Review Summary: A few great moments but an overall letdown from their two previous albums.
After two great, near-classic albums in "The Infamous" and "Hell on Earth" expectations were high for the Queensbridge duo for their fourth album, but how realistic was that? After all, how many hip hop artists have made three consecutive excellent albums? Probably none, so taking that into consideration this is a pretty good effort and although it's a step down from the two previous albums by no means is it terrible the expectations were just too high.
It starts out with "Streets Raised Me" with a female vocalist doing the hook, taking a bit of a softer approach, Big Noyd has a guest spot here and throughout the album Havoc shows an improved rapping ability, no longer being just the production half of the group. The most unusual song here is "Spread Love" with a chorus of "You should spread love not war just think about your kids how they need you alive for their guidance." If you're familiar with their previous work you'll realize how strange this is for a group that has been the hardest of the hard, talking about guns, drugs and murder this song seems very out of place especially since on the rest of the album they stick to their guns(literally and figuratively) throughout.
Production is predictably handled by Havoc almost entirely but The Alchemist provides a quality, thumping beat for "Thug Muzik" which is great because this track features virtually unknown(for good reason) Infamous Mobb and all three members have a verse here, a sample of their uninspired appearance:
Or at the time when my brother got splashed
It hurt my ass, to see him pass
But now I gotta keep on moving to get this cash
You better kill his ass, if you wanna pass
Thankfully Prodigy saves the track with the closing verse. There are much more welcome guest spots by Cormega on "What's Ya Poison" and old school legend Kool G. Rap on "The Realest." Unfortunately a guest spot from another great doesn't work, Nas appears on "It's Mine," containing an interpolation of Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" with God's Son singing the chorus "Y'all need to give it up, we don't give a f*ck, what y'all niggaz want, thug, life, is, mine" a shockingly bad moment considering the talent of the artists involved.
When the book is closed on Mobb Deep, they'll be remembered for making two great albums and the song that has become synonimous with the group is "Shook Ones Pt. II" but right next to that classic will be "Quiet Storm," while the remix with Lil' Kim garnered the most attention, the original version is probably better, with Prodigy doing all three verses while Havoc handles the hook. Over a buzzing synth bassline and simple keynotes, Prodigy spits some of the best lyrics of his career:
Fully blown melanin tone, I rock skeleton bone shirts
And verses, but thirst for worse beats
So I can put, more product out on the street
Get respect and love, all across the board
We've been adored, for keepin it raw, nuttin less or more
I score everytime for sure
while the rest of y'all niggaz just nil
Although it's a letdown coming off "Hell on Earth" there are some impressive moments here, Havoc's production hasn't really skipped a beat, he shows improvement as a rapper and even though he's still not at Prodigy's level he can hold his own. Many will point to this album as the time when Mobb Deep started to lose it but they don't embarrass themselves here, they would save that for their next album...