Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “We’d record at Hav’s crib in Queensbridge or my crib in Hempstead, Long Island in the basement. After that we’d take it to the city to make it sound good. ‘The Start Of Your Ending’ was probably recorded at Platinum Island. That was one of the main places we’d take the songs to after we finished. That was one of the later songs on the album.

“At that point me and Havoc were making the beats together. It was produced by both of us. I’d probably add a little piano or something, and he’d add this. Just a late night, drinking 40s, wilding out. The usual. Mad cigarettes, mad weed. That was most likely done in one session. Because back then, we were real quick. We’d make the song in the crib and then we’d go back to the studio.”

Havoc: “I was about 19 or 20 at the time. We had put out Juvenile Hell a year before that. When we made Juvenile Hell, too many people were dictating when we went to the studio. We didn’t know better, we were like, ‘Fuck it, we just got this record deal. These people are all older than us. They know what they doing. Let’s just make them records.’ I produced a few tracks on there—maybe one or two—and I was happy. But when it came out, it didn’t really make any kind of noise. So now, our backs were against the wall because we knew this could be our last chance. Looking back on it, it was a lot of pressure.

“We would have all of our friends in the studio, drinking 40’s, smoking weed. [Laughs.] I would say from about 20 people in the studio. It was pretty wild, shit was getting broken, things went missing, food was being ordered without permission. [Laughs.] I wasn’t breaking anything personally, but friends who were not used to being anywhere coming from the projects [were doing that]. [Laughs.]

“People were breaking clock radios and knobs on the mixer. Spilling beer somewhere it should not be spilt. It was like a neighborhood gathering and everybody was feeling of everybody else’s energy so I would make these beats and everybody be amped up. I had the whole crew inside the studio and I was like, ‘Fuck it, everybody get behind the mic. Introduce y’all selves.’ Just try to make it so real as possible.

“I just let the beat guide me [when I wrote my verse]. Whatever I felt when I heard the beat, that’s exactly what I wrote. With my crew being around me, I incorporated them like, ‘Yeah, keep it real like my man YG.’ That was a dude from my neighborhood that was just notorious for robbing people, sniffing coke, and wilding out. Everybody was scared of him but he was just one wild individual, so I had put him in my rhyme.”

Matty “Matty C” Capoluongo a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Schott worked closely with them on how the rhymes were coming and I worked closely with them on how production was coming. The first thing that I remember is them creating a semblance of the core of the first album and me creating a rough in-house version what the album could be and throwing a sticker on the cassette.

“There was an initial five or six songs on a tape that was the nucleus of the album which had the original versions of songs like ‘Survival of the Fittest,’ ‘Shook Ones,’ ‘Give Up the Goods,’ and ‘Temperature’s Rising.’ There was a couple of other things that didn’t make the album. The major issue was, of course, the samples.

“That early Mobb Deep tape, some of it leaked and a lot of people consider it a demo. But let’s not forget, Mobb Deep already had a major label record deal. They had already put out a record. And if anything was to come out after that, it would be the first song that Havoc came to me with at The Source after that deal went through, which was ‘Patty Shop.’ That was what first started Mobb Deep’s second run.

“I gave ‘Patty Shop’ to Stretch Armstrong, he played it on the radio, and Stretch really turned Steve Rifkind onto it. We wanted to come with that first, but we kept going back in the studio to make it sound better because it was made out of their house. The drums were over ‘Halftime’ and Redman was in the chorus—believe it or not—on a Mobb Deep song. They wanted to take some out and make it more of a track. It never came out sounding the way they wanted it to and we ended up not wanting to use it.

“I was the guy in there who dealt with the studio, dealt with the engineer, and I had to deal with the budget to a certain degree. My role on the project had a lot to do with overseeing the spending of the money. Initially the budget was pretty small, but we’re not spending anything on producing music. Honestly, I believe it was under six figures. But the studios would decide on the food budget. Especially with Mobb Deep, it became these nasty, oppressive relationships.

“Mobb Deep would come in 20, 30 deep and order 800 wings. And we’d be over at Chung King and they’d get on the bullshit, they’d shut it down the next day. At the same time, I’m not in there trying to regulate how P or Hav wants to blow his budget because it shouldn’t be that expensive."

Schott “Free” Jacobs (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “The Mobb deal wasn’t for much. It was definitely less than $70,000 originally so it was probably about $60,000. Mobb Deep came in saying, ‘We ran into Q-Tip and Tip was like, ‘I wanna help out.’ Before I knew it, I think that Matty had put in a call to Chris Lighty and we all sat. We discussed a nice little price range. It was cool to have Tip come in and be in charge of mixing the record. Some records were scrapped completely.

“The album was pretty tight, but once Tip comes around he hears different things. He changes kicks, snares, whatever. Also, you get to watch Havoc implement what he had already known with a cat like Tip and Tip showing him everything he knew. Showing him a format, a formula, and even how to double on the kicks. It’s just kinda ill how he just came in and just cleaned it up. His influence is mostly sonically. Playing any of those records in the club, the drums and everything is big. Tip was always a master of making a record sound huge.

“‘Start of Your Ending’ that might have been the last thing done. I remember doing that sometime around the same time that we were doing the skits. The album was pretty much done so we knew what we had, so cats were feeling pretty confident at that point. On the skits you can hear that. P sketched that rhyme up in like a half an hour man. It all went pretty quick and organic and it ended up starting off the album.”