, and guest crooner Masspike Miles only chimes in at the end, but his shtick is so tired that it's best to pretend Hav handled this for dolo.
5. GET BUSY
A nice bait-and-switch, as “Get Busy” begins slowly and then starts knocking like Walter White. The title is generic, and yes, it definitely uses the Joeski Love “Pee-Wee's Dance” vocal sample you were expecting, but our host actually does get busy behind the microphone. If you're looking for a valid argument for the existence of a new Mobb Deep album, look no further than Havoc's bars on the first five tracks on 13. Dude sounds pretty good when he feels that he has something to prove. Although all of 13 was recorded while Havoc was trying to prove that Prodigy's a bitch, but hey.
6. EYES OPEN (FEAT. TWISTA)
Just like every other rapper ever, aside from maybe Kanye West, that invites speed-rap king Twista onto a track, Havoc makes the ill-advised decision to match his guest's speedy flow, which, weirdly, causes him to sound slower than usual, reinforcing the man's deficiencies more so than his strengths, because, again, it's not like Havoc is the best rapper around or anything. His beat is okay, though, and the guest turn from Twista is, predictably, a highlight. Havoc returns to spit an unnecessary final verse when the track should have ended after the schooling by Twista, and the hook was insipid, but whatever: for the worst song on 13 so far, it still wasn't terrible. The fuck is happening right now?
7. TELL ME TO MY FACE (FEAT. ROYCE DA 5'9”)
The instrumental wasn't as much of a banger as I had hoped for a song that features a cameo from Slaughterhouse's Royce da 5'9”, a dude I've gone on record in the past as being one of the better unappreciated rappers (by “unappreciated” I mean “dude should be far more popular than he actually is”, folks, relax). That's not to say it wasn't any good: I admire that Havoc was trying something different, and the end result was still pretty interesting. It just didn't hit me in the chest as hard as it should have. Regardless, Ryan's guest verse was nice, and Havoc does his best to not be overshadowed, and actually succeeds, which was quite the shocker. Once again, the hook was a bit of a stretch, but that's a minor quibble.
8. THIS WORLD (FEAT. MASSPIKE MILES)
Here's a major quibble, though: “This World” is fucking boring. Yep.
9. ALREADY TOMORROW
This was also pretty bad, but at least it wasn't dull. “Already Tomorrow” appears to be Havoc's attempt at mimicking what the radio sounds like today, and I have to tell you, it doesn't suit him. He tries to drop some deeper rhymes, but he's undermined by how goddamn gimmicky this shit sounds. Havoc should have sold this beat to a shittier artists for a quick buck.
10. HEAR DAT
Somewhere Havoc made a wrong turn, and 13 started sucking, bad. “Hear Dat” is a valiant, if doomed, effort to right the ship, with a catchy beat that is abandoned by some lazy Havoc writing that explore the exact same territory that every other goddamn song he's ever recorded have already charted. The fuck is happening right now?
11. GETTIN' MINES
12. LONG ROAD (OUTRO)
Although he sort-of rhymes, Havoc really uses this outro to thank the deity of his choosing and his circumstances for making him the man he is today. A nice, understated way to close things out, although it does make him a liar, since 13 only contains twelve actual songs. Whatevs.
13. CAN'T SLEEP
13 ends with a Statik Selektah production that sounds emptier than all of the Havoc instrumentals (and co-instrumentals) on here, which is as much praise for our host as it is a potshot at Selektah, who is most certainly capable of better work. Havoc has already checked out of the hotel at this point, reciting his bars with the enthusiasm of a seven-year-old forced to sit through Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. We're done here.
THE LAST WORD: 13 is a disorganized mess that starts off promisingly enough, if not musically, at least lyrically. He'll never go down in history as one of our genre's best, but Havoc proves that all of his years working alongside some of New York's finest didn't go by wasted. So it's too bad that the beats on here don't mesh with the proceedings: it's almost as though Hav challenged himself to use up a bunch of beats he had sitting on his hard drive that he hadn't been able to previously sell. He's a shadow of his former self, but a shadow who still believes in putting in the work, which is appreciated. However, what Havoc really needs to do is gather a bunch of his friends (and Prodigy, because hey, what the hell) and release a The Chronic-style compilation project showcasing his beats: at least that would earn the man some good karma. God, do I have to think of everything? Here's a fun game: in the comments section, list some of the best non-Mobb Deep production Havoc has had a hand in, and we'll see if that idea has legs. But yeah, maybe don't buy 13.
B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “LIFE WE CHOSE (MOBB DEEP REMIX)” (FEAT. PRODIGY)
Released shortly after 13 hit store shelves in a weak attempt to convince the consumer that Havoc and Prodigy had kissed and made up. It adds an odd postscript to the project as a whole: since our host was in a different mindstate when he recorded 13, this remix may show that he's a secure-enough guy to let bygones be bygones, but it also alters the listener's perspective on Havoc's final product, as his efforts to distance himself from his partner-in-rhyme are deflated by, I don't know, actually working with his partner-in-rhyme. Mixed messages much? However, it is much more satisfying to hear Cellblock P than Lloyd Banks, as the guest star virtually erases all traces of his predecessor over the same instrumental, and our host is kind enough to provide a different verse (curiously, and conveniently, eliminating the “faker than the Twitter beef” line from the original take). Actually not bad, although it could have been much better.