June 2, 2015

For The Max-Approved Mixtape: Mobb Deep - "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)"




Artist: Mobb Deep featuring Nas and Raekwon
Title: "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)"
Producer: Mobb Deep (as credited in liner notes; most likely Havoc, with an uncredited assist, most likely from A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip, but I'm just speculating here)
Album: The Infamous (1995)

One bizarre night, I found myself driving a friend of mine to retrieve his car from his house.  If I'm remembering correctly, it was because his father "stole" it from him while it was parked at his workplace.  The word "stole" is in quotation marks solely because what his dad did to him certainly wasn't illegal (he shared ownership of the vehicle with my friend), but it was a massive dick move, since he didn't even bother to tell his son that he was taking the car, leaving my friend panicked throughout the day as he wasted time calling the cops.  This isn't even the weirdest thing that happened that night, but ultimately, the story isn't about that: it's about the ride back to his house.

My car was equipped with just a cassette player, but all I bought at the time were CDs, which means I spent an inordinate amount of time recording mix tapes just so I could listen to something other than the goddamn radio, which, by the way, sucked back then, too.  Like most music nerds, I felt what I was listening to was just as important as when I was listening to it; some songs were tailor-made for driving around aimlessly.  This particular night, I was listening to my Wu-Tang Clan tape, because of course I would have a tape devoted solely to the Wu.  My friend occupied the passenger seat, while another dude took up the back.  That guy was more of a hard rock fan, so he, as usual, tuned out whatever was playing on my speakers, but that didn't matter to me, as it was my fucking car.

As a technicality, I included Mobb Deep's "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)" on the mix, simply because Raekwon was a featured guest, and last time I checked, he was still a member of the Wu.  It's a flimsy excuse, and these days Mobb Deep's catalog has grown to such a degree that there's no need for such technicalities on my iTunes playlists now, but they only had two albums out at the time, only one of which was really worth a shit, so play along with me for a bit.  Once the dusty and monotonous, yet hypnotic, melody kicked in, with the cold drums to match, I noticed him trying to pay closer attention, which had to have been difficult, because you don't sit in a car with your boys silently unless you're either pissed off at each other or you're in the midst of a soul-searching road trip in your art-house movie. 

"Who is this?", he asked.  I told him Mobb Deep, but he was specifically asking about who was actually rapping at the time.  It was Havoc and Prodigy's QB brethren Nas, dropping his classic verse (with one of the first, if not the first, references to his 'Nas Escobar' persona) with blunt rhymes written from the mindset of a jaded mafioso, which makes no goddamn sense considering how young the guy still was at the time.  This one song enticed the dude so much that he made me stop at a Blockbuster Music (kids, that is a store that used to exist that sold music, and yes, it was owned by Blockbuster Video, which also is a store that used to exist) just so he could buy it.  They had one copy of The Infamous sitting in their racks, and given that this wasn't a discount seller like Best Buy, my friend ended up paying $18.99 plus tax for the classic album.  So Hav and P, I'm solely responsible for at least two units sold of The Infamous, let alone any that happened to be purchased after I started this blog.  You can send my gift basket through UPS.

I've written before that "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)" is my favorite Mobb Deep song, and that fact hasn't changed.  Whenever I think of the on-again, off-again duo, this stark beat (with its sample of Al Green's "I Wish You Were Here" buried within) plays in my head, and it's a bitch to get it to stop.  The Infamous is well-known for containing classic composition after classic composition (like the unmatched "Shook Ones Pt. II" or the follow-up, "Survival Of The Fittest", which the duo recently re-recorded for ESPN for play during the NBA Finals, but to diminishing returns, as it sounds awful, folks); shit, every other song is a fucking contender for this playlist, and the ones I'm leaving off are still better than most "music" released today.  (The word "music" is in quotation marks solely because I'm an asshole.)

But I always go back to "Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)", four verses of matter-of-fact intimidation and proclamations of dominance: Raekwon closes out the track with the weakest contribution and it's still hot.  (What makes this song even more special is that it isn't even the first take on the concept: the original version, included on the bonus disc for the duo's last album, The Infamous Mobb Deep, contains different verses (except from Nas) and an extra cameo from Rae's partner-in-rhyme Ghostface Killah.  Which would make you think that I would be predisposed to liking that version better, what with it having two Wu-Tang members on it and all, but you'd be wrong.)  The hook is simplistic, but it gets the point across: if we happen to be friends, your problems become my problems.  It's a song about loyalty, as each artist raps about their day-to-day, which includes what amounts to out-and-out warfare each and every goddamn day because 1990s hip hop.  With that, Cellblock P kicks things off with a lengthy diatribe, dropping threats like coins into a fountain with the apathy of a Republican for a poor minority.  Havoc bats second, and while he wasn't as good with the pen as he is now, he still makes an indelible mark, while Raekwon the Chef takes an early opportunity to expand his delegation outside of Staten Island.

Nas Escobar is the real winner, though.  His short verse slaughters all comers as he speaks in clipped descriptions ("Tailor made ostrich, Chanel for my women friend", "Mad man, my sanity is going like an hourglass") that tell you everything you need to know about his lifestyle (on wax, granted, but still).  I know I'm not the biggest Nas fan: he does take this rap shit far too seriously (a fact not dispelled on his actually-pretty-good documentary Nas: Time Is Illmatic, although he at least explained why he was so fucking single-minded while he was recording Illmatic).  Hell, the name of this very blog is an indirect swipe at the guy.  But when he connects, he's on, and I'm not afraid to say that, even with my misgivings, he's still one of the best rappers working today.  He just needs better production and the ability to stick to a given concept, two ingredients he receives on this banger.

Do you agree or disagree with this selection?  Discuss below.

-Max

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26 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 02, 2015

    well my personal favorite is Right Back At You, only for the beat and Prodigy's verse though. I thought the Wu kind of ruined Right Back At You. But you really can't go wrong with any song off this album.. legit pick. And this was a great read. Especially the part about talking in the car with homies.

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    Replies
    1. AnonymousJune 04, 2015

      I know Max disagrees, but I LOVE the back and forth between Ghost and Rae in Right Back At You (see also: Heaven and Hell). I wish they did it more often.

      Delete
    2. AnonymousJune 05, 2015

      I disagree too lol. I mean I love Heaven and Hell, but I feel like Prodigy killed it so hard on Right Back At You that nobody could follow, and I feel like Havoc goes better with Prodigy than pretty much anyone else

      Delete
  2. AnonymousJune 02, 2015

    This is the tune to play when your about to put in work sets the mood perfectly, classic!

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  3. Havoc was also a great producer for Nas. Havoc outdid Primo on both It Was Written and Nastradamus.

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    Replies
    1. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

      Nah, "I Gave You Power" is superior to both "The Setup", and "Live Nigga Rap". But that's neither here nor there, both tracks were still dope.. just not as dope as Premo's track.

      I DO agree with you on Nastradmus though.. "Shoot em up" was better than "Come get me"

      Delete
    2. To each his own. I think Havoc should've executive produced I Am... and Nastradamus and we would have a different story.

      Delete
    3. I thought "Shoot Em Up" was awful...

      Delete
  4. I hate to nitpick, but it's my favorite song so the correct name is Survival Of The Fittest, Max. First Anonymous, I agree, but not with your Wu criticism and I don't really have a favorite on this album.

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    Replies
    1. I've had that Def Jam Survival Of The Illest promotion on my mind (thanks, Onyx!). Corrected.

      Delete
  5. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    Ok..ok.. Here's the definitive list (In no particular order of importance) of producers who Nas needs to have locked in a dingy room (by threat of getting shot with Nas' tec on his dresser), brainstorming with one another with only the most minimal of music production equipment to create his next album.. AHEM:

    01. Large Professor

    02. Premo

    03. The Beatnuts

    04. RZA (Brainwashed into thinking he's the RZA from 1995 otherwise he won't make anything dope.. RZA's so far up his own ass now)

    05. DJ Evil Dee

    06. QTip

    07. Alchemist

    08. Pete Rock

    09. Kanye West.. MAYBE.. MAAAAYBE!!


    Fuck you and DIE if you don't agree with this list.

    Love,

    Anonymous



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My only problem with this list, while it is a fucking dream team of East Coast hip hop, is how it completely neglects any up-and-coming producers that Nas might work well with. Esco over Harry Fraud could work, maybe.

      My other only problem with this list is no Salaam Remi. That is all.

      Delete
    2. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

      See, the thing is that this list of mine is made specifically NOT to have any up and coming talent producing it. This theoretical Nas album would go back to raw, minimal, basement-esque production. Something i feel nas is lacking.. alot of people want to hear Nas going back to basics with the production. Newer, up and coming producers are on a whole different theme of production nowadays. I want a last go ahead with an old school dream team of 90s production legends with Kanye being the only more recent addition.. feel me??

      Delete
  6. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    Love this timeless track, Prodigy's verse is menacing as fuck!

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  7. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    Life aint a gamble, we scrabble for money, I might crack a smile but aint a dam thing funny! True Talk.

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  8. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    Kanye's best producing days are behind him so.. meh, RZA would defo have to be in his 93-97 guise, DJEvilDee!!?? who's he when he's at home? Not too sure about Alchemist/The Beanuts, everyone else you've mentioned should do the job and funnily enough all worked on Ilmatic (see what I did there).

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    Replies
    1. Maybe I'm not reading your comment right: are you asking who DJ Evil Dee is? Because I'm sure the two readers could fill you in.

      Delete
  9. It's pretty cool how this is a more detailed follow up of what you said for Eye For An Eye in the original review.

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  10. AnonymousJune 03, 2015

    Yes, can someone please enlighten me as to who DJ Evil Dee is - thanks in advance

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    Replies
    1. Da Beatminerz? Black Moon? Any of this ringing a bell? A lot of older heads hold Da Beatminerz's production work in high esteem. Myself included.

      Delete
  11. I've been listening to The Infamous and Hell on Earth on repeat (again) since reading this piece. Good job!

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  12. AnonymousJune 04, 2015

    I never even realized he was part of the Da Beatminerz (who I do know along with Black Moon) - good looking Max.

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  13. I cant front, this new mix tape column is dope

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  14. AnonymousJune 05, 2015

    this mobb deep song should be on the mixtape.. just found this yesterday. im a mobb deep scrub. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZurlF5CEUbE

    ReplyDelete
  15. My rankings of the songs off The Infamous:
    1) Survival of the Fittest
    2) Right Back At You
    3) Eye for an Eye
    4) Shook Ones Pt 2
    5) QU Hectic
    6) Up North Trip
    7) Give Up The Goods
    8) Temperature's Rising
    9) Party Over
    10) Drink Away the Pain
    11) Trife Life
    12) The Start of Your Ending
    13) Cradle to the Grave

    The list probably changes every time I listen to the album. Cradle to the Grave is definitely the weakest song on the album, it's an alright song but it starts too slowly.

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