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Photo by Photo by Des Willie/Redfern. Photo illustration by Srikar Poruri.
Photo by Photo by Des Willie/Redfern. Photo illustration by Srikar Poruri.

What Made Mobb Deep's ‘The Infamous’ Timeless?

On its 29th Anniversary, we’re reexamining the haunting street rap masterpiece from legendary Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep.

For some people, the connection to their craft is divine. Creating something new out of your circumstances is one thing, but your work becoming one of the pillars of your discipline is truly special. Havoc and Prodigy, better known as Mobb Deep, the two childhood friends from Queensbridge Projects, changed everything with their 1995 album, The Infamous. Released on this day 29 years ago, The Infamous is a new spin on NYC street rap, where both rappers take you for a walk through the toughest and worst parts of their world. There weren’t any albums (at the time) that perfectly encapsulated struggling to survive in poverty like this one, and both Havoc and Prodigy were transitioning into elite talents.

The Infamous came together out of necessity. After being dropped from their record deal after their 1993 debut album Juvenile Hell, Mobb Deep found a new home in Loud Records and returned to the drawing board. Havoc, who was somehow still a novice producer, crafted a bunch of incredible beats; “Survival of the Fittest,” “Trife Life,” “Right Back At You,” “Shook Ones, Pt. II” and countless others are feats of amazing production work. In addition to that, Mobb Deep’s years-long relationship with Q-Tip, who discovered them years earlier, came in handy. Q-Tip re-arranged some of the production, mixed and mastered The Infamous, and also produced three tracks on the album.

In that same vein, Prodigy began to show flashes of the elite MC he would soon become. While Havoc was no slouch on the mic, Prodigy’s haunting vocals and unflinching descriptions of the goings-on in Queensbridge and beyond were like none other. Shining alongside modern-day legends like Raekwon and Nas on “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines) and again on “Right Back At You” with Ghostface Killah, Rae again, and Big Noyd, illustrates the level P was at.

The magic of Mobb Deep was in their chemistry. Their connection was like ESP; the two rappers were always on the same page but got the job done in different ways. Havoc was more of a slick talker, while Prodigy was the frank reporter on the scene who never pulled punches. Both were rapping about the dark reality of drug dealing, street violence, and the mental struggles that come with it while making it sound fresh every time. The way they work together on “Cradle To The Grave,” and “Shook Ones Pt. II” is hip-hop hall of fame material. The late Prodigy and Havoc not only understood each other but exactly what they were trying to create. Queensbridge has a rich hip-hop history, and Mobb Deep’s The Infamous is a key part of it.