One of our most symbolic shows of 2017 was right after the passing of the Mobb Deep icon Prodigy. A Queensbridge native born with sickle-cell disease lived until 43 years of age and grew to become one of Hip Hop’s most revered emcees in history. The reason that this episode was so symbolic is that DJ Eclipse and DJ Riz prepared a 2-hour show completely filled with Prodigy’s best verses from Mobb Deep records, solo Prodigy records, and guest appearances. Eclipse and Riz edited about 250 songs in a tedious process to provide listeners with the best possible representation of Prodigy as an artist and a mixshow that will serve as one of the most well-rounded Prodigy mixtapes assembled by two DJs.
During the talk breaks, Eclipse and Torae describe how Mobb Deep defined the sound of Queens by making local slang popular with terms such as “dunn language”. Havoc and Prodigy altered an entire genre of music with their calm, yet intimidating character. Torae remembers when the two stepped up with Capone-N-Noreaga to retaliate against the notorious west coast song “NY, NY” by Tha Dogg Pound with their own east coast version called “LA, LA”. No other east coast artists put their respect on the line to defend New York like a few cats out of Queensbridge projects.
The first guest that dialed in was Matty C, writer for The Source in the early 1990s. Matty talks about writing a column that featured two rappers by the name of Poetical Prophets. They were Prodigy and Havoc who released their first demo called “Flavor For The Non Believers” in 1991.
The next guest caller was Bonz Malone, a seasoned journalist who received the Poetical Prophets demo with the help of Matty C. With the new group name of Mobb Deep, Bonz used his authority to sign the two 16-year old Hip Hop artists to the record label 4th & Broadway and release their official debut album Juvenile Hell. Havoc later brought his single “Paddy Shop” to The Source and passed the song to DJ Stretch Armstrong to play on the Stretch & Bobbito radio show.
After the “Paddy Shop” received radio play, it wasn’t long before Mobb Deep was signed to Loud Music alongside the Wu-Tang Clan. While Prodigy was best known as an emcee and Havoc being best known as a producer, Bonz goes on to explain how the roles were reversed in the very beginning as they taught one another producing and rapper. Bonz remembers asking a 16-year old Prodigy why he wanted to pursue a rap career in which Prodigy replied “…because I got sickle-cell anemia and I’m going to die.”
Others callers and friends of Prodigy were Cormega and Illa Ghee. Illa remembered Havoc and Prodigy battling one another in high school before they were making music together. All in all it was a sad and somber day that brought out the best in those who knew Prodigy and his music. To appreciate the man one night after all of his contributions and inspiration that touched all continents around the globe would never be enough to appreciate the work that he dedicated his life to. Rest in peace, Albert Johnson.