December 23, 2014

My Gut Reaction: Mobb Deep - The Infamous Mobb Deep (April 1, 2014)

2014 wasn't the greatest year for hip hop in general: aside from the fact that I tend to write about older albums on this blog on purpose, there's a valid reason why I chose to mostly ignore this year's output within our chosen genre.  But that's not to say that 2014 was without hubris, the currency by which modern-day rappers thrive.  Case in point: Queensbridge-based rap duo Mobb Deep reunited to celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of their breakthrough project, their sophomore album The Infamous, one year early, and decided that what the remaining fans they had left really wanted to hear was a new album that listeners would inevitably be forced to draw comparisons from, especially when they chose to pair said new album with a disc filled with rarities and unreleased tracks from The Infamous's studio sessions.

Yeah, that doesn't seem like such a good idea today, huh, guys?


The Infamous Mobb Deep, a double- or triple-disc effort depending on when you picked it up throughout the year, is a first in the back catalog of both Havoc and Prodigy in that they sold it directly to the public via PledgeMusic, in addition to the usual avenues.  Hav and P solicited crowdsourced donations from the general public in order to get this project onto store shelves, and gave away random items such as autographed skateboards and keychains and whatever the fuck in return.  In theory, this isn't a terrible idea: had either Hav or Cellblock P created a Kickstarter campaign to fund a project chock-full of unreleased Mobb Deep tracks recorded during both The Infamous and Hell On Earth's studio sessions, I would be among the first to pitch in.  But they were using the website to merely gauge interest for the album in general, almost as though they needed to justify officially reuniting after their ridiculous beef the year prior, since the album had already been completed long before the campaign.

The Infamous Mobb Deep dropped April 1, and there's a joke in there somewhere, but it was met with almost universal apathy for the all-new material and across-the-board excitement for the older stuff, recorded back when both halves of Mobb Deep were younger and, in Prodigy's case, simply better.  (Hey, it had to be said.)  In regard to the new stuff, Havoc chose to share production duties with a number of folks outside of the camp, most notably !llmind and Boi-1da, two names that one wouldn't really expect to pop up for a project of this nature: either Hav was actively trying to update the Mobb sound for the new generation, or really didn't want to work quite as hard to produce an album that nobody will give a shit about in a year.  Either or.  Hav and Cellblock P also invited some interesting guests, among them The Lox, Snoop Dogg, and the tag-team of Bun B and Juicy J: I believe this was done merely to prove that they had more than just other fellow New York acts in their respective phones.

The second disc is full of full tracks and even interludes originally recorded for inclusion on The Infamous, an album that a good majority of you two (and myself included) consider an actual genuine classic.  So, of course, anything left over from that era is going to intrigue me, since that particular time in hip hop is when the genre hit its peak, as far as I'm concerned.  Guests on the unreleased material include Ghostface Killah, Nas, and Raekwon, all of whom found themselves on The Infamous anyway, along with Big Noyd and various members of the Infamous Mobb.  It had been originally reported that fellow QB native Noreaga was going to pop up with a verse, but that ultimately never panned out.

The Infamous Mobb Deep was also released in a three-disc version, on which the third disc contains a remastered version of The Infamous.  Most of you two will have no need for that third disc anyway: I trust that everyone still reading these paragraphs not only knows what The Infamous sounds like, but also has a copy in their collection or on their hard drive somewhere.  But I will say that, in that respect, it appears that Mobb Deep wanted to go all out with their celebration: they even went on tour earlier this year in support of The Infamous, if not The Infamous Mobb Deep.

So it's a shame that they chose to celebrate the album's anniversary a year too early.  As I've mentioned before, The Infamous dropped in 1995.  What would drive the duo to get this event out of the way early?  I think more than a few conclusions could be drawn from Havoc and Prodigy's respective presences on social media over the past couple of years.  (Short version: I'm convinced they still hate each other.)

You've all waited for my thoughts on this one long enough.  Here goes nothing.

DISC 1 - THE INFAMOUS MOBB DEEP

1. TAKING YOU OFF HERE
When this song first leaked, I listened to it once and dismissed it immediately: it just didn't move me at all. Granted, most latter-day Mobb Deep material doesn't move me anyway, so this wasn't a surprising outcome. But as I am forced to hear “Taking You Off Here” again for the sake of this article, I now notice that it isn't great, but it also isn't completely terrible. The Havoc instrumental isn't bad: it's simple, but eerie enough to reinforce Hav and Cellblock P's threats. Speaking of which, Prodigy still doesn't sound anywhere close to his Hell On Earth heyday, but he puts in an admirable-enough effort, even as he gets trounced by Havoc's constant need to prove himself (even with his awkward hook). Maybe I was a bit too harsh on this track the first time around.

2. SAY SOMETHING
!llmind's beat is good enough for me to overlook the bit of goofiness during the middle verse, where our hosts attempt to prove to everyone that they've kissed and made up by passing the microphone back and forth, sometimes mid-sentence. But their individual verses, which bookend the piece, are pretty good. !llmind's instrumental switches up just enough, at just the right times, so as to not grow monotonous, and our hosts come across as both refreshed and a little relieved. Not classic Mobb Deep by any means, but “Say Something” isn't awful.

3. GET DOWN (FEAT. SNOOP DOGG)
I understand that folks who purchased the physical version of The Infamous Mobb Deep only got a version of this track without the guest star, which is kind of brilliant (and incredibly fucked up, from a consumer standpoint) in its way: if you want the complete product, buy the goddamn deluxe edition (or at least the individual track), right? And having Snoop Dogg's cameo open the Havoc-produced “Get Down” makes it extremely easy for an engineer to simply chop off the first minute or so from the song. Calvin stays in his lane, talking shit like the laid-back veteran who doesn't let anything get to him unless they are named “Iggy Azalea” that he is, but since he's been in the game the same length of time as both Havoc and Prodigy, he's an inspired choice for collaborator. The hook is garbage, but the three verses didn't entirely suck, and they clash beautifully with the well-realized loop. Huh.

4. DIRT
No lie: I found myself playing this song on repeat multiple times before I remembered I was supposed to actually write about it, which is most of the reason why it's taken me so goddamn long to write about The Infamous Mobb Deep. This is because the sinister-as-shit “Dirt” is one of the best latter-day Mobb Deep creations. !llmind and his collaborators lend the duo a beat that sounds lifted directly from an imaginary project where Havoc and Prodigy rhyme exclusively over a horror movie score, and both halves of Mobb Deep excel: Hav sounds really good, while Cellblock P momentarily regains his dark, cold, and decisive flow. There just isn't anything else I can say: “Dirt” was fucking nice. (Even Hav and P seem to think so, since it took me so long to write this review that they went ahead and released an official remix to “Dirt” - more on that in a bit.)

5. TIMELESS
And apparently, this is where The Infamous Mobb Deep loses me, I guess? “Timeless” is boring as shit, as Beat Butcha's instrumental seems better suited as ambient music one hears in a douchey trendy clothing store than it does for Havoc and Prodigy, neither of whom could hold a picnic basket, let alone the listener's interest on this shit. Cellblock P manhandles two verses, dropping the ball royally, while Hav was at least cognizant enough to only stick around for one. “Timeless” will never stand the test of time, and also other jokes made at the expense of that song title.

6. ALL A DREAM (FEAT. THE LOX)
Those of you who have the physical album don't have the three guest verses on “All A Dream” either, but in this case, you guys dodged a bullet. This song is pretty horrible, even with the cameos from all three members of The Lox, all of whom deserve better than a shitty, poppy instrumental (credited to both Michael Uzowuru and Om'Mas Keith) sampling the same line from the late Notorious B.I.G.'s “Juicy” that Kanye West did when he produced Jay-Z's “A Dream” (you all know which line, come on now). Except maybe Sheek Louch, who would probably work three times as hard to make it work for him, but whatever. I assume this quintet rhymes about how they're allegedly living out their dreams or some shit, but I can't be bothered to go back and check, as this song is, as I mentioned before, horrible. Even Jadakiss, whose very first bar comes at the expense of his former Bad Boy Records home, can't be bothered to keep the troops entertained.

7. LOW (FEAT. MACK WILDS)
I'll probably be in the minority here, but “Low” actually isn't that bad to me. I was afraid that Prodigy's verse was going to be a H.N.I.C. 3 “I love me some ladies” leftover, but to his credit, the man goes much deeper with his mindstate, which was unexpected from today's Prodigy. Maybe having Drake's boy, um, Boi-1da co-producing the track brought out all of the feels. Havoc, though, steals the show, as his stanza paints a fuller picture than his partner's did: one leaves “Low” actually feeling happy for Havoc, which is fucking weird to acknowledge. The useless, hook, from guest crooner Mack Wilds, seems to have been included just to gain Mobb Deep that radio airplay that they're never going to get again, unless we're talking about listening to their classic shit on Sirius XM's Backspin, in which case, go nuts, but aside from that, this was alright. Huh.

8. MURDERA
The energy picks up with this !llmind beat, and both Hav and P turn in performances that are kind of corny, but also not terrible, which was unexpected, given how goddamn generic the song title and theme are. However, both halves of Mobb Deep sound like they're genuinely trying to enjoy their time in the booth, which is more than you could say for, oh, how about everything they've released since Infamy forward. “Murdera” will never rank among the Mobb's finest tracks, but it'll probably end up on my own Mobb Deep playlist, which should count for a little something.

9. CHECK THE CREDITS
This one is a failure, but not because of the rhymes, which are actually quite good, as good as one can expect from the duo today. No, “Check The Credits” is tanked by !llmind's beat, which starts off really great with some sinister notes mixed with occasional dusty drums, but then he grows concerned that nobody will “get” his work and throws in a bunch of other drums and shit, effectively fucking up the vibe and ruining the goddamn instrumental. A remix may be in order, guys, if only because Havoc's hook, which includes the line, “We're stars, stare at us” made me chuckle.

10. GIMME ALL THAT
If we all pretend that the songs on The Infamous Mobb Deep were all recorded in the order in which they appear on the tracklisting, it's fun to think that Havoc, having grown concerned with the overall direction the album is taking, grabbed the reins and produced “Gimme All That” on his own, just so he could control his own destiny. So it's too bad that this song fucking sucks. Moving on...

11. LEGENDARY (FEAT. BUN B & JUICY J)
The song I'm sure a few of you skipped ahead to after downloading the album (although heads that purchased the double-disc copy got this track in full, too, which calls the decision to cut Snoop and The Lox into question). Both halves of Mobb Deep team up with underground king Bun B and Academy Award-winner Juicy J (who, strangely, has experienced a huge fucking resurgence in his career after leaving Three 6 Mafia behind – who would have thunk it?) on a beat, credited to Havoc, Boi-1da, and The Maven Boys, that doesn't sound like anything Hav or P have any business using. At least Havoc seemed excited to be rhyming alongside Bun B, but that enthusiasm doesn't translate into a good performance, and Cellblock P pisses away the opportunity. Bun sounded good, though, and Juicy J is okay enough to keep the clock running on his fifteen minutes, so.

12. LIFETIME
The Alchemist finally checks in to The Infamous Mobb Deep. I appreciate that Hav and P were trying to switch things up a bit, but there's no need to deviate from the original recipe entirely. Well, sort of: it's not like Alan was an original member of the Infamous Mobb or anything. But he lends his friends the dramatic heft that the rest of the disc lacks, which is a nice touch: even Alan was trying something different, avoiding his usual sinister street tales approach in favor of a somber and broad, sweeping motion. Neither Hav nor P say anything worth transcribing, but they both take this shit seriously, which, hey, whatever.

13. MY BLOCK
This was fucking stupid. If you're going to use the generic song title “My Block”, you had damn well better back it up with something interesting. Groan.

The digital, unofficially “deluxe” edition of The Infamous Mobb Deep contains the following four bonus tracks.

14. HENNY (FEAT. MACK WILDS, FRENCH MONTANA, & BUSTA RHYMES)
Included as an exercise in the snake eating his own tail, I suppose, since “Henny” is better known as “Henny (Remix)”, a reworking of a Mack Wilds single featuring a bunch of rappers (and Mobb Deep, conveniently) and a sample from Infamy's “The Learning (Burn)”. Given that this is actually his goddamn song, Mack Wilds has a lot more to do on here than he did on “Low”, and he sounds alright enough, even if I never need to hear from him ever again, but “Henny” proves that not every Mobb Deep song should be re-purposed for an R&B track. The exception: Mariah Carey's “The Roof”, which borrows from “Shook Ones Pt. II” in such a way so as not to be distracting, even when Havoc and Prodigy pop up on its remix. As for the actual rhymes, they're all instantly forgettable, although Busta Rhymes tries his best to wake the listener the fuck up. Wilds earns bonus points for reminding me of Arrested Development's “Tennessee” at the very beginning, which may or may not have been intentional, I don't care.

15. CONQUER
Mobb Deep lifted this track from their EP, Black Cocaine, which dropped in 2011. It's kind of fucked up that the duo would try to get listeners to pay for the same song twice. Oh wait, you say they're a part of an industry that repackages the same shit and resells it to consumers all the goddamn time? Tell me more! For what it's worth, “Conquer” doesn't really fit in with the proceedings, possibly because it was recorded three fucking years prior to the release of The Infamous Mobb Deep? Sorry, I'm not bitter or anything.

16. WATERBOARDING
Taken from the limited edition version of Black Cocaine that was only available in mom-and-pop record stores. I assume The Alchemist was listening to Handsome Boy Modeling School's “Waterworld” when he suddenly had to urge to steal the idea use the same source material for Hav and P to rhyme about pretty much nothing.

17. GET IT FOREVER (FEAT. NAS)
It's disappointing that the only (“new”) Nas guest appearance comes in the form of a previously-released track, also from Black Cocaine, which Mobb Deep must hold in high regard, because the rest of the world sure fucking doesn't. Sigh.

And now for the stuff you actually wanted to know my opinions about.

DISC 2 - THE INFAMOUS SESSIONS

1. EYE FOR AN EYE (FEAT. NAS, RAEKWON, & GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
I realized something today: “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)” just might be my all-time favorite Mobb Deep song, as it tends to be running in my head on a continuous loop most of the time, and especially whenever Hav and P pop up in my mind. So it was with trepidation that I started this alternate version of that very same song, but I needn't have worried, since it bangs. The beat, entirely different from the final cut, is repetitive and nostalgic all at once, and everyone aside from Nas delivers different vocals (well, except for Ghostface Kilah, who didn't appear on “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)” anyway). Speaking of Ghost, he and Raekwon unleash the best verses, since the beat sounds like vintage 1994-style Wu-Tang Clan, and their youthful enthusiasm carries their bars much further. But everyone sounds great on here. I'm curious, though: Rae's outro is the same as it was on the album version (“Mobb Deep, Nas, Chef creation / for your nation”), so if this was the original take, why isn't Pretty Toney mentioned? And if this was an aborted remix, why wasn't his name added? Regardless, I enjoyed this one quite a bit, but not more than the excellent album take.

2. SKIT (FEAT. NAS & RAEKWON)
A fantastic, hilarious idea for a skit that all other rappers should employ: include a radio freestyle (the poorer the quality, the better) that you participate in, but throw in surprise A-list guests that don't receive proper credit, in this case Raekwon and Nas, who came through for Mobb Deep for no other reason than that they could. An interesting throwback, and it's kind of great to hear Havoc subtly correct deejay Ed Lover on the title of his song, but this is for diehard fans only, those of you who still enjoy hearing Cellblock P performances back from the good old days. Although it is kind of cool to hear Nas and the Chef fall back when Hav and P start spitting, as they are the stars of the show, after all.

3. GET IT IN BLOOD
Features the Infamous Mobb, but only in an ad-libbing, shouting capacity. On the inaccurately-titled “Get It In Blood” (listen to the hook and you'll see what I mean), Prodigy unleashes two long-ass-fuck verses that sound like a cross between his matter-of-fact vocals on “Shook Ones Pt. II” and “Survival Of The Fittest” (which makes sense, given the timeframe in which this song was recorded), which is to say, he sounds awesome, maybe even too awesome, since you have no choice but to compare him to the Cellblock P that rhymed on the first disc. Le sigh. Hav struggles to keep up, resulting in much shorter verses, but he doesn't sound that bad, either. A nice surprise.

4. GIMME THE GOODS (FEAT. BIG NOYD)
An original take on what would later become the Q-Tip-produced “Give Up The Goods (Just Step)”? Or a late-game remix designed to showcase perennial weed carrier Big Noyd, who, admittedly, raps his fucking ass off on here? We may never know, unless someone actually bothers to share. I prefer the album cut, but “Gimme The Goods” is a fascinating curiosity, since, although both Havoc's and Prodigy's verses remain virtually untouched (give or take a few syllables), Noyd's contribution, which was a highlight of the album track, is entirely different and is crazy long, and I mean Cappadonna “Winter Warz” long. Not mandatory, but fascinating nonetheless.

5. IF IT'S ALRIGHT (FEAT. BIG NOYD)
Finally, a song from the vault that should have stayed there. The actual verses on “If It's Alright” aren't objectionable, and heads who are still upset with the loss of volatility in Cellblock P's voice will definitely appreciate any opportunity to hear some more bars from the man while in his prime, but this track is pretty boring still. The instrumental is plain vanilla, and there isn't anything for the listener's mind to grab on to on here. Go ahead and skip to the next track. Nobody's going to tell on you. Honest.

6. SKIT MOBB 1995
An excerpt from an interview that took place in between Mobb Deep's actual debut, Juvenile Hell, and The Infamous. Interesting merely because of how young these cats were at the time, how full of potential (which they, of course, met almost immediately when The Infamous dropped), and how focused they were on tightening up both their beats and their lyrics. It's still a skit, and only needs to be listened to the once, but I appreciate that, at least at one point in time, these two gave a flying fuck.

7. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (FEAT. CRYSTAL JOHNSON)
Kind of weird, in that this is basically an unmastered version of the extended remix issued by Loud Records back in 1995, back when the album version of “Survival Of The Fittest” hit radio airwaves, because yes, kids, Mobb Deep was once popular enough to garner regular rotation. As you probably surmised way back in the day when I referred to this as an “extended” remix, there are a ton more rhymes from both Hav and P, who contribute their original verses plus many more bars, and they throw in R&B vocalist Crystal Johnson for good measure. I've always felt that this beat was more peppy than absolutely necessary, especially when the album version dares you to flinch while staring you down with its cold, dead eyes, but this song was still enjoyable, even if it is incredibly easy today to misinterpret Havoc's “Mobb Deep, we got that beef” line. Hmm.

8. TEMPERATURE'S RISING (FEAT. CRYSTAL JOHNSON)
Another goofy inclusion, for the same reason as the previous track: hell, this remix even includes Crystal Johnson again, although, to be fair, she also appeared on the album version. This leads me to believe that these “remixes” may have been aborted original mixes that Loud Records paid them to polish up to promote the singles. It's still pretty goddamn good, though, as it includes Prodigy's veering from the original script into new lyrical territory (and I don't mean the cleaning up of some arbitrary curses, although that also happens on here), but you two would be better served to track down this remix on Google or something. Don't get me wrong: this remix is the shit. But there's just a better version that you can easily find elsewhere. Weird, I know.

9. THE BRIDGE (FEAT. BIG NOYD)
Ah yes, the infamous “The Bridge '94”, retitled for inclusion on this disc for whatever reason but long available as a rusty demo through various sources (Google is your friend). Finally cleaned up for commercial consumption (sort of), this song is pretty fucking great. Havoc finally sounds like he isn't afraid of the microphone, while Big Noyd unleashes another long verse, part of which he would later use for his own “Episodes Of A Hustla” from his EP of the same name (an EP that every Mobb Deep fan, especially those of you two that prefer their 1994 – 1997 period should already own, believe me). And the MC Shan sample, from his own classic track “The Bridge” (funny, that), is used perfectly. But the star of this show, as always, is Prodigy, whose visceral verse (parts of which he doesn't even rhyme, but on here he comes across more as a tortured artist and not as a dick who couldn't be bothered) will captivate any hip hop head that isn't already familiar with this hidden gem.

10. SKIT (FEAT. BIG NOYD)
On which Rapper Noyd delivers a verse (one that would later end up as the closer on Mobb Deep's “Right Back At You”) to an enamored crowd of friends and genial well-wishers. It's interesting to hear that the verse was fully formed, without any tweaking required for the album, but it's a bit disappointing to learn that Noyd (apparently) didn't write the verse especially for “Right Back At You”.

11. THE MONEY (FEAT. KILLER BLACK & KARATE JOE)
For starters, this shit is over seven minutes long, which is far too long to talk about money, right? Which is why Hav and P made the curious decision (which they later recanted, thankfully) to fill the majority of this track with a phone conversation they had with Havoc's brother Killer Black while he was locked up in the bing. It's the kind of self-indulgent interlude (albeit one with a few actual verses tacked on at the beginning) that an editor was essentially created for, and as for what any of this has to do with money, your guess is as good as mine. And since the listener is given no reason to care about the imprisoned dude (other than the fact that you finally get to hear the voice of a guy Havoc, Prodigy, and even Nas have shouted-out in the past), that part of the track just fucking drags, and the monotonous instrumental doesn't help.

12. THE MONEY (VERSION 2)
Perhaps our hosts felt that the last song fell a bit too far down into the Mobb Deep rabbit hole, as they present to listeners an alternate take of a song that, mind you, still didn't make the final cut of The Infamous. Points awarded for the duo's self-awareness in the studio, but those same points are deducted for an instrumental that is somehow worse than the previous version's. It would be best if everyone involved skips past what I'm going to refer to as the “Money Suite”.

13. WE ABOUT TO GET HECTIC (FEAT. TWIN GAMBINO)
Anyone hoping that “We About To Get Hectic” would be the blueprint for what would become the goddamn hypnotizing “Q.U. - Hectic” will be disappointed, as Prodigy, who dominates the album cut, hardly registers. Havoc takes up the most screen time, and cedes the rest to the Infamous Mobb's Twin Gambino, who, oddly, doesn't really exhibit signs of the gravelly voice he's best known for. The beat samples James Brown's “The Payback”, which is a bit too well-known for listeners to ever take this track seriously, which is probably why it was overhauled for The Infamous. Mobb Deep made the right call, is what I'm saying.

14. THE INFAMOUS
The final track of the second disc is probably what was designed to be the title track for The Infamous. When you discover that Havoc's verse is what ended up on the album version of “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)”, though, you realize that the duo dropped this shit from the final cut for a reason. The instrumental is rather bland: Havoc's work behind the boards is similar to Juvenile Hell and doesn't fit the rest of what The Infamous would end up sounding like. Prodigy's two verses are alright, but without a proper vehicle to deliver them, “The Infamous” is rightly relegated to “cutting room floor” status.

THE LAST WORD:  The Infamous Mobb Deep is a mess, but each disc fails in its own way, and even though both contain performances from the same two people, it's absolutely unfair to compare the two discs, since Havoc and (especially) Prodigy's hunger shines through on the second disc as much as Havoc and (especially) Prodigy's utter disdain for the genre and the audience comes out on the first. As such, I'm going to separate out my critiques before bringing it all together for the closer.

The first disc showcases an alarming and, frankly, appalling lack of chemistry between the co-stars.  The Havoc and Prodigy that appear on The Infamous Mobb Deep are, for lack of a better way to put it, over it already, and the music shows.  Neither man puts all that much effort into their half of the equation: Hav doesn't even handle production on a bulk of the project (which I mentioned above), while Cellblock P's newfound motivation that brought us Albert Einstein is nowhere to be found.  For the majority of the disc, both men sound like they can't stand the general idea of working together anymore, which is a shame, but is to be expected, given the reason Mobb Deep broke up in the first place, which can easily be found on Google, there's no need for me to get into that tale again.  Aside from "Dirt", anyway, which still isn't a great Mobb Deep track, but it's the best we're going to fucking get, the rest of The Infamous Mobb Deep struggles underneath its own irrelevance.  The deluxe version even gives the listener a pretty huge middle finger, in the form of three previously-released tracks from Black Cocaine, an EP that you had to fucking pay for, so Hav and P essentially want you to pay twice for the same goddamn songs.  What a waste of time; even with sporadic glimpses at possible okay-ness, The Infamous Mobb Deep is a never-was in a sea of has-been hip hop albums.

The second disc fares much better by default, but it still isn't the perfect gift fans consider it to be: while some of the tracks included are cleaned-up versions of previously-bootlegged efforts, two of the songs are unmarked remixes that actually were officially released by Loud Records, except they actually sound shittier on here than they do on, say, YouTube.  If you're going to advertise the second disc as containing rare and unreleased tracks from the archives, maybe don't include remixes you can purchase twelve-inch singles for, huh?  And if you're just padding the album anyway, why the fuck didn't Hav and P include everything recorded from around this time?  I'm talking soundtrack songs, b-sides, alternate takes, and hell, even the original "Shook Ones", which could stand to be mastered properly.  The "new" tracks on here are pretty goddamn amazing, and I loved hearing a young Hav and (especially) Prodigy rhyme with the kind of hunger you only have when you're forced into a do-or-die position (as in, "do it right or get the fuck out of the game", a tactic that does not work at all today).  But while The Infamous Archives is false advertising of a sort, it did leave me wanting more, a lot more, so in that respect, it's successful enough for rap nerds like myself, even though nobody needed to ever hear that first version of "The Money".

In short, because this review is already too long, the second disc is worth listening to if you're a hip hop historian or just really miss when Mobb Deep was actually good, but it isn't perfect: in fact, a lot of those tracks could be found online with a quick Google search.  The first disc, The Infamous Mobb Deep, is garbage, though: there's only two or three songs anyone should even bother with from the proper album.  But as a whole, there's no real need for anyone to spend actual money on this shit, even if Hav and P promised you an autographed hoverbike and a bag of Werther's Originals.

Oh, and Happy Holidays.

B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “DIRT (REMIX)” (FEAT. GHOSTFACE KILLAH)
Shortly after dropping the album, Hav and P unleashed this remix to the hype-as-fuck “Dirt” featuring Ghostface Killah, who, alongside Nas and our hosts themselves, now holds the distinction of being able to compare his past to his future through the sound of a single album, and he absolutely destroys his contribution. The !llmind beat remains the same, as do the verses from Havoc and Cellblock P, but with the inclusion of a third rapper, this remix sounds more, well, complete than the album track, if that makes any sense. In short, if you even remotely liked “Dirt”, you'll dig this take a lot more.

- Max

RELATED POSTS:
Catch up with the rest of Mobb Deep's catalog here.


16 comments:

  1. I knew you'd bash the first disc. That part, I didn't like. The second disc was great, especially for people who misses the old Mobb. It was alright remastered, to be honest. And I did like the first version of The Money, more than the second, even if it was 7 minutes. Anyway, nice review and I've been waiting for this shit. Oh yeah, Happy Holidays

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  2. I bought this a while ago and still haven't listened to the first disc. I got a lot of play out of the second, though. I actually don't think these versions sound worse than some of the ones available online and I like the version of Temperature's Rising more than the original one on The Infamous (which I always thought was the weakest song on there). I also edited out the phone call at the end of the first version of The Money and that tracks kills now. Anyways, this is definitely worth picking up for the second disc. Maybe someday I'll get around to listening to the first.

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  3. What I need to say about the first disc:

    The beat to 'Lifetime' is fucking AWESOME

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  4. Review is spot on.

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  5. The Ghostface rhyme was used on the album from Real Live on the remix for Real Live Shit that also featured cappadonna, Killa Sin & Lord Tariq.

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  6. Things I have to say about the second disc:

    Firstly, I think it's downright unfair to critique the second album, this was a fucking brilliant way for Mobb Deep to please their fans (especially after that Twitter beef and shit), and the fact that they're weaker songs than the Infamous explains why most of the songs were in the vault in the first place. If the Wu Tang Clan packaged the 1992 36 Chambers Sessions with A Better Tomorrow I wouldn't see anyone complaining.
    Also, 1994 could be the anniversary of Mobb Deep STARTING to create The Infamous, and they may have felt like that was the year where gears were shifting in terms of lyricists and production.

    I have to say, whilst listening to this shit, I noticed how much of an influence Mobb Deep had on It Was Written. The 'Eye for an Eye' beat on here is very similar to 'Shootouts'. 'Take It In Blood' is a title most-likely inspired by 'Get It In Blood'. And obviously, Havoc laced Nas up with two monster beats, and the best song on It Was Written, in my opinion, 'Live Nigga Rap', was originally supposed to be off Hell On Earth, so I count that as a Mobb Deep composition and not a Nas one. If Havoc executively produced It Was Written, and did more than half the beats on that album, plus several Prodigy cameos (throw in Infamous Mobb in, Infamous Mobb > The Firm), then we may have a Nas album comparable against Illmatic.

    Another thing I did notice is that on the first 'Skit' where Mobb Deep, Nas and Raekwon were on Yo! Mtv Raps, Prodigy spits a verse on that show, which is the same as the second verse Havoc spits on the track after, 'Take It In Blood'. This implies that they were writing verses for eachother (which is fine, in my opinion). On that A+ album, there's a song on there called 'Gusto' featuring Prodigy, where Prodigy uses the same verse that he used on the first verse of 'Take It In Blood'. I guess Prodigy noticed some of his verses were too hot to keep on songs that people weren't going to hear for years. There are actually many examples to back-up my theory, one being the possibly Hell On Earth outtake 'Rep the QBC', where prodigy spits the same verse as on Hell On Earth (frontlines). (I LOVE that verse).

    The Beat to 'Gimme The Goods' is terrible.

    Overall, I'm fucking buzzed they released something like this, and I hope it influenced more Hip Hoo acts to do the same. If anyone caught the Hot 97 interview with Mobb Deep, Prodigy says when the Hell On Earth anniversary comes, they're gonna release their next album with the Hell On Earth sessions. HOLY SMOKES.

    I know that a lot of Mobb Deep fans being that after Hell On Earth, Mobb Deep fell the fuck off. While I somewhat disagree, The fortunate news is that they've released an album's worth of songs around that era and are in my opinion are worth tracking down and I will now list:
    (Firstly, listen to Max when he says to get Big Noyd's Episodes of A Hustla EP!!!)

    Three Bonus? tracks off Hell On Earth (yes, I know)
    -'Everyday Gun Play'
    -'Reach' ft. Chinky
    -'In the Long Run' ft. Infamous Mobb (Keith Murray Diss)
    -'It Could Happen to You' DJ Muggs ft. Mobb Deep (prod. DJ Muggs, a hilarious Havoc beat impersonation'
    -'Crime Connection' ft. Cormega (An Hell On Earth outtake, I fucking LOVE this song, and the Godfather sample'
    -'Thrill Me' (Murda Muzik outtake)
    -'Street Life' ft. Two dudes (off the America Is Dying Slowly Compilation)
    -'Back At You' (off the Sunset Park soundtrack)
    -'Killaz Theme' and 'Live Nigga Rap', because they're awesome
    -'First Day of Spring' ft. Tragedy Khadafi
    -'Block Life'
    -'Hoodlum' ft. Big Noyd & Rakim (off the Hoodlum Soundtrack)
    'The War is On' Almighty RSO ft. Prodigy

    If there's any more feel free to add to the list

    And Fuck You Max, for taking 8 months to review this shit.

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    1. Funny. And if what Prodigy says actually happens, AND the songs you just listed appear on the second disc, that's going to be a must-purchase, no question.

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  7. Shit, I didn't know you guys had werther's originals over there

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    1. Swimming in the, son. Ribbon candy, too.

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  8. I'm just going to comment that I feel like Max always gets snubbed when it comes to these requests as barely anybody comments...

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  9. First disc was completely forgettable, I think I only listened to a couple of songs more than one time.

    Get it in Blood is probably one of my favorite Mobb Deep songs, and Eye for an Eye was pretty good, but the rest of that disc didn't do much for me either.

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  10. Come on son... Radio Freestyle? You can't recognize a Yo MTV Raps freestyle when you hear one? What is you 23 years old and from belgium and shit? You best throw on them Lederhosen and start reviewing some Tuba music son... Peace... Melquan Shabazz

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    Replies
    1. Semantics, shmemantics. I praised the fucking thing, didn't I?

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  11. awesome review Max. thanks. and why did the Mobb Deep beef really happen? I know there was all that twitter crap, but I really don't know what actually transpired.

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  12. I aagree Mobb Deep has been away for so long people want to hear new stuff. I love Mobb Deep dont get me wrong and i even have the infamous cd somewhere in my basement I love the one track when he goes off on Redman . But agreed its time they move on to some newer work. Wutang did the same thing back in 1998 when they released there last album and tried to reunite with there fans and it did not work!

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  13. Good looking on that HHID recommendation Max. However if you click where it says 'here', it actually takes you to a Deltron 3030 review. Just making sure your blog is perfect, and all that.

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