Review Summary: How many emcees debut was their best? Not many so Im just gonna pretend Infamous was their debut and be happy with that.
Before they committed career seppuku by signing with Curtis Jackson, Havoc and Prodigy were your average teenage duo from Queensbridge who rapped about gangsta *** and the bitches they ***ed. The difference between Mobb Deep and your average thugged-out misogynistic rapper is the skill level; Mobb Deep was actually pretty good.
Most people remember Mobb Deep's breakthrough single on Loud Records, "Shook Ones, Pt. II", as well they should, because it is an undisputed classic. Their album The Infamous is often brought up in conversation between people who have nothing else better to do than to discuss the best hip hop albums from the East Coast.
Which is fine and all, but Juvenile Hell is their actual debut.
Released on 4th and Broadway Records, Mobb Deep dropped their first album (along with their original name, Poetical Prophets) to general disinterest. Which shouldn't be a shock; the album is filled with violent and sexist lyrics; therefore, they sounded like every single other rapper ever. A couple of songs generated a bit of a spark, but for the most part, nobody cared.
I guess their live shows were pretty decent, though, since they were soon signed to Loud Records, and the rest is, well, something that we will touch on when I review their second album. (Side note: later on in 1993, Havoc was a featured player on Black Moon's seminal debut Enta Da Stage. Yeah, I know, I was just as shocked as you are.)
2. ME & MY CREW
Seventeen-year-old Havoc sounded a bit like Prodigy, so it was hard for me to distinguish their verses at first. Havoc rides this beat like a ten-year old riding a motorcycle with no handlebars and a .08% blood alcohol content: that is, not very well.
3. LOCKED IN SPOFFORD
Not horrible. Havoc fares much better here. Fans of Havoc's production on The Infamous forward will be terribly discouraged with this album, by the way.
4. PEER PRESSURE
Prodigy's lyrical prowess obviously isn't at the Infamous level yet, but he's not bad.
5. SKIT #!
6. HOLD DOWN THE FORT
Supposedly produced by both Havoc and Prodigy. Look past the unnecessary skit-like discussion during the chorus, and this song is actually pretty ***ing good.
7. BITCH ASS N---A
From the Nicolas Cage film of the same name. (Haven't seen that in a while, huh?)
8. HIT IT FROM THE BACK
For a song about how to render aid when someone is choking, completely devoid of any medical advice.
9. SKIT #2
10. STOMP 'EM OUT (FEAT BIG NOYD)
Big Noyd's actual debut. He's not bad, but "Give Up The Goods (Just Step)" is a better introduction for a guy better known from the Domino's Pizza commercials.
11. SKIT #3
What the ***? Three skits in seven tracks? Who sequenced this thing?
12. PEER PRESSURE (THE LARGE PROFESSOR REMIX)
Sounds exactly as it reads. What do you mean, you've never heard of Large Professor? Sigh...
13. PROJECT HALLWAYS
Whoever predicted that Havoc would eventually outshine Prodigy on the mic, hit me with a comment below; I'm looking for some lucky lottery numbers.
14. FLAVOR FOR THE NON-BELIEVERS
Available in fruit punch, orange, and nacho cheese.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Juvenile Hell is a surprisingly decent debut album. It's best you don't go into it expecting much, since the beats mostly suck and the rhymes had yet to be honed, but fans of The Infamous will be pleased. Fans of Blood Money, though, should be dragged out into the streets and beaten with MC Hammer LP's until fully embarrassed.
BUY OR BURN? If you can find it for fifty cents (ooh, a pun!), I'd pick this one up, but otherwise I'd just burn it, simply because it's easier that way.
BEST TRACKS: "Hold Down The Fort"; "Hit It From The Back"