Mobb Deep
The Infamous



by Blindguardian USER (5 Reviews)
June 24th, 2006 | 879 replies

Release Date: 1995 | Tracklist

The genesis of hardcore rap on the East Coast occurred during the early nineties. While in the West the primacy of Death Row Records continued seemingly unabated, the scene in the East began to take form. With the release of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993), Illmatic (1994), and Ready to Die (1994) East Coast rap gained increased national recognition and, perhaps more importantly, commercial viability. Enter the year 1995 and the release of The Infamous. Prodigy and Havoc brought the style of East Coast rap pioneered by Nas, the Wu-Tang Clan, and the Notorious B.I.G. to its stylistic apex, infusing the East Coast sound with an intensely nihilistic (of the kind espoused by Russian anarchists in the nineteenth century) and apocalyptic sentiment.

At this point, you can probably guess the nature of the subject matter on The Infamous. It should be obvious that you will not find the verses from the abstract, as you would with Tribe Called Quest. Nor will you find lyrics with a political, black-nationalist stance, like Public Enemy. No, for the most part Prodigy and Havoc set about weaving the kinds of narratives that provide fuel for every critic who attacks rap as glorying in the amoral. Explicit, first-person narratives fuel The Infamous, reveling in armed robbery, sex, and murder. If this sounds like every other gangster rap album, it is because Mobb Deep does not do anything new thematically. Nas employed explicit descriptions of street life, as seen through his eyes, on Illmatic. Mobb Deep takes the stylistic trend of East Coast rap to another level. You feel like you are watching each scene build; it feels real. Every description of murder and incarceration feels genuine. Prodigy and Havoc flow with a tone that takes both pleasure and pain in an environment that values nothing. They do not seem to glory in murder; so much as, they resign themselves to the harsh reality of the surroundings they portray.

So much for the atmosphere and theme, let’s move to more concrete matters. Neither Prodigy nor Havoc has an overly complex flow, but this is not a negative. Both have a rhythmic, steady delivery that flows easily from line to line. The delivery complements the lyrics perfectly, nothing else matters anyway. In terms of guest spots, The Infamous does not disappoint. Nas, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Big Noyd fit perfectly with Prodigy and Havoc, each bringing their own distinctive vocal approach to the album. The first three are Mobb Deep’s stylistic forerunners. Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest contributes verses to “Drink Away the Pain (Situations),” which is somewhat of a departure from the rest of The Infamous. The production on the song employs horn samples over an old-school drum loop and jazz influenced bass line, unsurprisingly reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip’s verse, delivered in his distinctive, higher pitched style, is a highlight.

The production on The Infamous is the equal of the vocal work, sounding sonically akin to RZA production. Drum loops, dominated by snare work, form the basis of much of the production. The rhythmic patterns are interesting, but are little more than foundations. The drums lend The Infamous an underlying old school that contrasts with the nihilism of the subject matter, betraying a joy in lyricism and world-play. The use of dark, often understated bass lines coupled with brooding, stuttering piano progressions annihilates the upbeat feel of the drums. “Survival of the Fittest” samples a simple piano piece that sounds distorted like old vinyl records. Sinister horns float in and out of the background, adding to the pre-apocalyptic feel of the track. When Prodigy raps, “I'm goin out blastin, takin my enemies with me/And if not, they scarred, so they will never forget me/Lord forgive me the Hennesey got me not knowin’ how to act/I'm fallin and I can't turn back,” over the production, it is bone chilling. This is the kind of negative atmosphere that most black metal records dream of creating.

Another interesting piece is “Just Step Prelude,” where Prodigy and Havoc contribute one verse each without any beat behind them, allowing their ability to flow rhythmically to rise to the forefront. On “Temperature’s Rising,” the producers employ R&B vocals, the only on the album, to create the hook. The lyrics themselves take the form of one-sided conversations between Mobb Deep and a mutual friend forced into exile after committing murder. The song leads the listener to feel sympathy for the fugitive. “Shook Ones Pt. II” contains the most chilling lines on the album, backed by a wandering piano loop, which periodically drops out:

I'm only nineteen but my mind is old/And when the things get for real my warm heart turns cold/Another nigga deceased, another story gets told/It ain't nothin' really/Hey, yo dun spark the Phillie/So I can get my mind off these yellowbacked niggas/Why they still alive I don't know, go figure/Meanwhile back in Queens the realness is foundation/If I die I couldn't choose a better location/When the slugs penetrate you feel a burning sensation/Getting closer to God in a tight situation/Now, take these words home and think it through/Or the next rhyme I write might be about you

The feeling conveyed by those lines over the sparse production is surreal, suggesting a mind consumed in a disregard for life and witness to constant violence. “Shook Ones Pt. II” is the sum of all that The Infamous is: unrelenting, haunting, nihilistic, apocalyptic. I see the album as the epitome of hardcore rap. If you are a fan of any kind of rap, especially East Coast hardcore in the vein of Nas of the Wu-Tang, this belongs in your collection. Even if you don not like rap, check this out for the narratives and atmosphere. Whether played out of car speakers or in headphones, The Infamous does not disappoint.

user ratings (1100)
other reviews of this album
Hocmat (5)
The most realistic Hardcore Hip-Hop album ever made, packed with some of the most bone chilling lyri...

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A seminal piece of hip hop...

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Typhoon24 (5)
the coldest but the realest...

Comments:Add a Comment 
Robert Crumb
June 24th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

This is an easy 5 for me, such quality. It's funny because everything they've done post-this is pretty mediocre.

And great review and all.This Message Edited On 06.24.06

June 24th 2006


I've heard of Mobb Deep but I've never actually heard an album of his. The review makes it sound promising and this is probably something that I'll check out over time.

June 24th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

Very well written review, Ive heard Prodigy's guest spots on alot of records, and Ive wanted to get some of thier own work. Ill be getting this soon hopefully.

June 24th 2006


Album Rating: 4.5

As I understand it, the Russian anarchists advocated the complete annihilation of all previous values, without the intent of replacing them with a new set, unlike the nihilism of Nietzsche, so yeah in the sense that there are no discernible morals on the album, save the desire to live, yes I was seriousThis Message Edited On 06.24.06

June 25th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

This is an easy 5 for me, such quality. It's funny because everything they've done post-this is pretty mediocre.

Hell On Earth?

Anyway, yes, this is a classic, for sure. Shook Ones Pt. II is one of the illest songs ever and Eye For An Eye is quite the crazy cut as well.

January 25th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

I really love all tracks on this, but the Preludes, especially the Infamous Prelude keeps this from being a classic.

The Jungler
January 25th 2007


Shook Ones is a classic, I need this.

January 25th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

Yes you should. If you love Shook Ones, I'm pretty sure you'll like this.

Apocalyptic Raids
July 13th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

great album. the guest spots from Nas, Ghostface and Raekwon are especially good.

March 17th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0

I cannot stand Nas tbh

May 28th 2008


Album Rating: 5.0

This is the darkest hip hop album I ever heard. Prodigy is one of the realest mcs to ever grace the mic and Havoc's production on this cd alone is must hear material.

May 28th 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

Prodigy is one of the realest mcs to ever grace the mic

Correction: Prodigy was one of the realest mcs to ever grace the mic.

New Mobb Deep sucks, hard.

June 26th 2008


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

great album. this is reminiscent of some of the Gravediggaz and Brotha Lynch Hung material, along with some later groups I've heard like Immortal Technique. however, I would not associate this with horrorcore, as its got that dry dun style and keeps the lyrics tight, giving this a truly legitimate atmosphere. And its not disgusting, as some horrorcore turns out to be. Get this album. It will make you feel like you're laid back in an old rusty Lincoln, about to open up on the kid who messed up that drop.

July 8th 2008



August 23rd 2008


Album Rating: 4.5

Mobb deep at their best. This album conjures such a strong depressing image of life for the boys of Queensbridge. Kinda reminds me of how life in London is becoming for some kids, although the problem is being a bit exaggerated by the media.

October 14th 2008


Album Rating: 5.0

So I'm checkin this out right now... haha

October 24th 2008


Album Rating: 3.5

The [The Infamous Prelude] at no two is the most annoying placement ever.

beso negro
January 3rd 2009


Album Rating: 5.0

A classic if there ever was one. Never get old of this.

January 9th 2009


Album Rating: 5.0

p gone crazy yo

January 10th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

classic album, production is banging, prodigy delivers that raw uncut delivery

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