Review Summary: While a departure from their classic gritty sound, Infamy is still a listen worthy of your ears
This album is often called the turning point, where Mobb Deep gave up on the grimy, hardcore sound that earned them their reputation as one of hip hop's better acts in favor of mainstream recognition and more sales. I'd agree whole-heartedly. The singles are noticeably radio-friendly, one being a collaboration with R&B quartet 112, a significant departure from street singles like "Quiet Storm" and "Hell on Earth". The shift towards a larger audience by no means makes this a terrible album, because it's not. Ironically this release fared worse than their previous three releases, barely earning a gold certification. It has passable filler but there also exists a significant number of good tracks.
Infamy starts out with "Pray For Me", boasting great production and decent background singing. A major issue that's evident from track one is Prodigy, the primary MC of the group. Here he sounds tired, and generally uninterested not to mention the half-assed lyrics he spits are very simplistic.
"The Invincible infamous Mobb Deep nigga *** you
If you touch one of my dunns I'll buck you
You ain't got nuts enough to come through
And get back at my niggas for them gun wounds
You a punk bitch ass nigga you soft duke
I'm a young rich ass nigga who love to
Show you how a nigga get his lights blew
Teach you the mystery God and murk you"
Get used to it, that's about as good as Prodigy gets from here on out. Havoc himself sounds just the same as he always is, same flow, same delivery and similar rhyming. Sadly, he does better than the alleged primary MC. Production is handled mostly by him, but other contributions include Ez Elpee with his great sample driven "Get Away", Alchemist providing the surprisingly weak "Get At Me" and Scott Storch the catchy "I Won't Fall" and sub-par synth mess "There I Go Again". Havoc's own work is versatile, ranging from the futuristic "Clap" to the subtle orchestral bliss of "Nothing Like Home" and hostile, chopped up "Crawlin". While not up to par with his previous production, it's pretty good, albeit dragged down by the haphazard, irritating generic club vibe of "Bounce" and 80's pop hit rip-off sounding "Handcuffs".
The featured performers are largely forgettable, I didn't even remember hearing the usually great Big Noyd even being on "The Learning (Burn)", Infamous Mobb sucks as usual on "My Gats Spitting" and Ron Isley is just god-awful on the closer "There I Go Again". The hooks are pretty ineffective, there's the monotonous "Kill that nigga!" from (you guessed it) "Kill That Nigga" and bland R&B of "Hey Luv (Anything)"
Overall, not a bad album. Prodigy's decline is noticeable but bearable, Havoc still shows his ability on the m.i.c and keyboards, decent cuts. It doesn't really deserve all the backlash it gets. Now Amerikaz Nightmare is where Mobb Deep REALLY started sucking hardcore shamelessly.
The Learning (Burn)
Pray For Me
Nothing Like Home