Mobb Deep, The Infamous
The sound of two kids who've grown up too fast, not wanting to forget a second of it
An album featuring "Shook Ones Pt. II" repeated 16 times probably would have been enough to secure Mobb Deep's legend. Their signature song — one of the 1990s' signature songs — remains haunting both musically and lyrically, a collection of moments wherein the listener is awestruck by how Prodigy and Havoc wrote, arranged or said that.
Luckily, The Infamous, the diminutive Queensbridge duo's 1995 follow-up to the patchy Juvenile Hell, is one of the greatest albums ever made. It feels as desperate, claustrophobic and exhausting as Havoc and Prodigy's rhymes, from the somber "Survival of the Fittest" or the nightmarish "Trife Life" to the depressingly upbeat "Drink Away the Pain" and the Queens anthem "Give Up the Goods." Even the carefree Crystal Johnson hook of "Temperature's Rising," their radio lunge, is neutralized by their weed-pushing lyrics and a bed of face-smack drums. It's a punishing, relentless hour of music — the sound of two kids who've grown up too fast, not wanting to forget a second of it. A personal favorite is "Right Back At You," a funeral march of a posse cut that features plucky Mobb disciple Big Noyd, Raekwon and Ghostface, back when they together ruled the food chain and took no orders, every stereo "bangin' Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu."