“I’m falling and I can’t turn back.” – Prodigy, ‘Survival Of The Fittest’.
‘The Infamous’ is nihilistic. Often, grit and sophistication repel one another, not here; Prodigy and Havoc give us a haunting narrative, and while it’s not innovative in all the ways it could be, it’s skillful in all the way it needs to be.
A lot of this is about tragedy, that’s what makes it so emotive. It’s a genuinely sad record, and they nail it with “I’m falling and I can’t turn back.” It’s a bar worth repeating – it captures what’s so powerful here. This one’s sampled in Immortal Technique’s ‘Dance With The Devil’ where it perfectly describes Billy’s downward spiral. The lyrical content on ‘The Infamous’ is exceptional. To grab another one from ‘Survival of the Fittest’, a real highlight:
“I’m going out blasting taking my enemies with me, and if not they scarred so they will never forget me.” – Prodigy.
It’s resignation – a captivating take on a dreadful, hopeless commitment. It’s a bone chilling amorality; I ***ing hate literary references (and you should hate me for this one), but it’s screaming Macbeth – “I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o'er.” I think Will would have been digging this one. It’s not an experimental record – it’s restricted to gangster rap, but it’s some wicked gangster rap. The duo deliver rhymes in an authentic way and it’s pretty gritty. All this embodies the rugged intelligence central to the genre.
And the production’s nasty. It’s grimy and murky, see ‘Trife Life’, but a standout’s ‘Shook Ones Pt. 2’, a sinister, shadowy creeping that’s damn mysterious. What’s more, in places it’s very cinematic; ‘Up North Trip’ demonstrates this dramatically, but it’s there in the cohesion of the album – a time frame dedicated to their story–telling. ‘Give Up The Goods’ shows us more, it’s some sort of groovy time-lapse (it’s all very disorientating), and Big Noyd’s rad. He rhymes ‘Lyrical’ with ‘Miracle’ – that’s never okay – but it’s comfortable listening. It’s a bit smoother than Havoc and Prodigy, but then so’s Q-Tip later on: ‘Drink Away The Pain’ just gives it a bit of style.
But it isn’t a 5/5. It doesn’t really break any barriers; rather, it’s an elevated version of what we had before. There’s nothing wrong with it as such, but it doesn’t lay sufficient foundation for any wannabe Mobb Deeps, I don’t think. They’ve done it now.