View Full Version : New Mobb Deep interview

04-26-2011, 03:10 AM

“Shook Ones pt. II.” The Infamous. “Quiet Storm.” “Give Up The Goods.” Hell On Earth. Mobb Deep really need no introduction. Havoc and Prodigy are as essential to NY hip hop as Timbs, dice games, grimy beats and tales of shit getting real fucked up, real fast, in the outer boroughs. We had a chance to sit down with dudes and discuss their place in music, Prodigy’s new book, people getting thrown on train tracks and one of the unsolved mysteries of rap…

You guys dropped your classic The Infamous 16 years ago as of this month, and the album is like a time capsule of the NY circa ’95. Talk about the difference between NY in 1995 vs NY in 2011.

Prodigy: I just dropped a book called My Infamous Life, it’s an autobiography. My life story, Mobb Depp and all that. Part of that book touches on that. It’s a big difference from NY back when we was growing up to now. NY was real loose before. On the trains, the graffiti, it was a dangerous place. You didn’t have as much of a safety net as you got now. I feel we was blessed to grow up in that era in NY, cause I got to see things how it used to be on the streets. Back then, you ride the train you better have your hammer on you — Bernhard Goetz shit goin’ on, you know.

Me and Hav went to high school in Manhattan, we were in school with all the five boroughs, we’d get on the train after school, there’d be madness. There’d be fights on the subway platform, people getting thrown on the train tracks. All types of gangs — the Decepticons — they’d come up to the school and try and cut people in they face. It was crazy back then. It’s a lot better now. Less crime and less of a threat to your safety.

Going off of that, in ’95 NY was the epicenter of rap, but, now other regions have become more prevalent, power is more spread out. To be honest the importance of NY rappers isn’t what it once was. How do you guys see the current landscape of rap music?

Havoc: To look at it in a positive aspect, it’s just evolving. Rap music evolves like everything else evolves. You spin the wheel and shit just ended up in Atlanta. Its all good, there’s no problem with that. We just proud to be in the forefront of it all. We’re NY rappers, nothing could ever top that, I don’t give a fuck whats hot whats not, nothing will ever beat being a NY emcee. Our position is solidified. I definitely condone it — shit spreading out — because if it was just over here, it’d be corny. We’d be complaining about that.

It’s interesting that you take that angle, beause dudes from NY, from your generation specifically, kinda have a stigma of being elitist. A lot of your peers have been critical of cats that don’t sound like them. Why do you think that’s been a widespread attitude?

Havoc: See that’s the thing that made the music shift to other places, in my opinion. It’s just closed-mindedness that gave other people the opportunity to creep up, because you so busy ignoring what’s going on around you, that you’re not even realizing other music out there. That mind state alone, is a negative for NY music. These are just other young brothers coming up making music. It ain’t gotta be my kind of music, but that don’t mean I’m gonna shit on it.

Prodigy: It got a lot to do with just growing up and maturing mentally. You gotta respect other people that’s doing their thing and just do your thing. I think also, with all the new rappers that’s out right now flooding the game, I think it’s a good thing for rap music period. It forces you to be more creative. You got all these people and it’s like “whats so special about you?” it forces you to stand out of the crowd.

Speaking of the crowd, is there anyone who stands out to you that you’re digging right now?

Prodigy: Oh man, I like Odd Future. They’re crazy right now.

It’s wild that you say that, because it sounds to me that Odd Future pulled the dark atmosphere in their production from The Neptunes work with Clipse. Yet, I always felt that The Neptunes work with the Clipse, when it worked best, was them doing their take on Mobb Deep style production.

Prodigy: Yeah, we meet a lot of artist who are like “Yo man, I grew up off of Mobb Deep. Y’all music is all we bang around our way” and it’s all love. It’s the same way with us, when we came up doing our thing, there was a lot of people – Big Daddy kane, Rakim, Jungle Brothers, Nas – we were like man, son is nice.

Talking about your production and sound, the sample (Herbie Hancock’s “Jessica) for “Shook Ones Pt. II” for a long time has remained one of the unknowable mysteries of rap. But just recently someone cracked it and figured out the source of it. How do you feel about that?

Havoc: Somebody cracked the Davinci Code! That’s crazy. Everywhere I used to go, people used to ask me what the sample was, and I never used to tell them. The truth of the matter is, I forgot what I had sampled. But, a part of me was kinda happy that somebody had finally figured it out, because it just brought to light the relevancy of that song and it’s importance to hip hop — and the meaning it had for other people. So, I was happy about that, and glad to find out what it was.

Prodigy, I was checking out your book and at one point you talk about your recent stint in prison and how you looked at it as sort of an extended period of mediatiation. You also in the book talk about having enlightenment and likening it to Roddy Piper in They Live, when he puts on the shades and sees the hidden messages all around him. When you put on the shades now or think back after having years of meditation, what do you see when you reflect on the Prodigy of ’95?

Prodigy: I just see a lot of recklessness, wildin’, having fun. We was just having fun, being us, the music came out naturally. When I look back at it, I just think “wow,” a lot of it is a blur. There was just so much drinking and fucking, all kinds of weed – just a lot of wild times and fun. But, at the same time, we were ahead of our time s far as the subject matter of our songs and how we carried ourselves in a lot of ways.

We were definitely ahead of our time and I definitely see that also, but, now I look back at it and I see we been through that and we don’t gotta prove nothing. We can just kick back and continue to make this music and do what we do. Just check our track record. This is where we at now, life is a learning process.

You also speak about your grandfather being big in the jazz scene in your book, playing with dudes like Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. As well you mention your grandmother having a really successful dance school and her working with dudes like Ben Vereen. Considering jazz and dance being such prominent black art forms, how do you think this musical pedigree shaped you becoming a rapper?

Prodigy: When I was going through the book, reading it after I wrote it, it was bugged out to me because, we go through mad generations of music in the book. We go through my grandfather’s time with the jazz and my mothers era with the doo-wop, she had the group The Crystals. Then you go through the beginning stages of rap. When I first started hearing rap. We start Mobb Deep and we get into the music ourselves, all through the different stages of current popular rap music. To see that from then to now — to see it all come together, it’s crazy. I was able to keep my family’s legacy of music going like that; it’s kind of bugged out. It’s different generations of black music metamorphosing through the years.

The dragon tattoos you guys have on your hands, are the same as the logo of NY hardcore band Sick Of It All. Is there a connection between Mobb Deep and Sick Of It All?

Prodigy: Basically, when I was 14 or 15, there was this tattoo parlor in Elmart off Hemstead turnpike and I had walked in there to get my first tattoo. There was this dragon on the wall and I didn’t know what it was, I just thought it looked ill, I was mad young and I had always wanted something on my hand. I prolly seen it on some of those L.A. gang movies like Colors. I thought’d be cool, it’d look like some tough shit. So I told the dude put that on my hand. When me and Hav started Mobb Deep, we turned it into the lil clique thing.

We wanted to turn it into the logo for Mobb Deep, but, then we got a cease and desist letter in the mail. It was like “yo, you using our logo” from Sick Of It All’s lawyer and we was like what the fuck? Niggas was like “P, where you get that?” And I was like, that was just some random shit! We didn’t even know, we was just young kids.

Yeah, I looked it up and they actually covered “Survival of the Fittest.”

Havoc: Oh for real? that’s dope.

Prodigy: Yeah they did the rock version. Prolly cause they seen we was using the logo.

Havoc: They was like “Oh yeah, we’re gonna do one of their songs”

Prodigy: “You take our shit, were gonna take your shit!”

Grab Prodigy’s new autobiography My Infamous Life to get more stories of the formation and early years of Mobb Deep, growing up in pre-Guiliani NY and more than a few rappers getting smacked in their mouths. The book turns out to be a compelling autobio whether or not you’re a Mobb Deep stan, as dude has had a crazy life — also, there’s cameos from the likes of Mary J. Blige, Lindsay Lohan and possibly aliens. A retread of of the classic “birthdays was the worst days, now we sip champagne when we thirsty” story, this is clearly not.

Download Prodigy’s latest, The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson Story EP and look for a new Mobb Deep album coming at the end of the summer.