Updated: Jan 3
Today's throwback review we go back to 1995 to look at legendary duo Mobb Deep's classic album 'The Infamous'. The New York duo are one of the embodiment of classic east coast hip-hop, and their second album really put them on the map and cemented their legendary status. This album now 25 years old has stood the test of time and is still remembered by hip-hops faithful - but despite the critical acclaim - how good is this album?
The production has this proper classic feel with boom bap production at its peak with head bobbing instrumentals throughout. The deep bass guitars, jazz influences, dark synth lines and catchy drum patterns make this an enjoyable listening experience and while not all the beats blow you away - they're all solid. On the first track 'The Start of Your Ending (41st Side)' we're introduced to this glossy piano and heavy but great boom bap beat as the pair introduce us to the key themes of: the street life, shooting at people and murdering their opps from their own, unique perspective such as Prodigy keeping a MAC in his car bonnet. Both rappers have vivid lines as Havoc provides some great metaphors and decent punchlines, "Cock back the Gat then hit a n**** like a bid // 25, nah, kid you gettin' life // Forever burnin' in hell, n***** is trife // It's the, semi-auto, you can bring it on, yo // I'm pullin' out strippin' n***** just like a porno flick", and this track is great but only an 8/10 song and I can't describe why it's not higher - it just doesn't do enough to be higher. 'Up North Trip' has this booming boom bap beat with a higher tempo and sounds great as Prodigy tells us the story of a guy getting arrested and sent to prison (as in the last verse he reflects on the negative side of the street life) with vivid and detailed storytelling as well as introspective and thoughtful bars throughout, "Why I'm still breathin, and all my friends gone // I try not to dwell on the subject for a while // Cause I might get stuck in this corrupt lifestyle // But my, heart pumps foul blood through my arteries". Havoc also has vivid and detailed storytelling and he describes the scene of a shootout with an opp. The hook is nice and so is the storytelling and boom bap production - the whole song comes off slick and smooth. If we're talking production, we have to talk about 'Shook Ones Part II' which has one of the best boom bap beats ever with a disgustingly amazing, dark bass, perfect drum pattern as it captures the cold of the streets perfectly - it's hard to describe how good this is just listen to it yourself. The track focuses on how fake gangstas are easy to spot and stick out as the rappers describe the street life perfectly with dark and mean punchlines, such as Prodigy when he says, "The Mobb comes equipped for warfare, beware // Of my crime family who got 'nough shots to share // For all of those who wanna profile and pose // Rock you in your face, stab your brain with your nose bone". It has the iconic opening lines, "I got you stuck off the realness, we be the infamous // You heard of us, official Queensbridge murderers" and is one of the best rap songs ever to put it bluntly, from the incredible beat to the slick verses and smooth flows and even the iconic hook – an absolute hip hop classic anthem.
Lyrically both Prodigy and Havoc do a really good job of capturing their environment and making it vivid, placing the image in our heads via gritty lyrics, hard and dark bars that make you go "ooh" such as on 'Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)' as Prodigy provides vivid and incredibly mean bars that give you the stank face, "You wanna bust caps, I get all up in your area // Kidnap your children, make the situation scarier", as Havoc provides a great commentary on this track about the street life and what'll happen if you mess with them. The dark, catchy boom bap pattern and mysterious synth line sounds nice as Nas joins the track with an incredibly complex verse as he talks on the drug dealers dreams of materialism and murdering with his smooth flow as Raekwon provides some nice bars, complex lines and a great rhyme scheme as he demonstrates his life and what goes on around him with a great flow and delivery. The track has a solid hook, mean deliveries and again just smooth boom bap production and flows to make this an enjoyable listen with well fitted features. They both show a good example of storytelling through this project as well, such as on 'Trife Life' as the pair tell a story with Havoc catching a guy going to meet a girl in the wrong hood, robbing and killing him (to show dangers of it) and Prodigy meeting up with a girl and her mates, and not sure if it’s a set up so he brings his crew with weapons as well before a caravan pulls up on them so they make a run. The bass of this track creates a nice melody as per usual with a good boom bap drum pattern and there's a lesson to be learnt on this song with very detailed and lucid storytelling with hard deliveries and slick flows - it's one of the best songs on here. 'Right Back at You' has some really mean bars, "Now run for your life, or you wanna get your heat, whatever // We can die together // As long as I send your maggot ass to the essence // I don't give a fuck about my presence" as Havoc has a great verse to on a track all about shooting at opps. Big Noyd has a verse here and gives us a more morbid look at the street life including how easy it is for someone’s life to just be gone, as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah provide a solid verse on the street life. The track has a great beat with unorthodox piano keys as every verse is mean and despite the beat getting slightly repetitive towards the end, the hook is nice as are the features so it's still a great song. Impeccable rapping from the pair of them as both of them use their flow to find the perfect pockets in the beats as they glide over them with this smooth, sticky and effortless edge to them. The deliveries are mean with hints of aggression in their tone for the both of them as well which sounds great over these grimy beats.
The features are all east coast rappers who talk on similar topics to Mobb Deep. The performances are all gritty and hard core and all do a good job and while they don't always take the song to the next level - they definitely make their presence known. Big Noyd drops a verse on 'Give Up the Goods (Just Step)' as he tells us to not mess with him or he'll shoot us with some menacing bars, solid flow and an overall great verse. Havoc has some nice storytelling and Prodigy some mean bars, "I'm caught up in the hustle when the guns go blast // The fool retaliated so I had to think fast // Pull out my heat first, he pull out his heat last // Now who the fuck you think is living to this day?", as the track talks on hustling and surviving in the streets by any means - including robbing people over this catchy bass guitar melody and light synth line. There's 4 great verses on here with polished flows and good storytelling to keep you engaged. Crystal Johnson's hook on 'Temperature's Rising' see's a solid vocal performance but it's not the most thrilling hook as the whole track is directed towards Havoc's brother on the run for a murder charge as the rappers speak to him kind of in the form of a letter and it's pretty emotional over this great boom bap beat. The hook is again nice even if not the best part of the song and the verses gritty, detailed to their own climate and based off a true story which makes it more powerful. Big Noyd and Ty Nitty provide a verse with good storytelling which is interesting as he tells a story of his man being set up as Big Noyd warns him and gets on his way over to Ty on the song 'Party Over'. The dark, cold bass and booming boom bap drums are nice as the track focuses on the party being over when a fight begins and heavily references gun fights as Mobb Deep provide some solid verses with Havoc having some hard punchlines, "But you can't wake up, one in the chest, you blessed // Chokin' off your own blood, don't blame me you brought your own death". The beat is incredibly eerie and that mood transfers to the verses and creates a great atmosphere for the rappers to all provide great moments – a great final song to an incredible album.
Content wise the album focuses on the streets of the projects of Queensbridge - and it's so authentic as they take you around every corner and describe their environment, such as on 'Survival of the Fittest' where they talk on being in too deep with the gangsta life and doing what you have to do to stay alive over this hard piano melody which is dark but head bobbing. Havoc has a solid rhyme scheme as he talks on his crew sticking together with some nice and vivid lines as Prodigy had some great metaphors and similes to compare to the street life. It's a gritty banger with smooth flows and illustrious verses - it's a dark, effortlessly portrayed hype song. 'Q.U.-Hectic' is all about the street life of Queens which is about guns, drug dealing, violence and crime as verse 3 is anti-this lifestyle as they say it only leads to death or prison. Prodigy gives a vivid, solid verse as Havoc warns people not to mess with him as he will retaliate with full force with some mean bars. It's a dark beat with the same bass as 'Shook Ones Part II' and is a gritty banger again - but not as good as the highest highs on here. It's a real in depth analysis of gang life and the life of a hustler and is very haunting and dark. 'Cradle to the Grave' is about joining a gang - and you die in that gang - giving us a story of a shootout in the hood as police catches them while Prodigy's last verse focuses on a snitch and his plan to kill him (aimed at the snitch who snitched on Havoc's brother). With strong metaphors and storytelling from the pair over this nice bass and decent beat overall as the rapping is solid, and while nothing special on a tracklist stacked like this it's still a great song. 'Drink Away the Pain (Situations)' is about their addiction to drinking as they compare alcohol to females and that they can be bad for you. Prodigy has some great metaphors and storytelling, "Met her back in '89 now she's 22 (word) // Acting like she 40, she said all I need is a man to support me" (because malt liquor came in 22oz & 40oz bottles rather than 12oz), as Havoc has great metaphors and a pretty powerful verse over this more energetic beat with a deep bass and harmonica which sounds nice. Q-Tip commits an armed robbery in his verse and uses designer brands like Tommy Hilfiger as Hugo Boss as a metaphor throughout as he glides the beat effortlessly. The extended metaphor is clever and interesting to follow, with solid verses and a great jazz inspired beat and is a highlight on here.
To conclude, this is a gritty album with fantastic boom bap production and a great rapping performance from the duo as they give us a proper look at their environment with graphic lyrics and vivid storytelling, as they picture a dark and ugly scene that many have to go through. It's east coast hip hop mastered and the best album of '95 as well as Mob Deep's best - the skits are also great and quite enjoyable. The only reason this album isn't a 10 is because there's just a few songs that while still great - aren't elite level (too many 8/10 kind of tracks) - it's still fire from start to finish.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: The Start of Your Ending (41st Side), Survival of the Fittest, Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines), Temperature's Rising, Up North Trip, Trife Life, Q.U. - Hectic, Right Back at You, Drink Away the Pain (Situations), Shook Ones Part II, Party Over
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Cradle to the Grave
OVERALL RATING: Solid 10/10
*REVISED SCORE: Review may not match favourite tracks and overall rating because I've since re-listened and changed my score.*