Interview: Prodigy Talks New NYC Rappers, Feeling Ripped Off by Loud Records, and His Career Without Havoc

Interview: Prodigy Talks New NYC Rappers, Feeling Ripped Off by Loud Records, and His Career Without Havoc

Few rappers have been as successful as Prodigy; even less have been active for as long. From Mobb Deep’s early days to Prodigy’s most recent effort, H.N.I.C. 3, the Queensbridge kingpin has remained newsworthy, musically or otherwise. The 38-year-old MC's career has been a rollercoaster ride through the heights of impressive sales and critical acclaim to the dark eeriness of a cold jail cell, and he's still here.

It’s been almost two years since P’s release from prison, and in that time, a lot has happened in the rap world around him. He's patched up his relationship Nas, seen manager and confidant Chris Lighty's untimely passing, and unfortunately, had a falling out with Mobb Deep partner HavocWith the Mobb on hiatus, P is moving on with his career as a solo artist, and in this interview, he never once utters the name “Havoc." Silence speaks volumes.

Interview by Paul Meara (@PaulMearaDotCom)

Your album H.N.I.C. 3 dropped a little while back and there was mixed reaction to it. Some people are feeling the new P, some not as much. What kind of reaction have you been getting?
There ain’t no new type of P. There’s one P. Same P as always. I always make hardcore songs, hits for the block. I make all types of music. People wanna put me in a little box and they get mad when I don’t stay in there. [Laughs.] You can’t put me in a box. I do what the fuck I wanna do. I’m a creative person and I’m gonna be creative so whoever’s upset because of that, that’s too bad. [Laughs.]

The album is doing good. I’ve got an independent brand with Infamous records, and my brand is not based off of first week sales or even going gold for that matter. At this point in the game I’m completely independent, and the ultimate goal of my brand is to have a catalog of 30, 40, 50 albums that’s invaluable. That’s my goal. I don’t know about all the short term stuff that people think about. My goal is to sell a little bit of units here and there, keep dropping artists, keep dropping albums and I’ve got something that’s worth more than gold or platinum.

 

There ain’t no new type of P. There’s one P. Same P as always. I always make hardcore songs, hits for the block. I make all types of music. People wanna put me in a little box and they get mad when I don’t stay in there.

 

You also released the Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP. Like with H.N.I.C. 3, you dropped a mixtape version prior to the retail release of the album. How did that come together?
Yeah, the Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson that was an EP that I put out when I first came home from jail so now I’m just re-releasing it as a full album this time, with five new songs and some new videos. By the time you turn around, I’ll have about five or six albums out by the middle of this year. It’s going to happen so fast that people are not even going to understand what’s going on. They’re not going to realize what happened ‘til years later. Like, "Dang, he did that mad quick. I didn’t even realize all that shit he was doing."

You also have a project with Alchemist. We're used to you working with him, but what was it like getting together again?
The last one we did together was Return of the Mac, so we figured it was about time to go ahead and do the next one. That was our first project together and it did real good. It had a nice little concept. The concept was it had a blaxploitation '70’s feel to the album. So this new one that we doing, once again there’s gonna be a concept. And we gonna surprise people with what it is this time, but it's basically the same type of thing, though. Al doing all the beats and I’m just going in and painting a picture of what the whole thing is gonna be.

What was it like when you started working with him?
On Murda Muzik he did the song with Kool G Rap, “The Realness.” So we did that and that was the first time that I was like, "Wow! This kid is ill. He can make beats." So we recorded that song the day I heard that beat with Kool G Rap on it. I heard a bunch of other beats, too. I probably heard “Keep It Thoro” that same day but it didn’t come out til a year later. I knew that Al was that nigga. He was in the same vein as the music we make.

How did you two meet? I know he was tight with Cypress Hill and DJ Muggs in the early '90s.
It was from one of my homies from Queensbridge named Twin. He was working with Muggs and that’s how he got introduced to Alchemist, and basically Alchemist told him like, "Yo, I’ve been going hard. My goal is to meet Mobb Deep and produce for Mobb Deep, and other New York artists and other artists also." So he just hooked up the meeting and that was that. The rest was history. He came to the studio, he played me about 20 beats. I was like, "Yeah, I like this kid."

 

I love what A$AP doing. I really like Bada$$, he’s real dope. It’s a bunch of artists, man. I definitely support the new rappers because they got something new to bring to the table. 

 

Speaking of New York artists, do you keep up with the young blood in New York?
Yeah, I like what they doing. I like new rap music. I’m a fan of hip-hop. I’m a fan of rap so anything new that's happening, I’m hip to it. I’m already on to it. I’m checking out what’s on the Internet, mixtapes, all that. I’m usually ahead of the curve before it gets popular.

I definitely love what A$AP doing. I really like Bada$$, he’s real dope. It’s a bunch of artists, man. I definitely support the new rappers because they got something new to bring to the table. You can’t keep doing the same old shit. It gets boring. So it’s good to have a whole bunch of choices, 'cause too much of the new shit get boring and you want to hear something else, too. So you gotta have different things.

Do you ever see a young Prodigy in any of these artists? Do you ever say, "Yo, that was me at 17?"
Yeah, definitely. When I see, it doesn’t even have to be rap music, anybody in the music industry on the come up, they just remind me of the grind or when we was coming up grinding.

 

Chris was the greatest hip-hop manager that ever lived. He was more than just a manager, too. He was one of the greatest business minds as far as bringing hardcore hip-hop and real street hip-hop to the corporate world. He did that real good. There was a few people that was real good at that and he was one of the best ones. His networking, his communication skills were incredible.

 

You had a very close relationship with Chris Lighty. How did you feel about his passing?
Chris was the greatest hip-hop manager that ever lived. He was more than just a manager, too. He was one of the greatest business minds as far as bringing hardcore hip-hop and real street hip-hop to the corporate world. He did that real good. There was a few people that was real good at that and he was one of the best ones. His networking, his communication skills were incredible.

I learned so much from watching how he communicated, just his tone, his mannerisms, his work ethic, just everything. That was an incredible individual and he managed us for a long time. We’ve been through a lot with Chris. A lot. It hurt a lot when I found out he passed.

Outside of business, what was your personal connection like with Chris Lighty?
Chris was like an older brother to me. When I was in trouble, anytime I got locked up, anytime I was in any kind of trouble, Chris was always there. Like, if I had to spend a night in jail and go to court the next morning and when I walk into the courtroom Chris already sitting there waiting to bail me out, all the time. So I’ve been through a lot with him and you could always depend on Chris like if you call him and tell him you got a problem and he’s going to fix it or he’s gonna do what he can to fix it or help you and assist you.

If he’s your artist and he manages you or he really fucks with you like that, he’s going to do what he can to help you and he did that for me a lot, not just with music but my personal life. Chris was always there. Chris made us a lot of money, too. Our talent got us into the position we in but Chris was able to take that and push it even further.

 

For anybody to say that they ghostwrote something for Nas, you’re a motherf***in' fool.

 

Nas is someone that is back in your life and has been since soon after you were released from prison. I know he’s always been in your heart as another brother, but you’ve also had an off-and-on relationship with him for a number of reasons. Did you feel that it was just time to put all those issues aside?
Definitely. I never really had an issue with Nas. I never really had any ill feelings towards him, no negativity, nothing like that. I looked up to Nas. I wrote a book, before I got locked up actually, and I finished it while I was locked up and it came out right when I came home and in the book I explained how much I used to look up to Nas and still do and how he inspired my life, my music.

Hearing Nas and being around him, seeing his success, it pushed me to be great. I wanted to be great just like how he was and he inspired me just like how Run-D.M.C. inspired me or LL or Jay-Z, Biggie. He was one of the major ones because I was right there with him. I was right there in the neighborhood. I was right there when his Illmatic album went Gold. We was there celebrating with him at parties, performing with him and all kinds of stuff. It felt good to see that and we was like, “Yeah this is how it is. This is how it gotta be. We gotta be great. We can’t just be mediocre.”

What did you think of the ghostwriting allegations against Nas last year? What do you think of ghostwriting in general?
First off, with Nas, for anybody to say that they ghostwrote something for Nas, you’re a motherfuckin' fool. I don’t even know about that whole ghostwriting situation with Nas and whoever. I heard about it but I don’t know the details but all I can say is for anybody to make that accusation, something is mentally wrong with them. As far as ghostwriting goes, it’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a good way to make money. Like, for me to sell my rap to somebody and we make an agreement, like we can’t disclose the information, we got to sign some agreement where we can’t talk about it and that’s cool, why not? People do it all the time. I ghostwrote a couple of songs that don’t nobody know about and I only did two of them, but I did it.

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