Foregoing: I decided that I want to create some kind of blog for me to review all kinds of hip hop albums, from the absolute terrible to some decent ones, to a bunch of ones that have gotten mixed reception. I'll always post in a seperate blog as well, but I might as well get the extra publicity in School Surivival, in some lame attempt to introduce School Survivors to real hip hop/rap [and in the future, rugby union].
Now, for the review.
Might as well do another 2001 Queensbridge album to start off the blog.
Let's go back to 2001, yet again. 14 years ago (in 2015, we're speaking), Mobb Deep were on thin ice. The group that had become one of New York's most recognizable emcees with classic releases such as The Infamous, Hell on Earth, and the less critically acclaimed but still good enough Murda Muzik (which was the most commercially successful release, believe it or not), as well as Prodigy's own H.N.I.C., were facing a true test to their credibility. Jay-Z had absolutely wedgied Mobb Deep by showing Prodigy's pictures as a ballerina during Summer Jam 2001, and launching an entirely vicious diss at the Mobb on the infamous "Takeover". Mobb Deep weren't exactly unfamiliar with shots from bigger rappers; 5 years previously they'd successfully responded to 2Pac with "Drop A Gem On 'Em". All eyes were on Mobb Deep, and the potential lyrical beating that Jay-Z was about to receive.
Except it never happened. Infamy sucked. It sucked the big one, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps the most infamous track on here was "Hey Luv (Anything)", which was a blatant R&B crossover featuring Bad Boy's own 112, and the whole Mobb sound being mainstreamed, something which was unimaginable for many Mobb Deep fans. Infamy was only able to go gold, and the duo would be attacked on Nas's Stillmatic, essentially putting the nail in the coffin for them. Since then, Mobb Deep released 2 awful albums (or at least I hear) in yet another crossover with Lil' Jon (of all people, would you seriously expect Mobb Deep to collaborate with Lil' Jon?) on Amerikaz Nightmare, and would sell their souls to release Blood Money on the G-Unit label. For 8 years they would release no real new material (with the exception of a few EPs and solo projects) until last year's The Infamous Mobb Deep, which, at the very least, is definitely not as bad as the Mobb releases circa 2001-06 (and I may get to that one soon).
However, is this album simply a victim of the so-called Nastradamus effect (where some Nas apologists attempt to excuse Nastradamus as a victim of "You Owe Me"; the album still sucks regardless), where an infamous single kills the entire album? Let's find out.
1. Pray For Me (Feat. Lil' Mo) - My god. This song sucks. The sound of the song is obviously tailored towards radio friendliness, although it's not horrible, to be fair. As was epidemic throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, there is an R&B hook sung by Lil' Mo (and the a cappella at the end is completely unnecessary). Both Havoc and Prodigy's verses are awful, Prodigy especially (especially with the Jay-Z subliminal disses; throughout the album, this is a big problem). And remember, these were the guys that gave you The Infamous and Hell on Earth. It's incredible to show how far they fell off by 2001, and this generally is not a good sign. (D-)
2. Get Away - UGH! Another radio friendly instrumental, this time produced by Ez Elpee. The performances by both rappers are yet again, quite awful. What's with this slow-going verse? What is with the constant interruption by an uncredited R&B singer (persumably Lil' Mo)? And oh god... Prodigy's verse... this is one of the most half-assed verses I've ever seen in a rap song. Overall, this song is horrible, with a really, really bad hook by Havoc. Oh, and of course, a subliminal Jay-Z diss verse at the end (which includes referencing Prodigy's sickle cell, but using it as some kind of strength; what the fuck?). Even worse, they brag on the hook (if I'm not mistaken) about being "retarded". I really can't describe how I feel about that. Also, can you believe this was the 4th single (the others being "The Learning [Burn]", "Hey Luv", and "Get Away") released? Now that really can't be good, given that we have 15 more tracks to go. (F)
3. Bounce - Interesting instrumental here by Havoc, it sounds like a fusion between 70s-80s disco, funk and even some French house. However, it's out of step for Mobb Deep. Again, both of our stars here just sound really out of step, and deliver pretty unnotable verses. It's pretty damn obvious that this was another attempt to tailor towards the radio stations, and gain airplay. At least there aren't any Jay-Z references on he song itself here, but that doesn't mean this song is good, or should even be collected (lest you can find the instrumental by itself). Also, the song contains an incredibly unnecessary skit at the end, which I assume disses Jay-Z. (D)
4. Clap - Another interesting instrumental dropped by Havoc, almost like its mixing some trance and other European electronic influences on it... doesn't mean that the song is really that good. Yet again we have the same issue that not only are the verses by both rappers half-assed, yet again more passive aggressive Jay-Z attacks that are laughable, and again this was stuff that Mobb Deep did years ago, and did it far better. Also, this album is quickly boring me, and so far not a good song. At this point this album is entering "stereotype typical rap music" levels, something the Mobb had been able to avoid years earlier. Also, I have to admit, this song kinda reminds me of "U.S.A. (Aiight Then)", but even that was better than this shit. (D-)
5. Kill That Nigga - After all the radio garbage that was presented with us earlier, Havoc finally takes a break from that shit. I'll at least give it to Havoc that he at least tries, on a lyrical level, but the performances are still laughable. This doesn't even come close to replicating anything on their first 3 albums. Not even an "Up North Trip", "What's Ya Poison" or the like. Prodigy's verse is god-awful yet again... yet again he's "dissing" Jay-Z without really hitting him strong. Did Prodigy seriously think these attacks would do anything to phase Jay? Oh, and the song lasts less than 3 minutes. Another pointless skit. What the fuck? (D-)
6. My Gat's Splitting (Ft. Infamous Mobb) - Again, I'll give Havoc some credit for trying with the instrumental, this time adding some G-funk flavor to the song, although it kinda sounds like ambiance music that would be playing at a museum. Havoc's hook sounds like some kind of satire of gangsta rap, and when Infamous Mobb's verse comes up, the song turns into a freaking braggadocio, yet again making this more of a radio friendly single (with the exception of the hook, surprisingly). Again, another weak Prodigy verse with some more Jay-Z references I couldn't be bothered to pay attention to. Overall: sad shit. (F)
7. Handcuffs - Uhh.... some more 70s-80s funk mixed with Euro electronic music. Honestly, I could imagine a lot of this shit being remixed into techno/EDM hits. The title implies a serious, hard-hitting street track, but in reality it's just more of the same radio and club friendly bullshit, with a horrible hook and half-assed verses by both. Is this Havoc excercising some kind of catharsis with some weird police/handcuff fetish? What an incredibly awful song. At least Prodigy doesn't shit himself again, and no Jay-Z shots here, either. (F)
8. Hey Luv (Anything) (Ft. 112) - You all know this one. This was actually a hit back in the early 2000s. To be fair, this is actually one of the better songs on the album. 112 serve their purpose, Prodigy's verse isn't terrible, and Havoc sounds at least half-decent. It suffers the issue of just going on for too long at the end (like many songs here); were they trying to milk out the royalties or something? It's probably the most obvious of the radio friendly garbage, but this actually isn't that bad. However, sadly it symbolizes how badly Mobb Deep fell at this time, from one of the leaders of the East Coast renaissance to another group that sold out. Is it worth listening to? Meh, unless for nostalgia purposes, I'd still avoid this one. (C-)
9. The Learning (Burn) (Ft. Big Noyd & Vita) - By the time you've reached this point of the album, you're probably thinking thank god! Havoc actually delivers a decent verse; not a "not bad" one, but a genuinely good verse. Big Noyd at least is able to get a not-so-bad verse off as well, and Vita serves her purpose, but it actually works here, as well (she was also a close ally with Jay-Z during this time, and allegedly her participation on this song had angered Jay-Z, so at least Mobb Deep were able to get some degree of revenge). Not to mention the beat here fucking bangs. However, Prodigy continues to show his lyrical decline. At this point, you're thinking, "just get it over with!" with all the Jay-Z references. Honestly, with the instrumental, this could've been Infamy's version of "Drop a Gem' On Em"; Havoc's passion shows up but not so much for Prodigy. Regardless, this is easily the best song of the album, and if you need absolutely anything from Mobb Deep circa 2001, I'd go with this. (B-)
10. Live Foul - Suddenly, the momentum that was built from the previous 2 songs, in hopes that there may actually be some gems in this piece-of-shit of an album, comes yet another shitstain. Scott Storch gives an instrumental that sounds a lot like the West Coast sound that had existed circa 1999-2004 (which admittedly brings memories being a West Coaster). Havoc's verse isn't horrible (though his hook is just awful). Prodigy again gives yet another forgettable verse. More radio-friendly garbage. (D-)
11. Hurt Niggas - More experiment by Havoc, which again sort of leans towards the West Coast. Was this an attempt by Mobb Deep to gain radio play (and fans) out in the West Coast? (Unlikely given that most of the songs on here just suck) Prodigy compares himself to fucking Ray Benzino; the same verse has a cat purring for no good reason. That should tell you the psyche of Prodigy around this time. What a really awful hook. Seriously, what is it with these lazy verses, awful hooks, and radio friendly beats? Yawn. (F)
12. Get At Me - Starts off rather interesting with a sample of Nick Ingman, but not more than that. The first 38 seconds of the song are, I swear to god, nothing of substance, with a beat that sounds eerily familiar to "Where Ya From" on Murda Muzik. More subliminal Jay-Z references that fail to do any real damage to the man, or re-gain the Mobb any kind of credibility. Prodigy's verse starts off with some promise, and is somewhat better than most of what he has spit so far, but nonetheless still can't give a memorable performance. However, this song is short enough to where it's not as bad as a lot of the other shit on here. Also, is it just me, or does this instrumental sound like the ambiance to a late 60s-70s generic police/action film? (D)
13. I Won't Fall - Can I skip this? This album has bored me. All I'm gonna say is that this is just more of the same garbage that I've written about earlier. Nothing to see here, except the fall of yet another legendary rap group. (D)
14. Crawlin' - Finally. The supposed Jay-Z "diss", and my god, does it fail. While both rappers actually sound like they give a shit, and the beat is decent enough, lyrically it completely falls apart. For fuck's sake, Mobb Deep didn't have to call out 2Pac by name on "Drop A 'Gem On Em" and it was considered one of the best disses of all time! What a wasted opportunity. (D-)
15. Nothing Like Home (Ft. Johnson Sisters & Littles) - To be fair, Havoc and Prodigy again sound at least half-decent, and the verses here aren't too bad. However, after all the shit that we'd been fed at the beginning, it's really only consolation. Also, it's really sad when you get outshined by the guest verse, because Littles delivers a pretty good verse, far better than 95% of the verses on this album. At best, this song is average. (C-)
16. There I Go Again (Ft. Ron Isley) - Another Scott Storch beat that again, oddly sounds more imitation West Coast. More platitudinous lines being spit by both rappers; again, obvious attempts at garnering radio airplay. But, as the legendary Billy Mays said, "But wait, there's more!"
17. So Long (Hidden Track) - Fittingly, Havoc beings the song with "get ready for the real shit", almost as if this is supposed to be the real Infamy. You know, the classic Mobb Deep lyrics and beats we all know and love. Both rappers actually deliver a pretty thoughtful song about a former friend who was caught by the police and was since sent to jail, and hasn't been seen for years. This song is a reminder of what Infamy could have been. Instead of radio-friendly bullshit with subliminal Jay-Z disses, it could've been another installment in the usual Mobb Deep music we knew and loved, with an epic diss at the end. Compared to some of the earlier songs dropped by the Mobb though, it's average. (B)
FINAL WORD: My god. This album sucks polar bear balls. That's really all I can say. Most of the beats are tailored towards radio airplay, the verses are for the most part, horrible (especially that of Prodigy), there are just far too many Jay-Z disses going on (just get on with the damn diss, and get to the damn rest of the album), and most of the songs lack any kind of real substance that make you want to re-visit with good feelings and nostalgia. Overall, fuck this album.
FINAL GRADE: F
Best Tracks: The Learning (Burn), So Long
Worst Tracks: Everything else