Review Summary: Chew on that shit, punk faggot
How do you follow up a classic amongst the one-album wonder hysteria of hip-hop? Well for one, you certainly don't want to distance yourself from your loyal fan-base. "Hell On Earth" is a continuation of the gritty New York style of rap found on their previous two albums "Juvenile Hell" and the critically acclaimed "The Infamous"
(that classic I mentioned earlier.) Instrumentally pioneered by Havoc and vocally carried by Prodigy, Mobb Deep's third release "Hell On Earth" brings headphone music to a whole new level. Infectiously hard-hitting drum beats, eerie melodies, prominent vocals and the like blend to make this album a decent rival for "The Infamous". The raw emotion of "HOE" (yes) was especially effective due to the East Coast/West Coast beef taking over the streets of America that bumped music like this. With a diss-track aimed at the rap mammoth that is and was 2pac Shakur, features from two Wu-Tang Clan members and Nas, show-oriented beats with a superbly talented Master of Ceremonies, "HOE" proceeded to become another worthwhile notch on the belt of New York's own street-children, Mobb Deep.
The lyrics of MD are ostentatious, suspicious, criminal, among other adjectives many people actively try to avoid ever adding to their catalog of possible descriptions. That's a personal issue, and Mobb Deep has plenty of those. Read this example, the hook from the title track:
Ay-yo it's hell on earth/whose next or gonna be first/the projects is front lines,
and the enemy is one time/I ain't gotta tell you it's right in front of your eyes
A rather open tale of woe on the streets they claim as turf. But what sets them apart from other rap artists if their just propagating the tired tough-guy mentality over some funky beats? Perhaps nothing significant aside from their individual talents in doing that, but respect the genre, this is when gangsta-rap was in it's child stages. And according to the gangsta-rap standard, Prodigy's lyrics could be a whole lot worse. But I won't concentrate on the negative..."Hell On Earth" isn't a barrage of innovative rhymes, but the flow Prodigy undertakes to fit Havoc's beats works extremely well. Some criticize the P for being too monotonous, much in the same vein as fellow NY natives Guru of Gangstarr, or GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. Once again, respect the genre: there are rarely aspects of those two groups that don't profusely bleed "gangsta". And those two specifically being (arguably) better lyricists than Prodigy, he must have realized this and taken the cake when push comes to flow. What is flow? A rapper's flow determines his ability to rhythmically align himself or herself with the beat of the track. Since rapping is a percussive performance in general, a rapper must realize how important these two "drum tracks" are in the grand scheme of things. When push comes to Prodigy, flow is river-like, always has been, and hopefully always will be.
What does Havoc do? Wreaks his namesake, rather well. On "HOE", you will hear something so maniacally underground that I'm literally surprised "HOE" hasn't become the entire soundtrack to an East Coast hip-hop documentary (how many of those do we have at this point?) As I mentioned earlier, hard-hitting drum beats accompanied by eerie-melodies. That just about sums the production up entirely - but for the sake of not sounding monotonous: respect the grind. You see, Mobb Deep and many other hip-hop artists like them demand respect, in a similar way that a Mob would. These beats are very demanding themselves, demanding of your ears and your mind - much like respect demands your ears, and your mind. Am I to consider these beats infallible simply on account of their commanding atmosphere? Absolutely not, there are flaws - usually, its the monotony, but we don't need to bring that bitch up again. Havoc recycles like a good Samaritan - but haven't we been trying to revolt against that mindset for years because its so damn boring? When we were young'n's perhaps. But the point is, recycling drum beats = a no-no even if your supplies are limited which they probably wouldn't be after releasing one of the East Coast's most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums thus far. Is he a lazy producer? Definitely. The melodies he puts on these songs are wonderful but they repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and so on, and so forth, and so on, and so forth. Didn't that suck? Almost as much as the beats on "HOE" if they weren't so damn broodingly pleasing at the same time.
The features on this album really do bring out the atmosphere they were striving for. Nas? You know Nas - Illmatic, STILLmatic, It Was Written, etcetera. Method Man? Tical, Judgment Day, and the ***ing Wu. Raekwon? Cuban Linx baybeh, also the ***ing Wu. Their verses are a nice break from Prodigy's mic mastery - I'm not saying Prodigy isn't good but of course, variety is great. Even when Havoc hops on the Em Eye See it's great. Mobb picked a very good slew of guests to exemplify the East Coast domination of that particular year in hip-hop. Biggie was still alive, The Fugees released an album, so did Nas, so did Redman, hip-hop was reaching a financial peak on mainstream labels, etcetera. Their specific verses were basically the same stuff Prod was kickin', lyrically. Still, if you're listening to this album there may be an 80 percent chance you're walking the streets high on life with a kick-ass pair of noise-cancelers, so almost anything these rap legends will say will envelop you. Nothing revolutionary on this record but that stuff is rare, and Mobb Deep weren't original enough to be the next Kool G unfortunately, but are quite notable writers nonetheless.
This album is gorgeous in it's simplicity. With repeated listens it will become tired, if those repeated listens occur all on the same day due to the initial shock value of such an addictive record. But if you like it, "HOE" will be music to cherish for years to come, as a nearly perfect example of what New York hip-hop sounded like when it was the
most relevant source of hip-hop in the entire nation of America. Who can't
I recommend this gem to? Racists, possibly, but git 'em drunk enough and whateva.