The rapper's publicist released a statement on his death, citing complications stemming from his lifelong battle with sickle cell anemia.
It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family's privacy at this time.
Several prominent members of the Queens hip-hop community took to social media to share the news—and their condolences—on Tuesday afternoon, with Nas and his younger brother Jungle sharing posts on Instagram within minutes of one another.
A post shared by Nasir Jones (@nas) on Jun 20, 2017 at 10:33am PDT
A post shared by Jungleqb (@jungleqb) on Jun 20, 2017 at 10:42am PDT
Best known by the average fan as one half of the group responsible for the classic rap record, "Shook Ones Pt. II," Prodigy was part of countless New York posse cuts and a key figure in the "golden age" of rap in the mid-90s. Thanks to the strength of beloved albums like The Infamous and Hell on Earth, Mobb Deep was at the forefront of New York hip-hop during its most prominent era, standing alongside giants like Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., Wu Tang Clan, and others.
As part of the city's vanguard, Prodigy was a key figure in the East Coast vs. West Coast battle that overtook hip-hop for the better part of a decade. Along with his partner Havoc, he joined Capone-N-Noreaga and Tragedy Khadafi in the West Coast diss track, "L.A. L.A.," released just shortly before 2Pac was released from prison. Prodigy's battle with sickle cell anemia later became public knowledge after it was brought up by 2Pac multiple times during their war of words, most notably on "Hit 'Em Up."
The rapper was forced into a brief hiatus from music due to a stint in prison relating to a gun-possession charge. He would go on to release an autobiography, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy, before immersing himself in hip-hop once again. More recently, he was responsible for writing a prison cookbook titled Commissary Kitchen, in which he shared his path to staying healthy while being behind bars. The book has since been banned in all prisons within the state of California.