If Prodigy ends up being another rapper who fell off after doing a bid in jail, it won’t be because he was lazy or lacked motivation. Since being released on March 7, after serving three years for a gun possession charge, P has already locked in features on the upcoming Curren$y and Alchemist EP, Convert Coup, and Jim Jones’ new album, Capo. He’ll also be releasing an exclusive Complex-sponsored mixtape, The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP, tomorrow. If the recently leaked Mobb Deep-Nas collaboration, ”Dog Shit,” is any indication of where P’s at creatively, then fans should expect a healthy dose of murda muzik.
Interestingly enough, even with all these new songs on the horizon, the thing that seems to have people the most excited is Prodigy’s revealing autobiography, My Infamous Life, which drops tomorrow as well. It is chock full of classic stories involving Nas, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Big Pun, Mary J. Blige, and even Lindsey Lohan. With everything going on, when Prodigy stopped by the offices last week, we took the opportunity to speak with him about his current status in regards to G-Unit, and ask about some of the wild stories from his book.
Interview by Toshitaka Kondo (@ToshitakaKondo)
Are you currently signed to G-Unit?
Yeah, basically what happened was, while I was locked up, 50 switched distributors for the G-Unit label. And there’s a clause in our contract that says if there’s no distribution for a period of time, in order to protect us, it null-and-voids the contract. I don’t know how long it took him, but whatever the period of time was in between the distributors, it was enough to void our contract. That was a protection that our lawyer put in the contract for us. It’s in a lot of contracts for most artists.
Just so if there’s no distributor for a label, you don’t get stuck languishing for two or three years.
Exactly. You can go get your money, elsewhere. And when that happened I was always talking to 50 the whole time while I was locked up, and I basically asked him “How are we going to proceed? How are we going to move forward when I get back?” And he was telling me he was interested in negotiating a new deal, with the new situation he’s got, and I was like, “Alright, cool.” Came back home, and we’re still talking about it, throwing ideas around now about how we want to do it, but as of right now we’re free agents.
Are you looking for another label situation?
Right now we’re not concerned with which label it’s going to be. We’re really concerned with making an incredible album. Like never before. To basically solidify our careers, and our legacy for the next 20 to 30 years.
We’ve been in the game for like 20, and we’ve had a good run, so we’re just trying to solidify the next 20 right now. And the only way that you can do that is make sure the music is not just good, that shit has to be incredible.
One of the themes throughout the book was you’re wanting to try going independent rather than signing to a label, especially after parting ways with Loud after Infamy, while Hav didn’t want to be independent. Now you have the opportunity once again to be completely independent.
We had our little differences of opinion when it came to certain things on how Mobb Deep should proceed forward after the Loud situation. And we went through our little back-and-fourth, tug-of-war situation about which way it should be, but at the end of the day we compromised with each other because it doesn’t make any sense for us to be arguing. That ain’t going to put no money in our pocket, so we’ve got to try to think of an idea to make this work.
So that’s what we always do at the end of the day, and that’s what keeps me and Hav going so long. Compared to these other dudes, partnerships or whatever, they fall apart because of creative differences or whatever differences, but me and Havoc are different because we understand the power of our music, and the money that we make off of this shit. The importance of this shit for our families and our future.
Since you’ve gotten out, how many songs would you say you’ve recorded?
We’ve been working with other producers, but mostly Havoc and Alchemist. Our home team is Havoc, Al, and Sid Roams, and right now I’ve been home about a month, and we’ve got about 70 songs done in that time. We’ve got a lot of fire, man.
Where have you been recording out of?
We own our studio in Queens. We’ve been going on Ustream, and actually streaming live sessions of us writing and recording. Showing people how we make our songs. The whole month I’ve been home we’ve been doing that. Every now and then, not every night. Like last night we were on until seven in the morning just fucking around, working out in the studio, joking with each other, and playing songs, letting people hear all the new music that we’ve got.
We had a real long, interesting conversation about the future and how we want to move forward with our music, just everything like that. But mostly about how we need to put our little bullshit aside, and how our music is more important than any of that bullshit that we were going through. Right away, we sent him the song “Dog Shit” that we had did, and he got on it, and it’s coming out crazy. We did a couple of other songs with him that we haven’t put out yet.
So Nas wasn’t in the studio with you at the time for “Dog Shit?”
Nah, he was actually on tour with Ky-Mani Marley, so we sent it through the email. We did a couple other joints. Because you know, back when we were coming up, The Infamous and our early albums, that was what we did. We recorded songs with the home team, and Nas was part of the home team.
It was only right that we bring that feeling back. You can never go back to a time and try to recreate that sound because that time is done. But you can bring some of the feeling and that nostalgia back by reminding people what niggas was about, and how niggas is a team. That’s what we did, and it’s coming out crazy man.
In your book you talk about a lot of different incidents involving Nas from him hating on you when you first rapped for him, to Mike Delorean from Bars-N-Hooks choking him at Sony Studios, to the brawl backstage at Nas’ Central Park concert, so when you guys spoke, did you guys talk about him being in your book at all?
Nah, I think I told him I had a book coming out, but basically the book is about my life story and Mobb Deep’s story, so everything in there is real. I’m not going to go around, and tell everybody, “Yo, I put you in my book. Yo, I mentioned...” Nah, you’ll see. It’s my story, so real shit is in there.
It seems throughout the book there was always this weird tension with you and Nas. Like he never really embraced you fully even going back to when you guys first met.
Nah, it was never no animosity. Only thing I would say, is that I was new to the projects over there. I came around, new face, niggas don’t know me. So niggas had to get to know me, so that’s why I believe Nas acted the way he did, and he wasn’t the only one.
A lot of people from Queensbridge was acting like that with me, because I was new. And to tell you the truth, I would treat people the same way. I don’t like new people coming around me. I’m going to really be leery and watch you, and take my time before I embrace you. Some of it had to do with when I first came around, he thought my shit was wack. And to tell you the truth, my shit was type-wack. I had to step my game up.
He wasn’t doing nothing, but stating his opinion about how he wanted his friend Hav, who he grew up with, to proceed with the future of his career. He was giving his best opinion saying, “Yo, I don’t think you should fuck with this dude P. He’s not as good as you.” So, there’s really no animosity. I never felt no kind of way that he said that.
The only thing that it made me do was try to make myself better and write better rhymes. It actually helped me, so there’s no way I could be mad at him for that.
Click next page to see Prodigy talk about how Capone testified against Havoc's brother...
But even with the Central Park incident, I thought it was interesting how when the fight backstage happened with Lakey, you wondered if Nas might’ve had something to do with setting that up.
I mean, as far as that situation’s concerned, Nas ain’t have nothing to do with that. That’s dudes moving on their own, and trying to take control of a situation that they ain’t have control over. I spoke to Nas about that, and he didn’t agree with that whole situation, how Fakey was acting. So that was something that son did on his own to try and act like he’s some type of boss, or controlling some type of situation.
Nas has got people around him, and we’ve got people around us, and sometimes the extras don’t mix. The extras don’t even belong with us basically, because they’re not even on the same level mentally. You don’t even belong in this circle right here with us. Me and Nas were talking about that on the phone like, “All the extra niggas is fucking shit up. Like, if it was just us it wouldn’t even be no bullshit.” Extra niggas want to start extra shit. You have a couple bad apples in the bunch.
At one point in My Infamous Life, you recall being in L.A. with a pink polo on, and running into Cam’ron, and how he started rocking pink afterwards.
Yeah. I mean, that was kind of weird. [Laughs.] Because a lot of people were like “Damn.” They used to see me with my little shit on. They was like “Yo, damn, you make it alright to wear pink son.” [Laughs.] A lot of people used to tell me that shit. They’d be like, “Damn, we wouldn’t think that P would rock some shit like that. You make me want to go cop a pink shirt son.”
When I seen son out there, in front of the hotel that day, I paid attention to that. I’m from the era where we pay attention to everything you got on: your jewelry, how you rhyme, every word that’s coming out your mouth, your hairstyle, and everything, because we want to see your type of style. We’re checking you out. How you lace your shoes, every fine detail, we pay attention to. Because in that era everybody was unique. Staten Island did this, Queens did this, Brooklyn did this.
We always used to check peoples’ styles out, so I pay attention to that type of shit. I never seen him do it before then, so that was just kind of weird to me. It ain’t nothing to be proud of, it was just a true story that was always in my mind that I felt like telling.
You also speak on Capone taking the stand to testify against Havoc’s brother, Killer Black. That’s the kind of thing that would end most rappers’ careers. How did this not come out sooner?
People were upset, but that was just one of those things that just never came out. It just never happened. I can’t tell you why.
Are you and Capone still cool?
I mean, yeah, when we was younger, but after that shit with Hav’s brother I was just like, “Come on man.” In a hood like that, you have to see people everyday. You’re going to see niggas like, “What’s up? Oh, alright, what’s up son?” But in the back of your mind you’re going to be like, “Damn, this nigga really did that shit.” That’s crazy. I didn’t even want to believe it. None of us wanted to believe it, but that’s what really happened though. We like Capone, and he just did that.
It was just funny when you were talking about his explanation for taking the stand was he was giving false information to throw the cops off.
I can’t tell you why he did it, or why he said what he said afterwards, but all I can tell you is that really happened. I was thinking when I was writing it like, “Oh he’s going to take some offense to this.” But when I think about it, this is a story that really happened, so I’m not going to leave out something that’s part of my life story, something of major significance that happened, just because he’s going to be upset about it.
Like, dude you should be upset about what you did, not that I’m telling my life story. [Laughs.] So that’s why I put the shit in there, because it’s just crazy that he did that. I didn’t write it in my book trying to target him, or “I’ve got beef, fuck him,” or trying to ruin his career. It ain’t nothing like that. If he feels some type of way about it, basically he needs to take that up with the man in the mirror.
It also comes out in the book that at one point, you and your friends jumped Nore and beat him up.
Nore’s my man. I fucks with Nore. If you read the book it’ll tell you when me and Nore got cool. He’s a good dude man. We all do crazy shit in our life. And the shit he did wasn’t even that crazy for me to never fuck with him ever again, so he’s good money in my book.
You recount an incident in My Infamous Life where you ran into Jay-Z at Justin’s and he didn’t want any trouble. Did you feel like allowing him to say disrespectful things without any consequences might leave a bad impression with fans?
I mean, maybe when I was younger. But around that time my mind and my decision-making started changing. We don’t beat up on weak people. You don’t do that shit where I’m from. You don’t score no points doing that. You don’t take advantage of somebody that you could take advantage of, and overpower them. That’s a universal law you would be violating to do some shit like that, so we don’t so that. Word.
I mean after Justin’s incident, when I seen where his head was at with the whole situation, and I seen that he didn’t want to take it to that level, we fell back off of the nigga. Because we seen that the nigga was not that serious. He says it’s just music, alright cool then it’s just music then. I mean if he would have been some type of threat then we would have took care of that. We bumped into him a few times after that. Like, the VMAs, shows at Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, certain places like that we’ll see him backstage and he’ll see us like, “Oh, what’s up man?” [Laughs.]
At the end of the book you see that I give him love. Jay’s an amazing artist. I learned a lot from him as far as business. Just watching him, his movements, and how he came up in business. His decision-making with music, and everything that he does. He’s a very intelligent dude, and at the end of the day it’s all love man, because that’s what he told me.
When I was younger, the situation would have probably been different. But he came up to me and said, “Yo, ain’t no beef son. It’s just music.” Alright, cool. So that’s where we left it. It’s just music. It’s a little rap music rivalry, and that’s that. We know the difference between street shit and music shit.
Did your time incarcerated put things into perspective regarding beefs you had with Jay-Z, Nas, Saigon, etc. and feel like it’s really not worth it?
Yeah. Like the Saigon situation is like the same situation. Like, it don’t make sense to do... That’s just like, corny. That would be wrong to do something to him. That wouldn’t even be fair, to tell you the truth. It’s not even that serious. A little incident happened, like whatever. You stay over there, we’ll stay over here, because when it gets like that son, somebody’s going to get hurt bad. It’s not going to be us either, put it like that. And that’s just being real. Word.
Click next page to see P explain why he once thought Biggie was corny...
When Havoc was talking about producing “Last Dayz” in the book and he was telling you to get on it, I was surprised that your reaction was that Biggie was corny.
A lot of people was feeling him, I just wasn’t feeling him. Another thing is that, I used to take things real personal. I was real serious when it came to rapping. I still do, but even more so when I was real young. I was on some other shit dun.
Like what lines?
Like “Niggas bleed just like us,” that’s my shit, and certain other things. But at that time it would piss me off, but now when I look back at it, it’s a compliment. He wasn’t trying to steal. He was basically kind of like a fan. And now I realize because I feel the same way about him. And I feel the same way about certain other rappers too. Just had a different mentality back then. It was little things like that.
It was like a competitive thing?
Yeah. It just took me a while to really like his style. It took me a while to like Wu-Tang’s style. When I first heard “Protect Ya Neck” as a matter of fact, I was listening to the radio like, “Damn, this shit is alright, but it ain’t all that though. This shit sounds kind of corny.”
But then after a while the shit started growing on me. That shit happens sometimes man. That shit happens with everything, even when you’re listening to beats. I might not like a beat for a month, and then after a month I realize that shit is hot. Especially with me, speaking for myself, that happens with me a lot. Sometimes it takes me a while to like something. Some people, they like it right away. They know, and can see it right away, like “Oh that shit is hot,” and they’ll be like “I told you P, that shit was hot.”
So even when you were on tour with Big, it still took you a while to become a fan?
Yeah. Like I said, I was in Mobb Deep zone. We didn’t even really hang out with them niggas on tour. Until that one incident that happened in Cleveland, that’s when we first started hanging out with them niggas. And we was on tour for like, a month already almost. And then after that incident then we started hanging out with each other, getting cool. Then I realized “These niggas is cool.”
Then we started talking, and conversating, and we got real cool after that. But before then, it was like, “Who? What? I’m going to my room nigga. I don’t give a fuck. I’m going over here. I’m going to do this.” Nothing was important to me, but Mobb Deep, because we was making some shit at that time. I guess you could say I was feeling myself, being cocky, however you want, but that’s what it was.
Speaking of Mobb Deep, you talk in the book about how at first Havoc wasn’t visiting you in jail. Were you guys on bad terms when you first went in?
Nah, it wasn’t nothing like that. Sometimes when niggas get locked up, the people on the outside, they don’t understand really the importance of it. When you in prison and you’re locked in the cell, you’re looking at the outside world different. You’re seeing everything different. Time stops. And you’re just sitting there, and moving real slow. Everybody else in the world is just out there moving frantic.
They’re not even thinking really, because they’re worried about bills, and this and that, and the third, and you’re just sitting there with time to think and be calm. So you look at things different. So I was reaching out to son, and he ain’t get right back with me right away, but I already knew that he’s not thinking like I am right now. He’s out in the world being hectic with the world’s issues. But at the same time it gets you mad a little bit. I mean, this happens to everybody. This ain’t just me and Hav’s situation. I’m talking about everybody that goes to jail.
They’ve got to deal with this same shit that I’m talking about right now with somebody. They don’t understand that people on the outside don’t understand how serious that shit is. Because I know I’ve been through it, where I’ve been on the outside, and I had people in jail, and I didn’t write them as fast, or as much as I should have, because I didn’t understand how much that shit means to somebody that’s in prison.
So when I dealt with the situation myself it made me think back, like, Wow, I remember when the shoe was on the other foot. When I was on the outside, and one of my mans was locked up, and he used to write me, and I didn’t get back to him for months. I’m running around doing other things, and I’m not even focused, because I’m out in the world dealing with world shit. So, that’s basically what happened. And I knew eventually, he would come around and come up, and that’s what happened.
How long into your bid was it before Havoc came to visit?
I think about a year and a half maybe. He had tried to come up early on, but something happened. He forgot his I.D. He had came with Alchemist, and had to wait in the car. That’s what it was though. Basically, I already knew what time it was as far as the situation with Hav, because no matter what happens with me and son, if we piss each other off or whatever, it always comes back to Mobb Deep being more important than anything that you could name.
One of the biggest stories since you have been out is the whole Mister Cee situation. How do you feel about that?
I mean, I really don’t know exactly what happened. I ain’t look into it, or try to investigate all the facts. I’m just hearing what people saying, and radio, so I really don’t have that much of an opinion about it. But to each his own man, if it’s really like that.
It sounds crazy to me, like Cee is my nigga. We fuck with Mister Cee. That nigga loves Mobb Deep and always shows us love, and plays our music all the time on the radio. He’s one of the only ones that does that. It’s few of them, and he’s one of the main ones. So regardless of what, that nigga shows us love, and we’re going to show him love back.
He’s always going to get new music from us. That nigga call, we always going to pick up like “What’s up? You good?” If he wants to do a party, whatever. Whatever Mister Cee wants to do, we fuck with Mister Cee. That’s what it is.
Click next page to see P talk about the new generation of rap artists...
What projects do you have coming up?
We’re working on a Mobb album. The main focus right now is just on Mobb Deep. I’m recording little solo songs here and there when we’re not working on Mobb Deep, but other than that it’s all Mobb shit. I mean, every idea. Even if I make a song, and that shit is just incredibly crazy, we’re giving it to Mobb Deep, because that’s what’s important right now. That’s the focus right now, to make sure that we make an incredible album.
Are you looking to drop that this year though?
Yeah, probably like end of the summer.
The two other songs you did with Nas, could those possibly end up on the Mobb Deep album?
Yeah, that’ll probably be on the album. We’ll make 100 songs, and pick the best 15.
Since you’ve been away, a lot of new artists such as Drake, Kid Cudi, and B.o.B. have made a big impact. Are you a fan of the new class of rappers?
Yeah, I like what they do. They’ve got their lane. They’re doing their thing, and that’s good for them. I’m definitely proud of anybody that can have some success in this game, because it’s not easy. So when you see somebody making a name for himself, and a little success for himself, you’ve got to take your hat off and acknowledge that, like “Yeah, dun is doing his thing.”
I just see it like, they’ve got their lane, they’ve got their style, and we’ve got our style. That’s how I look at it. It’s like different pairs of sneakers, different clothes, like you don’t want to wear the same thing everyday. Sometimes you want to dress casual, sometimes you want to dress down, sometimes you want to dress up, like it’s the same thing with music. Music goes with your mood. Sometimes you’re in the mood for this, sometimes you’re in the mood for that. So that’s a good thing.
I probably don’t know all the titles, the names, and all the other shit, but I listen. I pay attention to what the fuck is going on. I like a bunch of the dudes in the XXL freshmen class, with the cypher shit. Those dudes was hot. And then, the cypher thing on BET Hip-Hop Awards, got some ill little new artists that’s out there doing their thing. They’re actually real good with the rap shit. They’re going in with the verses and all that.
So you feel like rap is in a good place right now then?
Hell yeah. It’s in a good place man. Any time you’ve got a whole bunch of competitors it only steps up the quality of the shit that’s out there. How are you going to shine and stand out with all this new shit that’s happening, and all the heavy competition in the game? What’s going to make you so special?
So it makes you work harder to prove that you deserve what you’ve got, prove that you deserve your shit. You’ve got to earn what you’ve got. So that’s how I see it. It just makes you work that much harder. It makes you be that much more creative, because you’re like, “Damn, alright. This dude is popping. This dude is hot. I’ve got to come with some shit, otherwise people are not even going to pay attention to me.”
So that’s how everybody should be looking at it, even the new kids that’s rapping, they should look at it the same way. Because there’s a lot of new rappers man. When we were coming up it wasn’t that many rappers like that, so we had our own shit and basically that was it. So now it’s like, flooded. So it’s like, where’s Waldo in the motherfucking crowd? You’ve got to stand out in order for people to pay attention to you.
One of the biggest artists right now for gangsta rap is Rick Ross. Are you a fan of his?
Yeah. I like his shit. At first, I thought Rick Ross was a fluke to tell you the truth, because when I first heard him I was like “Who the fuck is this dude man? Come on. You can’t be serious. This dude is a fluke. One-hit wonder.” After a while he started proving himself.
Then I started seeing consistency with him, and more and more, I was like “Hold up. Ok, I’m starting to respect this dude now.” Now he’s proved me wrong. He’s not what I thought he was. That happens a lot. A lot of people won’t talk about it though.
Given that you actually knew Biggie, do you see what Diddy means when comparing Rick Ross and Big?
I guess because he’s a big, heavy-set, fat dude or whatever. Like, I don’t know man. They talk about flashy things. I don’t really know. That’s the only comparison I see, is their weight. Lyrically Rick Ross is spitting some shit right now, but I mean, compared to Biggie there’s just no comparison. You can’t compare Biggie, nobody’s Tupac. Those people are them, you’re you. I don’t really do that comparison shit. Be yourself.