Tonight, The Infamous Mobb Deep will be taking the stage together for the first time in three years at New York City's Best Buy Theater (buy tickets here). Complex will definitely be in the building because who wouldn't love to see Prodigy and Havoc take the stage to perform all of their classic songs? In honor of the show (and in addition to our epic The Making of Mobb Deep's The Infamous and all the other features we've done with Prodigy lately) we got on the horn with P to discuss the making of his classic songs from all the Mobb albums, his solo work, and his guest appearances.
Hear P explain how he and Hav are trendsetters, how he got $200,000 for an album he was gonna give away for free, and how Big Pun once pulled out over a dozen guns on him. Better yet, see P talk about how Jay-Z was scared of Death Row, how (contrary to popular belief) his verse on "Thun & Kicko" isn't actually about Nas, and how Game tried to recruit Mobb Deep to Black Wall Street when they were about to sign to G-Unit.
As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)
Mobb Deep “Hit It From The Back” (1993)
Mobb Deep “Shook Ones Pt. II” (1995)
Mobb Deep “Survival of The Fittest” (1995)
Mobb Deep “Temperature's Rising” (1995)
Produced by: Q-Tip
Co-produced by: Mobb Deep
Prodigy: “‘Temperature’s Rising’ is a song that happened when Hav’s brother [Killa Black] had went through a little murder situation and he was on the run from the police. The Ds caught him and when we found out about it, we were on our way to the studio, so we decided to make the song about what was really happening in our lives. Everything we say about that shit is real. That’s what really happened. It was like, ‘Damn, they caught Black.’ We went to the studio that night, we were all emotional about it because that’s Hav’s brother. That’s a serious charge, so we just made a song dedicated to Killa about how his situation went down, how he was on the run, and how he got caught. If you listen to it, it’s not directly saying exactly what happened, it’s just saying some shit went down.”
LL Cool J f/ Prodigy, Fat Joe, Foxy Brown, & Keith Murray “I Shot Ya” (1995)
Capone-N-Noreaga f/ Mobb Deep & Tragedy Khadafi "L.A., L.A. (Kuwait Mix)” (1996)
Nas f/ Mobb Deep “Live Nigga Rap” (1996)
Produced by: Havoc
Prodigy: “We recorded that for Hell On Earth. Nas called us when he was working on his album like, ‘Yo, I want to buy that song from y’all that we did.’ I was real reluctant at first because that shit was crazy hot and that was our Nas feature for our album. He was like, ‘I want to buy that shit.’ After thinking about it for a while, we sold it to him. We figured his shit would be bigger than our shit and it’d be good promotion for us because it’s Nas.
“The rhyme that I had on there is actually the rhyme that I [originally] had on ‘L.A., L.A.’ I had took that verse off of ‘L.A., L.A.’ because it was just too hot. When we did the song ‘L.A., L.A.’ we all was rhyming on it, we all had verses, but when I had wrote that verse, I was like, ‘Nah, I can’t put this on here. This is too crazy right here.’ So I ended up just doing the chorus on that song, and Hav did his verse on there, and that was it. I took that rhyme and I put it on ‘Live Nigga Rap’ like two days later.
“If you listen to the rhyme on ‘Live Nigga Rap,’ I’m talking about California shit. I said, ‘Got links with big cats down in Santa Barbre.’ Nore tried to jack my little style off of that too. That whole ‘Live Nigga Rap’ verse, Nore tried to jack my shit a little something [Laughs.]. If you listen to it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. But it ain’t nothing, that’s cool.”
Mobb Deep “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” (1996)
Produced by: Mobb Deep
Prodigy: “We recorded that song at Access Studios. We just went in and made that song after we heard Tupac saying some things about us because of our ‘L.A., L.A.’ song. We heard somebody playing ‘Hit Em Up’ on the block and we were like, ‘Oh word? Niggas wanna make songs about us? Aight, cool.’ As soon as we heard Tupac saying anything about Mobb Deep, we went in and made that shit about him. We were like, ‘Fuck this nigga, we going right at this nigga and whoever the fuck he’s down with.’
“‘Drop a Gem on ‘Em’ was unique and it was different. Pac just took a beat that everybody knew of already and just tried to flip the lyrics or whatever. That’s why I think with ‘Drop a Gem On Em’ people were like, ‘Yo, that shit is fire. Y’all killed the nigga,’ because it was like a new beat. Nobody had ever heard a beat like that before. The lyrics were crazy.
“We had actually pulled the song because it was the first single off of Hell On Earth. We submitted it to radio and radio put it in rotation, even in Cali. But when Pac died, we pulled the song off radio and told them to stop playing it out of respect for his family and out of respect for the dead. We were like, ‘Nah, stop pushing that.’ We still put it on the album.
“We were about to shoot a video for that. We were about to go in on that nigga, but we were like, ‘Yo, pull it.’ We were just going to go in on this nigga in the video. I mean, it was so new when Pac died that I think it was only on the radio for about a week or two. So, we didn’t really have plans for the video, but we were about to shoot a video for it. When Pac died, we switched the single to 'Hell On Earth' instead.”
Mobb Deep “Front Lines (Hell On Earth)” (1996)
Mobb Deep “G.O.D. Pt. III” (1996)
Big Pun f/ Prodigy & Inspectah Deck “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)” (1998)
Produced by: RZA
Prodigy: “I was locked up with my Spanish homies and they were all talking about Pun. So I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve got a song with Pun called ‘Tres Leches.’’ And my niggas just started falling out laughing, talking about, ‘That shit is called ‘Three Milks?’ Why you got a song called ‘Three Milks?’’ I didn’t even know that shit was called ‘Three Milks!’ I started thinking about it like, ‘Why the fuck is that shit called three milks?’ That shit was kind of bugged the fuck out. I wish Pun was alive, so I could ask the nigga. I just thought the shit sounded cool. I thought that shit meant ‘Three Boroughs’ or something.
“Pun was like a prankster, a jokester. He was a funny motherfucker. We had gotten real close after making that song. We used to hang out at his crib, go to clubs together, just to hang out and get bent. Pun really loved Mobb Deep. We were like one of his favorite groups of all time.
“One night we were up in his crib in the Bronx, it was me and a couple of my boys. Pun was showing me his gun. He had a P57 and there was like 15 other people in his crib, all Terror Squad niggas. Pun would be like. ‘Yo, show P your gun,’ and one of them would pull out. Then another one would pull out like, ‘Yo, P look at this one. Look at this one P.’
“At the end there was like 16, 17 guns out around me. Everybody was showing me what kind of hammer they had. So when everybody had their gun out, Pun looked at me like, ‘Let us see your gun P.’ I was like ‘Yo, I left my shit in the car nigga.’ Pun was just like ‘Yeah, see. We got the drop on you right now. We could just flip on you right now.’ He was like, ‘Don’t ever do that shit. Keep your gun on you nigga.’ I was like ‘No doubt son.’ [Laughs.]
“That shit just felt kind of crazy. All them guns out and I ain’t have my shit on me. I left my shit in the car because it felt disrespectful to bring my gun in somebody’s house. Ever since then, I always remembered that shit. I always keep my hammer on me and shit. Pun might have been the reasons I caught my gun case. [Laughs]”
Mobb Deep f/ Nas “It’s Mine” (1999)
Mobb Deep “Quiet Storm” (1999)
Produced by: Havoc
Prodigy: “Hav was in the studio all day and I came late at night and these niggas was making a beat. Hav had the old Melly Mel song ‘White Lines’ sampled. After he laid the drum pattern, he added the piano—the piano is what puts that whole beat together—and then him and Noyd were like, ‘Yo, we going to pick up shorties.’ I was like, ‘Y’all niggas leaving? Let’s do this song, this shit is fire right here.’ They like, ‘Nah, we’ll be right back.’
“They bounced and I’m in the studio dolo. I’m like, ‘Fuck it. I’m going in on this beat right now.’ I sat there and wrote the whole song in like an hour and I recorded it. I was like, ‘I’m not leaving any room for anyone else to get on this shit, this is too ill.’ I was already working on my solo album so I was like, ‘Gimme this shit. I’m taking this beat. This is for my album nigga.’ [Laughs.] That was my whole mentality.
“I was coming clean like, ‘I spent too many nights, sniffing coke, getting right/Wasting my life, now I’m trying to make things right,’ because that’s how I was living. I felt like I had cleaned my life at that time. I wasn’t using anything, no drugs, no alcohol. I was living correctly and trying to make things right.
“I recorded that shit and these niggas never came back to the studio. I bounced and played it for niggas the next day and they were like, ‘That’s cool.’ They didn’t understand or see the power of that record. I called DJ Clue and was like, ‘Son, I got this song that I want you to put on a mixtape.’ Clue put it on every single mixtape that he put out that year. Usually a DJ will put it on one mixtape, but he kept putting it on all his mixtapes.
“Then, we were in the Tunnel—because that was our club, every Sunday we were there—and Clue is DJing. All of a sudden he threw on ‘Quiet Storm’—it was called ‘White Lines’ at the time because I didn’t even have a title for it. This shit ain’t mixed, it ain’t mastered, it sounds like shit, but he played it in the club and people were actually dancing to it. I guess they knew it from the mixtapes.
“I’m bugging off of this shit because I ain’t never seen some shit like that before. You don’t play a song in the club unless it’s a single, it’s getting radio play, unless people know that shit. This nigga played the song from a mixtape in the Tunnel nigga. The Tunnel holds like four thousand people. That’s not somewhere where you fuck around and play a song that niggas are probably not going to like.
“I’m looking at people’s reaction to it and they dancing and having a good time. We go back to the Tunnel, he plays it again. He starts playing it every Sunday or whoever is filling in, they’re playing it too. And from there the song just took off. After he started playing it in the Tunnel they started playing it on the radio and this is the unmixed version. This is for a year straight before we actually dropped it as a single.”
Mobb Deep f/ Lil Kim “Quiet Storm (Remix)” (1999)
Prodigy “Keep It Thoro” (2000)
Mobb Deep f/ Vita & Big Noyd “The Learning (Burn)” (2001)
Mobb Deep f/ 112 “Hey Luv (Anything)” (2001)
Mobb Deep “Get Away” (2001)
Cormega f/ Prodigy "Thun & Kicko" (2001)
Produced by: Havoc
Prodigy: “We were in Soundtrack Studios working on Murda Muzik. Mega had wanted to buy a Hav beat for his album. So Hav started playing the beat like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to give this to son.’ I recorded my verse and then Mega did his shit later. That shit was written way before Mega’s verse was written, in a different studio and all that. I don’t even know where Mega laid his verse down.
“In his verse, Mega is taking shots at Nas. When Nas listened to it, it may have seemed like anything I’m saying is talking about him too. But I didn’t know Mega was going to do that. He did that on his own. Nas took a offense to that and got mad at me. Through the grapevine I heard that was the reason why [Nas] made ‘Build & Destroy’ about me. I just started getting word that he admitted that it was because of that song. Nas was coming out of nowhere with that ‘Build & Destroy’ shit. That shit was the most shocking shit to me. I was like, ‘Why is Nas going at me? For what? What the fuck did I do to this nigga?’
“I was like, ‘This is crazy yo. He’s going at me for some shit I ain’t even do.’ For some reason, he thought that I was either co-signing Mega’s verse about him or the whole song was about him. That was far from the truth. I have no reason to be jealous of, mad at, or have any bad feelings towards Nas. I used to look up to Nas as a rap mentor. He used to give me inspiration, so I would never come at him sideways. That would make no sense. He embraced me in their hood and there was nothing but love and respect.
“I guess it just got interpreted the wrong way when he heard the song. It’s too bad that Nas felt like that because he was wrong. He kind of jumped the gun a little bit on that by going at me because I had nothing to do with that shit. But I never even told him that my verse was made before Cormega’s. He’s probably gonna find out for the first time when he reads this shit.” [Laughs.]
Mobb Deep “Got It Twisted” (2004)
50 Cent f/ Mobb Deep “Outta Control (Remix)” (2005)
Mobb Deep f/ 50 Cent “Pearly Gates” (2006)
Produced by: Exile
Prodigy: “That song came about from 50 Cent. [He sent it to us] and it was just the chorus, beat, and his verse. I heard where he was like, ‘If I go to hell, and you make it to heaven/Just get me to the gate and I’ll talk my way in.’ It was being real cocky, laughing at the organized religion, and seeing how false a lot of that shit is.
“I wrote my verse based on the fact that we were brought over here as slaves from Africa. Over in our motherland, we had our own connection with the creator. There was no such thing as Bibles. The Bible is something Europeans created. When we were brought over here, they shoved that down our throats and they said, ‘This is your God and this is what you believe in.’ My verse is shitting on that God and shitting on that story. A lot of people didn’t understand that. They just thought, ‘Yo, what the fuck is P talking about?’ How I took it, it’s like, ‘That’s not my God. My God is something different.’
“I can say, ‘Fuck all that,’ because that’s not what I believe in. I’ve got my own spiritual connection, just like we did before we were brought over here as slaves. A lot of our ancestors were murdered and raped as slaves. So basically, that’s what that song was about. I was letting out my rage against that.”