Mobb Deep Bio
The packed house at Times Square’s Best Buy Theater erupted through the rafters as Mobb Deep stormed the stage on May 12, 2011. The sold-out show was a homecoming celebration for Prodigy, the more outspoken emcee of the duo, fresh off of a three-year prison bid and in better form than ever. Thousands of fans chanted along, fists in the air, as Mobb Deep ran through hit after hit, from “Shook Ones Pt. II” to “Survival of the Fittest” to “Quiet Storm” to “Got It Twisted”, an astounding reminder of how many hits the multi-platinum Mobb has and how solidly the songs stand the test of time.
It’s as if nearly two decades hadn’t passed since hip hop’s mid-‘90s golden era, when Mobb Deep’s tales from Queens thumped through speakers across the globe and transformed hardcore hip hop. Throughout inner cities and rural America, Mobb Deep captivated a cult following with their cinematic brand of storytelling, resonating with fans in France, Switzerland, India, and beyond as deeply as they did in the borough where the songs were birthed. Since their lift off, Mobb Deep has appeared on records that have sold over 40 million copies. The following day, the opening line of a review of Mobb’s performance in The New York Times boasted: “No rap group — maybe no act in any genre — has gotten more mileage from straight talk than Mobb Deep.”
Albert “Prodigy” Johnson and and Kejuan “Havoc” Mujita became partners-in-rhyme during their freshman year at Manhattan’s Art and Design High School, initially calling themselves Poetical Profits, but soon changing their moniker to reflect their reputation on the streets. Rolling “deep” with a mob of troublemakers from the Queensbridge projects, the duo’s straightforward narration of street life failed to take off with their 1993 debut album, Juvenile Hell, despite production by DJ Premier and Large Professor. Unfazed, the 17 year-olds decided to take recording more seriously to craft hardcore hits that might make the earth tremble.
In 1995, Mobb Deep’s sophomore offering, The Infamous, became one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time. It debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200 and number 3 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart and was certified Gold within two months. Their smash hit “Shook Ones Pt. II” was an instant classic, blasting out of speakers on Every Block, USA. Rap fans across the country were nodding their heads and hanging on every word of the gripping lyrics capturing the brutality of daily life in New York’s notorious Queensbridge housing projects, the largest projects in the United States. Mobb Deep joined a new generation of New York rappers—Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Wu-Tang Clan—revolutionizing the rap game with their ominous accounts of NYC’s outer boroughs. Their energy was explosive, their beats contagious, their flows unprecedented, their impact instantaneous, and everlasting.
With their unflinching gun-riddled rhymes, Mobb Deep brought the ‘hood, live and direct, to young people around the world. A movement of fans in all corners of the planet began mimicking Mobb’s signature slang, swagger, and style. People weren’t simply enjoying the music; they were walking, talking, and dressing like Mobb Deep. In 1996, Mobb’s third album, Hell on Earth, debuted at number 6 on the Billboard charts, selling more than one million copies and positioning Prodigy as one of the most influential emcees of his generation and Havoc as one of its most promising producers. Some of the biggest names in music sought collaborations with Mobb, who were featured on tracks by Nas, KRS-One, Mariah Carey, LL Cool J, Xzibit, Big Pun, Blondie, Foxy Brown, and Bounty Killer, among many others.
Amid their soaring success, the duo was at the center of hip hop’s volatile East Coast vs. West Coast battle, exchanging legendary diss records with Snoop Dogg and Tupac. Mobb Deep’s fame continued to rise in 1999 when their highly anticipated Murda Muzik debuted at number 3 on the Hot 100 chart and quickly went Platinum despite extensive bootlegging and eventually reached double-Platinum sales. The hit single “Quiet Storm (Remix)” featuring Lil’ Kim took over airwaves and dance floors everywhere and remains a party favorite more than a decade later.
Controversy continued to follow Mobb Deep into the new Millennium when Prodigy, who released his Gold-selling solo debut H.N.I.C. in 2000, spoke out against Jay-Z for taking subliminal jabs at Mobb Deep on songs from his Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life and Vol. 3… Life and Times of S. Carter. The feud escalated at 2001’s Hot 97 Summer Jam when Jay-Z performed “Takeover” on which he attacked Prodigy, a big screen behind Jay displaying a photograph of Prodigy dressed like Michael Jackson as a child. Prodigy fired back at Jay-Z on Mobb’s 2001 Infamy, which attained Gold status. The album also featured “Hey Luv (Anything)” with R&B stars 112, a commercial departure from Mobb’s hardcore roots. After fulfilling commitments with their previous label Loud Records, Mobb Deep released Free Agents: The Murda Mixtape in 2003 and signed with Jive Records later that year through a deal with Mobb’s own imprint Infamous Records. 2004’s Amerikaz Nightmare reached Gold sales.
Standing strong for well over a decade in the ever-changing rap landscape, Mobb Deep caught their second wind in 2005 when they signed a deal with Queens native 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records and released their eighth album, Blood Money, the following year. The album featured G-Unit’s 50 Cent, Young Buck, Lloyd Banks, and Tony Yayo as well as Mary J. Blige and Nate Dogg and was certified Gold. As a testament to their loyalty, Prodigy tattooed G-UNIT on the side of his right hand and 50 had MOBB DEEP tattooed on his wrist.
Bad news struck the hip hop community in October 2007, when Prodigy was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for gun possession. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Prodigy pleaded guilty although he was the victim of police harassment and an unlawful arrest. The NYPD had been profiling Prodigy for years, most recently in attempt to set up his superstar label boss 50 Cent.
During Prodigy’s incarceration, Havoc—who’s produced tracks for Jadakiss, the Notorious B.I.G., 50 Cent, Diddy, Bad Meets Evil, and Nas among others—was hard at work producing, including a hidden track for Eminem’s 2010 Grammy-winning album Recovery. Behind bars, Prodigy completed his autobiography My Infamous Life, published by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster in April 2011, timed with his release from prison in March. The controversial memoir set off a media frenzy, igniting the blogosphere as rappers and crewmembers recorded retorts and posted heated responses to Prodigy’s professions. The first rapper to release such a candid, detailed account of his life, the book received a whirlwind of press attention and critical acclaim, including a rave review of the 13-hour audio book, narrated by Prodigy, on Slate.com: “Johnson makes for an unlikely memoirist, but his recently released My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Prodigy’s Mobb Deep... is a surprising triumph, both as an archive of 1990s New York hip-hop folk tales and for its stirring sketches of a man who, on many occasions, could have made his life a lot easier on himself. The best way to experience Johnson's epic, if meandering, journey: his audio book, which is among the most riveting recordings any rapper will release this year, or any year.”
After Prodigy’s book tour and a slew of prime time television interviews, Mobb Deep continued to connect with their growing fan-base, performing at Hot 97’s Summer Jam, the Rock the Bells international music festival alongside Lauryn Hill, Nas, Erykah Badu and others, as well as continuing on a national Live Nation tour. Their highly anticipated self-titled album, ‘Mobb Deep”, is set for release later this year.
The strength of the Mobb Deep brand lies in their staying power, a rare combination of nostalgia and now. Mobb Deep recently signed with one of the world’s largest talent agencies, International Creative Management (ICM), and launched their label, Infamous Records, with Sony Red. As their empire expands, the Mobb Deep lifestyle—authentic, bold, cutting edge yet classic—is becoming as much of a mainstay as their music.