Queens rap legend Prodigy of Mobb Deep is officially out of jail after three long years, and we have a pretty authoritative feature about his last days in the bing. Our own Laura Checkoway (who co-wrote his autobiography My Infamous Life, due this month via Touchstone Books) gets closer than anyone, finding out about his in-jail germophobia, his first meal as a free man and his beef-squashing with Nas. All of this got us thinking–how much do us rock critics really know about this dude? I mean, every rock critic will tell you they love Mobb Deep (and will probably use words like “austere” when they do it) but do they really know these Queensbridge lyrical murderers? So we asked 15 rock critics:
Can you name the two members of Mobb Deep, and one of their songs that isn’t “Shook Ones Pt. 2”?
This should be remarkably easy, right? Long championed as bringing missing grittiness back to New York rap, their mid-’90s albums stand as landmark achievements of eerie piano plink and unblinking violence. Plus they were rapping over King Crimson samples when Kanye West was still thinking about which college to drop out of.
We once again cobbled a consortium of 15 professional and semi-professional rock critics, all given the usual rules:
1. I will not identify you AT ALL, so it is OK to be wrong. [We will say that our esteemed panel edits magazines, websites, and alt-weeklies. They have written for pretty much every outlet you’ve ever heard of, from Rolling Stone, Spin, and Billboard to Twitter.]
2. You can’t use Google.
Will our critics know the answer? We’re scared to death, scared to look.
The correct answer: Prodigy and Havoc. Plus maybe knowing “Hit It From The Back,” “Survival Of The Fittest,” “Drop A Gem On ‘Em,” “G.O.D. Pt. III,” “Quiet Storm,” “Hey Luv (Anything)” or “Got It Twisted”
Out of 15 polled:
Critics who knew both members and a song: 4
Critics who knew both members, but couldn’t name a song: 2
Critics who could only name one member: 5
Critics who couldn’t name any members or a song: 4
Most correctly answered member: Prodigy
Most correctly answered song: “Murda Musik”
Some incorrectly guessed rappers: A.Z., Jeru The Damaja
Weirdest guess: “They had a song about not liking women on their periods, what was that. Something about not being a Red Wings fan.” [Note: I have no idea what song this is, if it exists.]
Best endorsement of Mobb Deep: “I got a pair of those Dre headphones, and I thought they were overpriced pieces of shit. Then I heard The Infamous on them. Life-changing.”
Critics who told me I should have a Meat Loaf question: 1
Smart-alecks who tried to get credit with “Shook Ones, Part 1”: 2
Critics who “wouldn’t have even been able to name ‘Shook Ones'”: 1
Critics who guessed “Havok” and then asked, “Am I losing my mind and just thinking of X-Men characters?”: 1
So yeah, it looks like Havoc’s propensity for staying out of jail and not typing out ALL-CAPS SCREEDS ON THE INTERNET somehow make his presence lesser known than his partner’s. Here’s a quick primer. Havoc is not only a rapper in Mobb Deep, he’s responsible for producing the majority of their tracks–a skeletal mix of peaked-out hi-hats, woozy synths and those austere (oops) haunted-house piano licks. His two solo albums are nowhere near as essential as Prodigy’s, but we wouldn’t kick them out of our CD player either. Plus his production work has shown up on any number of your favorite rap albums. Maybe you’ve heard this one?