In 2007 Prodigy, one half of New York’s Mobb Deep, was arrested for unlawful gun possession and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. From the looks of things, Prodigy’s going to be very busy during this time. H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 is the first release from the New York rapper since entering jail and contains plenty of the gritty, street-life tales that Prodigy’s mastered telling over his fifteen-year career.
With this release, Prodigy sounds surprisingly calm and meditative for a man in his position, and his flow is precise and on-point for much of the album. It’s obvious that Prodigy’s recent trouble with the law has influenced his perspective on the album.
In “Illuminati” Prodigy teaches the necessity of bucking the limitations and rules placed on our minds by arbitrary powers. The revolutionary “Real Power Is People” preaches that it’s the people’s ability to decide our situation. Much of the album though sticks to Prodigy’s main strength. Tracks like “ABC,” “Dirty New Yorker,” and “Young Veterans” feature the storytelling and imagery that’s unique to Prodigy’s style. He’s able to infuse the material with enough interesting wordplay and sordid tales to keep the album from being stale. “Click Clack” and “When I see You,” however, run a little thin, as they aren’t strong enough to stand with the rest of the album.
The production on the album is simply great. Grimy, dissonant sounds and rhythms characterize much of the production, handled mostly by the very good Sid Roams and the great Alchemist. The two tracks produced by the other half of Mobb Deep, Havoc, inject the duo’s familiar, dark sound and are two standouts. It’s The Alchemist’s tracks that steal the show though. The first single from the album, “The Life,” incorporates a futuristic eeriness that sounds like it would be perfect in a Vincent Price movie. And the producer creates a jarring symphony to accompany Prodigy’s mind-peeling rhymes on “Illuminati.” “Illuminati” and “The Life” are easily two of the best rap cuts of the still-young music year.
The rapper started his prison sentence last month and has been reported to be reading and writing feverishly. Hopefully another Prodigy album won’t be far off.