Having written a well-received autobiography, My Infamous Life, in 2011, Mobb Deep's Prodigy continues his literary career with the novel, H.N.I.C.
Bearing the same title as his year-2000 debut album and co-written with British author Steven Savile, the story follows Pappy, an ambitious product of the streets who has his sights set on leaving the crime-life for something more stable. Joining his childhood friend Black's crew as they carry out a bank robbery, Pappy imagines one last big score before he leaves town. Plans go awry, though, when Black, an "unpredictable motherfucker," murders a security guard during the robbery, setting off a chain of events that tests their loyalty. Violence, betrayal and vengeance ensue—depicted in a hard-boiled style that only Prodigy could pull off. Read the full text of the chapter below, or listen along to our exclusive audio excerpt.
Black said that it was going to be easy.
Black didn’t know shit. He just acted like he did, and no one questioned him.
The plan was simple: “We’ll just go in there, and when the shit gets real, we’ll wave our guns around. Put a couple of shots into the ceiling. Shout. I mean fuckin’ shout. Make a whole fuck of a lot of noise. We want to scare the tellers and keep them scared. Scared people do what you tell them. They don’t think for themselves. And we’ll just tell them to put the money in the bags while the piss runs down their legs.”
Pappy was cool with that. Scaring was fine. He wasn’t cool with the whole gun thing: you pulled a piece if you intended to use it, you didn’t need the whole swagger bullshit. Shooting the ceiling wasn’t a mile away from putting a cap in the girl behind the counter when she was too frightened to fill the bag fast enough for your liking. Things escalated. And Black was one unpredictable motherfucker. He was in it because of the thrill. He loved the fucking rush. Best fucking high ever, he’d said more than once. The money was just sugar. Sweet, sweet sugar, sure, but sugar just the same. Heat it up and it gets sticky and sickly and it stops being sugar. They were like that, Pappy and Black.
Pappy was all about the money. It wasn’t about control or respect or fear, or any of those other things that fired Black’s soul. It was all about the money.
And when the risk outweighed the reward it wasn’t a risk worth taking. There was no glory in going out in a hail of bullets. Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse behind was nowhere near as appealing as not dying young and instead leaving an old and haggard one behind. Pappy wanted to live. Really live. Suck the marrow out of the bones of life. What was the good in being beautiful if you weren’t around to fuck and sing and laugh and punch and, fuck, just all of that shit? A beautiful corpse would rot soon enough. So, no, it was about staying alive so long that he’d become the old nigga on the tenement stoop, smoking his liquorice-paper cigarette and blowing smoke rings while the kids fucked about, being kids.
And that meant using his head.
Loyalty was one thing, but it only went so far.
Getting yourself perforated just because you like a guy, or because you grew up on the same streets and fucked the same girls, sometimes alone, sometimes together, didn’t make it smart.
“If I’m gonna do this, it’s gonna be done right. No fucking around. It’s gonna be big enough to cash out, man.”
“Last job,” Black swore, cursing it.
But Pappy meant it; this was the end of the road, the last job. From tomorrow his life was all about making a fresh start. He was getting out before hanging around with Black meant he wound up in the ground. He had a plan. It wasn’t fully formed. He couldn’t risk thinking about it too much. Daydreaming. He needed to be on his game. Right now all he knew for sure was come the morning he’d light out for Detroit. Clean start, different city. No one knew him out there. Maybe he’d even get himself into some computer school or something, make a real life for himself.
Black wouldn’t give up this kind of life.
It was in his blood. Like poison.
Even if he decided to start again somewhere else, it wouldn’t be long before he fell into the same patterns of behavior. That was just who he was.
“Down! On the fuckin’ floor!” Black yelled as he pushed through the glass double doors into the bank.
He fired one shot after another into the ceiling, sending a shower of plaster drifting down like snow.
Hysterical shouts and cries filled the silence after the shots. Someone sobbed uncontrollably. Black ignored them all.
Pappy dumped a bag in front of one of the tellers. He looked along the counter to see another bag go down. The ski masks made them all look the same. He almost laughed at the thought. It wouldn’t be the first time a pretty white girl had been confused by color, after all.
Black stood in the middle of the floor, acting the big man, ready to explode: “I said stop your fuckin’ noise, bitch!” Pappy glanced toward him. Black held his gun—a huge Desert Eagle—an inch from the face of an old woman. She was barely keeping it together and the gun wasn’t helping.
“Hurry,” Pappy told the teller, willing her to read his mind. If they didn’t get out of here soon, things would go bad real fast.
He’d seen Black pumped up like this before.
There was no point trying to reason with him.
The best they could do was get out of there.
But fast was never going to be fast enough.
Someone was always going to try and be a fucking hero.
It was written in the stars.
In that endless second between heartbeats it all went wrong.
A security guard, hyped on adrenaline and stupid Hollywood movies, made a grab for Black. He caught him around the neck, from behind, and pulled the mask from his head in the struggle.
Black lashed out violently, swinging the Desert Eagle like a club. The barrel hit the guard square in the temple with a sickening crunch. Something broke in there. Pappy heard it from where he stood. There was nothing good about that sound. He watched the man collapse.
Black scrambled for his mask, trying to cover his face again, but they all knew it was too late for that. Cameras had caught him now. There were dozens of them inside the bank; one would have captured a perfect picture of his face.
Black stood over the guard. He hawked and spat, then pulled the trigger. Once. Twice. Three times. The dead man’s body only twitched a single time.
The alarm broke the stunned silence. The atmosphere in the bank changed with those shots. The hysteria was as dead as the guard. Every last one of the customers and staff stared with disbelief at the Desert Eagle, at Black, at the dead man, and knew that but for the grace of whatever god, devil, or deity they chose to believe in, it could have been them down there. It had just become very fucking real.
Pappy breathed deeply. Someone needed to take control.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
The plan was in, grab the cash, and out again—no one gets hurt. No one winds up dead.
But there he was, blood spilling out across the marble floor.
Pappy felt sick.
Banks were insured; they could afford to lose the cash. That guy down there was someone’s son, someone’s husband, someone’s father. Or had been. Now he was just dead.
Pappy choked back the bile.
There was a split second where nobody moved. And then they started running for the door, all thoughts of the money abandoned. Now it was all about getting the fuck out of Dodge before the cops came in with guns blazing. Black was the first to run out. So much for that fucking loyalty shit. Pappy was last out, behind Ant.
Outside, Von had the engine running. As they all piled into the car, Black screamed at him to drive.
Tires screeched and he pulled into the fast-flowing traffic to the chorus of horns blaring as the car behind was forced to break hard to avoid a collision, only for an Econoline to ram him from behind. It was a piece of good luck, so maybe one of Black’s demons was watching over them after all. The wreck would delay pursuit, and they only needed to cover a dozen blocks to abandon the stolen vehicle and switch it for the clean car that was parked and ready for them.
For Black that counted as forward thinking. It was, as he put it, a motherfucking plan. Black had a way with words. The reality of it was they could have been taken down before even leaving the bank. On another day they could have all been dead by now.
“So how much cash did we get?” Von asked as he pulled the second car carefully into traffic. Now it was all about not standing out. They could hear the sirens, so it wouldn’t be long before the cops found the getaway car. They welcomed it; they’d be long gone by then.
Black said nothing.
Pappy could see the rage seething inside him, barely kept in check. It could have been down to the fact he’d left his face behind on the cameras, or the fact they’d walked out of the door as broke as they walked in. Pappy doubted very much that it was down to the fact Black had left someone dead on the cold stone floor.
“Come on, guys, how much? Enough for a trip to the sun? I’m ready for some of that sea, sand, sex, and shit, you know?”
“Will you shut the fuck up?” Black snapped.
“Nothing,” said Pappy. “Not a fucking dime.”
“Shut your fuckin’ mouth, Pap, I need to think.”
“Things didn’t go down the way we planned,” Ant said, as though that explained everything.
“Just leave it, Von. It didn’t work out. No sand, no sea, but give it a few minutes and you’ll feel like you’ve been well and truly fucked, so it’s all good.”
Pappy knew one thing for sure: he wasn’t waiting for tomorrow to head for Detroit. He was going tonight, cash or not. If he had to work nights in some shithole diner to see himself through college, then so be it. He wasn’t proud. And washing pots wouldn’t get him banged up for life. There was no fucking glamour in this life. Black was a dumb cunt. It was as simple and ugly as that. He’d seen enough to know the way things were going. He wanted out. That was the first smart decision he’d made since Sumner Houses. They weren’t a fucking crew anymore. So they had managed to get out, it didn’t matter; it wouldn’t take CSI geniuses to determine who’d pulled the trigger, and Pappy wasn’t about to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder. If the cops didn’t get him, it was only a matter of time before Black did. That was Black’s idea of covering his tracks.
Von pulled over at the lights.
“I’m out of here,” Pappy said, climbing out of the car.
Black stared at him. He didn’t say Get back in, he didn’t say See you around. He just nodded.
“Last job,” Pappy said, slamming the door.
“No looking back, Pap,” Black responded, making a pistol with his fist and pulling the imaginary trigger.
Also check out Prodigy on Complex TV's The Process below