As Q-Tip once stated, there’s a difference between hard and dark. M.O.P. is hard: aggression, clenched fists, screams, bludgeonings. Dark is sexy, scary, likeable, menacing, tempting. Prodigy of Mobb Deep was one of the best rappers on the planet because he was dark. He didn’t have Pac’s tortured thug activist energy, Big’s charisma or hitmaking ease, Nas’s wisdom combined with the ear of a jazz musician. It didn’t matter. While other rappers laughed and joked, or screamed in your ear, Prodigy calmly explained how he would end your life while referencing the Book of Revelations and the Illuminati.
He was the best writer of threats in rap history, a vivid crime fetishist, and a conspiracy theory magnet. The most famous lines from Prodigy were hostile (“There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from”), visual (“Stab your brain with your nose bone”), vulnerable (“I put my lifetime in between the paper’s lines”), and grim (“My attitude is all fucked up and real shitty”). If you lived on the east coast from 1995-1999, you remember each summer as one that Prodigy dominated — via radio, clubs, mixtapes, and guest appearances, with Havoc in Mobb Deep or solo. His greatness, like his delivery, was understated. But he was on everyone’s radar: features with LL Cool J, Big Pun, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, even Shaq; classhes, both on wax and in person, with 2pac, Jay-Z, Saigon, Keith Murray, Nas, and Tru Life. His resilience was staggering — Mobb Deep peaked in ’99 but Prodigy’s solo career never cooled off. He released the excellent Albert Einstein with Alchemist in 2013, and dropped The Hegelian Dialectic in early 2017.
He grew up the child of musicians but took rap deadly serious. He was terrifying as a 19 year old and a master of his craft by 22. He survived prison, shootouts, dozens of beefs, and multiple record deals. He dedicated his life to rap since getting signed at 17 and passed away suddenly days after performing with Havoc, Raekwon, and Ghostface in Las Vegas. Prodigy may be gone, but as the novelist Margaret Stohl said, “Darkness does not leave us as easily as we hope.”