"To all the killers and a hundred dollar billars"! A Classic line from a classic song on a classic record. In 95 the Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep, consisting of Havok and Prodigy, hammered the nail in the coffin on their sophomore record which time has taught us is a fine moment in the history of Hip Hop. Following up on their patchy debut two years earlier the duo took full control over production with a helping hand from Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. Coming with an inspired set of rhymes their dark and shadowy beats illuminated the pairs lyrics to a level of unrivaled harmony.
Both Havok and Prodigy have clean, concise flows. Likeable, easy to follow and plenty of mind for clever rhymes within conventional flows. Their tones differ and compliment one another as they pass the mic back and forth throughout the tracks. They are both brilliant story tellers, coming with very direct trains of thought as they walk us through the rough and rugged environment they call home. "Temperature's Rising" caught my attention for not only being a story of criminal events but a direct message to a friend locked up, with instructions on what to do. Very real and very direct the two make a point of letting you know they talk the walk they walk unlike the majority of rappers who reflect their environment and the people they know.
When not direct the duo can paint graphic pictures of ghetto life with their vivid word play and violent lyricism which dives into all sorts of drug abuse, crime, conflict and the imminent threat of death. Its an unapologetic picture painted sublimely with words that flow effortlessly. A chemistry oozing with pace and coherence to follow the main tales told through the sixteen songs which span sixty sixty minutes without a second of filler. Quiet the achievement!
Pairing with the lyrical direction, the beats are hauntingly dark, conjuring scenes of streetlamp lit nights in dangerous areas as banging drums lead chilling, eerie samples of guitars and pianos over the deep lurking baselines. Urban, harrowing and unforgiving they set a paranoid stage for their luminous flows to strike. The snare kick grooves are superb, using programed kits a selection of sharp, crisp punching drums that snap, making for banging grooves as they attack fast with minimal decay, even soaked in short reverb they create such a density without the instruments lingering. The result is infectious and repetitious without weakness, as the same sampled drums snap over and over the wild energy of the rappers keeps it feeling fresh through the entirety of the song. For most of the beats they don't go beyond the basic loop, with the occasional dropping of a drum line or sample as the lyrics reach an ample moment. The records best track "Right Back At You", with a momentary exception, is the same six second beat looped for the entire track and with the sublime verses of the duo and their guests its exceptionally banging.
Speaking of guests there's, Nas, Q-Tip featuring as well as Ghostface Killah & Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan. This is a 90s wet dream as New York's finest team up to kill it. All the elements lined up for this record and I couldn't list how many cracking lines have never left my mind, one sticks out though "Your crews featherweight, my gunshots will make you levitate"... Goosebumps! I seem to be drawn to picking out old favorites and revisiting this one really filled me with joy, such an incredible record and brilliant insight into a frightening and entirely different world.
Favorite Songs: Eye For A Eye, Temperatures Rising, Up North Trip, Right Back At You, Drink Away The Pain, Shook Ones Part II, Part Over