The Car-Wreck Appeal of Mobb Deep's Blood Money

bloodmoney.jpgHow weird is M.O.P. going to look when they get their own guazy Photoshopped-up G-Unit album cover?

Mobb Deep FYE May 2, 2006

There's a line from Blood Money I'm surprised no one has made note of yet: Prodigy, "The Infamous," rapping about being a little wild kid in Queensbridge: "We ran a train on the girls in my [something] dance school / We was beastin' little young heathens." As famous Status hater Phonte from Little Brother wrote here, Prodigy hasn't been the same since Jay-Z put his dance-class picture up on the big screen at Summer Jam. It's been truly sad in a sort of fascinating Shakespearian way watching his deterioration: the 112 collabo, the Thomas Dolby sample, the G-Unit tattoo on his hand. This guy was once the fiercest young lion in New York, the guy whose old-beyond-his-years craggy rasp pretty much whittled down menacing, bleak, dystopian mid-90s New York rap to a sort of hopeless nihilism that was equal parts melancholy and defiance. And now he's trying to justify that ballet class stuff by saying he ran a train there. Whatever, P.

Mobb Deep just spent a week riding the subway around New York with some huge bodyguard as a publicity stunt. Bridget was out on her lunch break last Monday when she saw them guys walking down Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn, trailed by a horde of kids and a gaggle of cameramen while an onlooker sneered something about "male groupies." But not that many male groupies were willing to plonk down $10 plus tax on Blood Money so they'd get the wristband they'd need to see the Mobb Deep in-store appearance at the midtown FYE yesterday afternoon. The line outside FYE looked pretty huge, half a block of dudes behind a metal barricade, but the store had plenty of room left once the couple hundred faithful crammed in at 6 p.m. yesterday. Blood Money leaked last week, and general consensus is that it's terrible, that Prodigy and Havoc sound totally lost and useless on big glossy club-targeted G-Unit tracks. The album has its moments, but I still wasn't about to drop $10 to see them do four songs. Fortunately, none of the enormous suited security guards saw me slip through the side door. Half an hour later, Prodigy and Havoc walked through the front door and onto the stage. "Blood Money!," P yelled, even though everyone except me had already bought the damn thing.

First impressions: they're both tiny, shorter than most of the audience even when they're onstage. When they tell the crowd to throw their hands up, they become invisible even to tall people one row back. But they've been doing shows for a decade now, and they know how to rap loud without yelling, how to get the crowd swept up without resorting to hypemen. Prodigy isn't much older than me, but he's got wrinkles on his face and bags under his eyes, a veteran's charisma, and he's visibly happy that a few hundred New Yorkers are still willing to come out to his show and buy his album. Havoc has on big sunglasses, and he sounds OK. They open with "Put 'Em in Their Place," of course, and it's just punishingly loud, hurt-your-brain loud. It's just an OK song and a weird choice for a single, but at this volume it has a towering authority, a classically hoarse New York beat-your-ass song, and it feels good to hear this grimy shit in the midtown daylight, surrounded by gaudy neon lights and yellow plastic display-cases and everything else that makes FYE the ugliest store in the world, though the "Is that yo ho? She feelin' our style" part of the hook sounds a bit ridiculous when you notice that there are hardly any girls in the room. Then they do about ten seconds of "Give It to Me" and mumble something about it being their next video (it'll be nice to see Young Buck on TV some more, anyway), and I think maybe that's it, but no. The "Quiet Storm" beat comes on, and it's just huge and windswept and obliterating, an absolute monster. And then "Shook Ones." And then another old one I forgot the name of. And Jesus, they all sound amazing, exponentially better than the new stuff, and the crowd goes off every time another beat comes on, and P and Hav smile big and say they could keep doing this for hours. And all of a sudden the show becomes more about who they once were than who they are now, and it's exhilarating and depressing at the same time. And then they yell out "G-Unit" and "Curtis 'Billion Dollar Budget' Jackson" (who isn't there), and the whole thing just falls apart.

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