photo & text by nacrowe
i sadly have to admit that i became aware of MOBB DEEP and their landmark release THE INFAMOUS (LOUD, 1995) embarrassingly late, which is odd because I was more or less familiar with the discographies of their EAST COAST contemporaries in the WU-TANG CLAN, THE NOTORIOUS B.IG. and NAS since high school in the late 1990s. its a shame because THE INFAMOUS is a STANDOUT statement even amongst its NYC peer cohort and is produced mostly by HAVOC and Q-TIP (A TRIBE CALLED QUEST) with contributions by the likes of LARGE PROFESSOR (MAIN SOURCE), KERWIN YOUNG (PUBLIC ENEMY) and DJ PREMIER (GANG STARR).
my cousin is a recording engineer and i learned of MOBB DEEP through him well after college since he would utilize "SHOOK ONES (PART II)" as a comparison sample to A/B against when mixing HIP HOP records at his old recording studio in GREENPOINT. and i dont believe he was the only one that did that, much like many modern rock producers look to analyzing BRENDAN O'BRIEN's mix on SOUNDGARDEN's SUPERUNKNOWN (review linked HERE) as the unofficial industry standard. there is just something about how hard that opening sample hits on "SHOOK ONES (PART II)" that makes it the epitome of 1990s BOOM BAP production and an enduring sonic presence unabated well into the modern era.
HAVOC created a beat that seamlessly evokes the HORROR, TRAGEDY and pedestrian nature of the MENTALITY of a seasoned criminal.
as such, lyrically "SHOOK ONES (PART II)" gets into the internal motivations and WARPED PSYCHOLOGY OF A CRIMINAL. its an interesting tact because MOBB DEEP is generally uninterested in meaningless showboating or crowd-pleasing proud boasting about MYTHOLOGICAL past criminal endeavors. their lyrics not only on "SHOOK ONES (PART II)" but also on other standout tracks like "SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST," "GIVE UP THE GOODS (JUST STEP)" and "TEMPERATURE'S RISING" are concerned with the STREET-LEVEL experience and the risks and self-inflicted mental carnage therein. when i first dove into their discography, including the likewise SUPERB follow-up record HELL ON EARTH (LOUD, 1996), it became apparent that their peer's were operating on the level of OCEAN'S ELEVEN (WARNER BROS, 1960) and they were very much more akin to THE GODFATHER (PARAMOUNT, 1972).
easily the most quotable lyric on this LEGENDARY album is the concept that there "ain't no such things as halfway crooks" as espoused on "SHOOK ONES (PART II)." its an ALL-IN OR ALL-OUT, entirely binary proposition according to PRODIGY and HAVOC. in that CRIMINAL MINDSET there is an inherent code of ethics that everything essentially boils down to HONOR, LOYALTY and TRUST. its less an occupation and more an IDENTITY, and one that results from a lack of occupational and educational opportunities and SYSTEMATIC RACISM with regards to everything from access to basic essentials like housing, quality healthcare and nutritional food. given whats happened to urban black neighborhoods over the past thirty years since the release of THE INFAMOUS with all the GENTRIFICATION and DISPLACEMENT of long-term tenants who are out-priced from their own homes, it makes you wonder who the REAL GANGSTERS and CRIMINAL MASTERMINDS actually are. in my mind they are developers, commissioners, landlords, real estate lawyers and accounting firms, but thats just my opinion. when i listen to THE INFAMOUS, i am just reminded of the lengths people with limited opportunities have to go through just to survive.
in many ways we are all CULPABLE for perpetuating the system ad infinitum me included.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.