If there was ever a career fit for an episode of “Behind the Music,” it would be that of Mobb Deep. The Queens duo has been in the game for more than 20 years, surviving breakups, prison sentences and even the accidental shooting of a Def Jam label employee.
Even after all that, the music survives (for the record, so did the Def Jam employee). Songs like “Survival of the Fittest” and “Temperature’s Rising” are a part of both hip-hop’s and New York’s musical DNA. But it’s “Shook Ones Pt. II” that may forever define the band’s sound: The menace of the classic is one of the best introductions to NYC hip-hop in the early-to-mid 1990s.
amNewYork caught up with Prodigy in advance of the duo’s show at Irving Plaza for the lowdown on the new album, the previously unreleased bonus disc from the “The Infamous” recording sessions and how to handle 20 years of life in music.
Have you two been hiding these unreleased “The Infamous” songs from the public for 20 years?
We didn’t even know they were there. We went back to the masters [of “The Infamous,” Mobb Deep’s breakthrough album] and found these 10 songs. It was surprising to us, because we didn’t even know we had them. Listening to them, we were just bugging, because it was like a time capsule.
That mid-1990s time period was marked by a distinct gritty New York hip-hop sound. Does that sound, that era, still exist?
Yeah, because Mobb Deep is still here. And Nas is still here. And Jay Z is still here. Only we can do that, no one else can imitate it. We survived and are still at it, so we keep that era alive. The Lox, Raekwon, Ghost, the Wu-Tang members, all of us. It exists within us. It’s within our hearts, our souls, our brains. We’re still living it.
You and Havoc have been through a lot over 20 years. How’d you end up back with a new album and tour?
It’s our love for the music, our love for each other and we see the impact we’ve made on the world. We know how important it is. We’re going to go through our little arguments, and we have since day one. It just never spilled out into the public because social media didn’t exist. People might be shocked to find out that yeah, groups argue and yeah, groups will sometimes be on the verge of breaking up, but groups like Mobb Deep are still here for a reason.