Mobb Deep :: The Infamous Mobb Deep
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
It's not easy to come back with a sequel to a hip-hop classic, but that's not going to stop
Mobb Deep from trying. The release of the "Black Cocaine" EP in 2011
was a teaser that this album was a possibility, but a very public feud
(over Twitter) nearly put this album on permanent hiatus. When they
reconciled last year it was revealed that "The Infamous Mobb Deep"
would be not just a sequel, but a tribute to the original, featuring
unreleased sessions from the original 1994 recordings before they
blew up on the national landscape.
Let's start with that second disc of unreleased material, which
starts with a new and extended version of "Eye for an Eye" with
an entirely different instrumental and never before heard verse
from Ghostface Killah. "Today's math, fuck nothin but ass, take
Cristal baths/go half on this robbery, we run up on Johnny Cash."
That's worth the price of admission alone, but I can see why they
dumped this version of the song - it's nearly 7 minutes long and
the beat on the album version is better. It's paired with a skit
of Ed Lover discussing the song with everybody on the album
version and hosting a live freestyle session. This is followed by
a Mobb song that's been bootlegged for years dubbed "Take it in Blood"
that's actually called "Get it in Blood" on this disc.
This is followed by an alternate version of "Give Up the Goods"
that I would have left in the vaults - it's not anywhere near as
good by comparison. "If It's Alright" featuring Big Noyd is tight
though - this could have been a bonus track on a deluxe edition
or Japanese import version of "The Infamous." The 1994 interview skit
promoting their album that follows is completely unnecessary.
The extended version of "Survival of the Fittest" is not a revelation - long time Mobb
Deep fans have had that one in their archives - but it's dope
anyway. The "Temperature's Rising" remix featuring
Crystal Johnson has been a B-side or leak somewhere along
the line too, but it's a mellow take on the original track
though and I dig the flip.
Six more tracks wrap up "The 1994 Infamous Sessions" starting with
another unreleased Big Noyd track - this one is called "The Bridge"
and as you might suspect it samples MC Shan. Another skit with a
live appearance promoting the album follows, along with two versions
of a song called "The Money" - the first clocking in at WELL
over seven minutes. It's the better version though both in terms
of the beat and the Rakim sample - the latter just sounds flat and
uninspired. "We About to Get Hectic" is a weird hybrid between their
early recording career "Juvenile Hell" era sound and what they'd
become by the mid-1990's, but I'm not mad at this EPMD-esque
sounding Mobb Deep song. It wouldn't have made them rap superstars
like their dark and grimy "Infamous" style but it wasn't hurting
anybody. "The Infamous" closes and is more like the Mobb you know.
"I'm a classic/approach my level and get your ass kicked/floatin'
in the river wit'cha body wrapped in plastic." Verse two is
the same as on the original "Eye for an Eye."
As for disc one, Mobb Deep was long promising they'd get back to
their original dark and deep sound that made them a rap sensation,
and they definitely give it the full effort. The key to that is
production, because in the span of two decades both Hav and P's
voices have changed a bit, something that's only more evident when
you pair the bonus disc with it. Illmind gets the best out of them on "Murdera," "Check the
Credits," "Dirt" and "Say Something" - transporting you back to a
time when Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang Clan were spreading their own
New York slanguage to audiences worldwide.
You'd be disappointed if The Alchemist wasn't involved in this
project, being one of their best known and most signature sound
collaborators, and he comes through with three grimy songs as
well - "Lifetime," "Waterboarding" and "Get It Forever" featuring
Nas. There's just something about Nas and Mobb Deep coming
together on a track - maybe because they're all from the same
hood - maybe because they're all sparking blunts and enjoying each
other's company in the studio. It always sounds natural though. "But
you know this already, my hood the coldest and deadly/Soldiers is
It's worth noting this song was already on the "Black Cocaine" EP
but it's good enough that I'm glad they included it a second time.
The nice thing about 2014 Mobb Deep compared to 1994 Mobb Deep is
the collaborations that WEREN'T possible back then, as a
whole new generation has been born and come of age. Mack Wilds and
French Montana weren't around to rap with them on "Henny," which
sounds like a remix of "The Learning (Burn)," but that just makes
it better - especially since Busta Rhymes jumps on it with his
over-excitable ass. You certainly wouldn't have thought of them
doing a Dirty South collab' regardless of the age gap, but that
Third Coast link is forged with Bun B and Juicy J on "Legendary"
thanks to Havoc, Boi-1da and The Maven Boys. And at the height
of the East coast/West coast rivalry, who would have thought of
Mobb Deep rapping with Snoop Dogg? His verse must have came in
at the last minute though because it's not on the YouTube version.
"The Infamous Mobb Deep" is an enjoyable journey for long time fans
of the group, but for newcomers it's a hefty two hour plus tome that
can't be taken in one sitting. Even if you only listened to the first
disc of two, it's over an hour, and occasionally it's a mixed bag.
Songs like the Beat Butcha produced "Timeless" live up to the
billing, and songs tracks like "Conquer" seem like they're trying a
little too hard to be epic. They don't fail in production or delivery,
they just feel tacked on to an album that's already long, while
"The Infamous" was exactly the right length to leave you wanting
more and immediately play the whole thing again. "The Infamous
Mobb Deep" has that same curse a lot of hip-hop double albums have
had - and yet I don't see any way they could have released the
1994 sessions separately and had people cop it to this degree.
I don't fault the cleverness, but even if this were one disc only,
three less tracks could have made even more of a classic - and
left material for the next bonus disc 20 years in the future.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: April 29th, 2014