The Making of Mobb Deep's 'The Infamous'

On the anniversary of its release, we got Havoc, Prodigy, Q-Tip, and everyone else involved to tell the stories behind this QB classic.

the infamous mobb deep artwork

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the infamous mobb deep artwork

Although they are now considered a legendary group, leading into the release of their second album, The Infamous, it was far from a given that Albert “Prodigy” Johnson and Kejuan “Havoc” Muchita would enjoy such long and fruitful careers. Their first album, Juvenile Hell, had been a commercial flop, although it did yield a minor hit, “Hit It From The Back,” and led to them being dropped by their first label, 4th & Broadway. Prodigy even admits in his autobiography, My Infamous Life, that him and Havoc didn’t really take the songwriting and producing process serious for their debut. It’s understandable given that both were teenagers at the time.

Besides, if it was the impetus for what was to come, then it was definitely a good thing. While only producing three songs on Juvenile Hell, the group produced a majority of The infamous, carving out a unique and unmistakable sound. Dark, moody, brooding, and sinister, the music was apocalyptic and Havoc and Prodigy’s unyielding and unremorseful lyrics painted a very bleak picture of what life was like growing up in Queensbridge (yeah, we know Prodigy is from Hempstead, Long Island, but it’s obvious he spent a lot of time in QB). It may have been unnerving to think that a duo so young could entertain such cold-blooded thoughts, but given the overwhelmingly positive response, the realness seemed to resonate.

The album contained huge smashes with “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” and “Survival Of The Fittest,” and disseminated their unique dunn slanguage all over the world. Given that today is the anniversary of this classic album dropping, we wanted to talk to those who were involved in The Making Of The Infamous. It’s the real...

As told to Noah Callahan-Bever (@N_C_B), Toshitaka Kondo (@ToshitakaKondo), and Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin).

"The Start of Your Ending (41st Side)"

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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.”

"[The Infamous Prelude]"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “We were just in the studio all night, bugging out. I just wrote some shit real quick to get it off my chest. I felt like at that time we had put out Juvenile Hell, and it didn’t really do that good because we didn’t try hard with the production and the lyrics. We were just young kids wanting some money and a video on TV. So we got the result of doing that by not selling no records, and people not feeling the album.

“When we were making The Infamous, I made that skit because I just wanted to let people know how we’re living and what type of people we are. People didn’t really know, so we were letting people know this time around like, ‘Dog, this is what it is. This is how we get down. Fuck all that other shit.’

“[Keith Murray thought] it was about him. [Laughs.] I don’t know how you figure I was talking about you. That shit is just crazy to me. There was a few people that was talking [about space shit] back then. I guess if the shoe fits, you wear it, so I guess I am talking about you.

“But what was on my mind was just letting niggas know this was the difference between us and the other rap shit that was out there. This is our style of shit, and that other style is nothing compared to what we do. Look now at all the other shit that was out back then, and look at Mobb Deep. That’s what I was trying to show people.”

Havoc: “We used to book studio time and sometimes we’d come in at different times. That was one of those days when P was there [by himself] and he was in one of his creative modes and he felt like venting. He did it and it turned out to be a classic prelude. [Laughs.]

"When you’re in the creative space, it’s like endless possibilities of what you could do. It’s like, who the fuck does that? Who is making an album where they do a fucking prelude where they’re just talking for like two, three minutes? It’s crazy.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “I remember being like, ‘Yeah, we’ll do the skits at the end.’ They weren’t just happening in the mix. They sound like they were when you listen to a record, but that definitely was kind of an afterthought in the process. That’s true of both ‘The Infamous Prelude’ and ‘Just Step Prelude.’

"I remember both of those things happening in the end at the same session when we were putting the whole thing together: Sequencing, mastering, adding those last few skits in there. They both kind of strike me as moments similar to each other like that. When he had those last eureka moments."

"Survival of the Fittest"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “We made that in Hav’s crib, in Queensbridge. We’d make the beats in Hav’s crib [but lay vocals in the studio]. Or sometimes, we’d make the beat in the crib, write half of the song in the crib, then go to the studio and finish it. That was one of the ones where Hav ain’t really like the beat. He was about to erase that shit. There’s a lot of joints like that, where he was about to trash them and we had to change his mind. I was out somewhere on the block chilling probably, I came in the crib, and Hav had the beat playing.

“I was like, ‘Damn. What the fuck is this?’ He’s like, ‘It’s some bullshit, I’m about to fucking scratch this shit and do another one.’ I was like ‘Nah, don’t scratch that nigga, hold up. Let niggas hear this.’ And I called niggas over like, ‘Yo, listen to this fucking beat this nigga just made.’ And everybody was like, ‘Yo, that shit is crazy.’ Then we both just started writing rhymes to it and it came out good. We knocked that out all in one day. So, I had to save that one.

“Hav’s pops was a DJ, so Hav had a lot of records from the ‘70s and the ‘80s. We both had a good record collection. Hav was already listening to records before I met him. He was trying to sample on a cassette player, hit record, pause, record, and pause, and making the beats like that. When he met me, we bought the equipment. That’s when he started to really get into making beats. I actually showed him how to sample, how to do this, and how to sequence the shit. Once he got the hang of it he just went in and started going crazy."

Havoc: “I was just making beats in my crib in the projects. We had already put out ‘Shook Ones’ and our confidence was up. At that time, I was into sampling a lot of jazz records so I found this loop. I put it together. I tried to make it sound as crispy as I could when we were in the studio recording it.

“I remember my cousin Ferg being in the studio. He was from Brooklyn, he was running the streets wild, and he was like 16 at the time, so I said, ‘Yo, go in the booth and just go ad-lib behind the chorus.’ And he was just like, ‘Yeah, thug life we still living it.’ And this is way before Tupac [started saying ‘Thug Life’] and I don’t know if he felt like he came with that first. But this is from the heart, when we did that we didn’t know nothing about no Tupac. My little cousin went back there [and did the hook] and the shit was dope. He wasn’t an actual rapper at that time. I know he used to write his little rhymes, but that’s not actually why I put him in the booth—I put him in there to get that raw, unbiased energy.

“[I rhymed about Timbs and army certified suits because] that was our thing. We were just straight hood. It wasn’t no pretty boy shit. It was like, ‘Yo, let’s throw on our Timbs.’ It didn’t get more harder than that. We weren’t the kind of muthafuckas that was in the mirror for like a half an hour, nah. Nine times out of ten, we wearing the same pants for the week. We had our Timbs with our 40s on the block. It wasn’t a gimmick. That’s what we was wearing.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “The original version of ‘Survival of the Fittest’ had James Brown going ‘Gotta get over before we get under!’ during the chorus and that had to come out. What the publishers wanted for that little sample wasn’t worth it. That was my first time dealing with those issues and helping the group make those calls about what was worth keeping.”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records):“I remember leaving the office and going to the studio with Havoc. He was smoking a thousand cigarettes while chopping away at something and he had had the drums up for a minute. I remember he caught that one piano piece lovely. The whole crew was like, ‘Oooo.’ He came with the rhyme and format and everything like that.

“Then Tip gets a hold of it. Tip leaves the loop just like it is—the same way that Havoc caught it—but then just infiltrates it entirely on the drum situation. It intensifies the entire record. If you ever hear the original, it’s ill, it’s gloomy, it’s street, but it’s nowhere as huge as Tip made it when he just changed up the drums. He just implemented that over the loop that Hav had and then just added so much on top of it.”

"Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)" f/ Nas & Raekwon

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “We were in Staten Island one night with Ghost and Rae and we were just chilling. We had just met them. Schott Free wanted to bring us to his hood in Staten Island and he was like, ‘Yo, I want to introduce you to the Wu.’ The Wu was the new group that he had signed to Loud. He was like, ‘Y’all niggas should do music together.’ So he brought us out to Staten Island one night.

“We was just chilling with Rae and Ghost, smoking bud, drinking 40s, just wilding in they projects and shit. And when we were out there chilling with them niggas, Rae was like, ‘Yo, introduce us to Nas. We want to do some music with Nas.’

"So we were like, ‘Alright, we’ll line that up.’ Rae actually he drove us back to the projects that night and we were like, ‘Yo, tomorrow we’re going to get Nas’ number for you and we’re going to make some shit happen.’ So the next day we told Nas about the situation.

“We told Nas, ‘Yo, Raekwon from Wu-Tang wants to do some music with you. Come to the studio, we’ve got a song for both of ya to get on anyway.’ So he came and did that and that’s how them niggas met. The next day we lined that studio session up and we just made it happen.

“We actually made that beat and everything right there in the studio. We was in there for like four hours and knocked that whole song out. Back then it wasn’t no sequence, you just did what you felt like doing. You could make the song as long as you wanted to make it. It was just creating.

"‘Eye For A Eye’ was one of the last songs on that album that we did. The song happened and that’s when Rae did ‘Verbal Intercourse’ with Nas. That was probably like a week after ‘Eye For A Eye,’ they did that."

Havoc: “I made the beat, Prodigy came with the hook, and then everybody followed those guidelines. We went in there, wrote our lyrics, got busy, and it became one of those classic underground songs.

“In the studio, we were smoking mad weed, drinking mad liquor, and talking shit. We were definitely drinking Seagrams Gin, Hennessy, and E&J. [Laughs.] It was priceless. Everybody just had mad love for one another.

“I knew Nas since I was six or seven because we both went to the same daycare after-school in the projects. And growing in the neighborhood, everybody knew everybody. Then as a teenager I got a little closer to Nas before me and him even had a record deal. So we were always there, but just running separate courses.”

Corey “Raekwon” Woods: “They called me in and the beat was already playing. I think Nas was in the booth already doing [his verse]. We was just getting high, drinking a lot of Hennessy, just popping shit about how we were going to take over the game. And next thing you know, when they threw their verses down, I just came in and put the cherry on top. I did my shit right on the spot.

“We all had our personal relationships with one another, because we all was repping the same record company, Loud Records. Even though Nas wasn’t [on Loud], they was repping Queens hard at that time.

"We was like, ‘All them niggas is nice.’ Capone, Noreaga, Mobb, they had the Firm crew, all at the same time. So we just wanted to support them, because they was supporting us.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “‘Eye for an Eye’ was one of the last songs we did and I knew we were already over budget, and spent too much on samples.

"And here comes Hav with a straight Al Green hook [but I forget which song]. In the middle of the session, I was like, ‘Yo, the sample is straight Al, yo.’ And we weren’t even sure Al Green would clear it. So that’s when Hav fucked with it, started chopping it some more. He was literally playing the sample out, key for key on the pads.

“The way he flipped it there was nothing to clear and we were all happy. For a while, there were different versions going back and forth. Then when Nas’ verse comes in, it goes back [to the original beat]. It’s hot, but I think in hindsight it was the right thing as far as pushing the envelope for creativity. I think Nas did two different verses."

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Once we had everything straight with ‘Eye for an Eye,’ Ghostface came in and did something [on it]. We were talking about coming with an ‘Eye for an Eye (Remix)’ and we were gonna put Ghost on there.

"On the strength, I hit him up one day like, 'Yo, come through.' He was more than happy and he came with this rhyme and killed it over that beat. I wish to God I woulda just paused for a minute and put the shit to that. But nobody did. The rhyme Ghost used on [‘Real Live Shit’], he wrote that to the ‘Eye for an Eye’ beat.

“I remember Havoc basically had caught an Al Green loop [of ‘I Wish You Were Here’] which later on became Nas’ ‘Shootouts.’ I actually have a couple different versions of that shit on cassette. P had like two or three different rhymes he tried out for that shit and all of them were fire.

"He had an entirely different rhyme when it had the Al Green loop on it. I think Tip might have touched it a little bit, but for the most part Hav kinda did a wonderful job on that one in terms of just chopping up the loop [so we didn’t have to clear the sample].”

"[Just Step Prelude]" f/ Big Noyd

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “That shit right there, that was a rhyme that Noyd used to kick in the projects everyday to niggas. That was his favorite rhyme. He’d be outside selling his little drugs hustling and we’d be outside chilling like, ‘Noyd, kick that shit son.’ He’d spit that shit that had the whole block going crazy.

“So when we were in the studio making the album we decided to make a skit out of that. He dropped his shit and I just wrote a little something to go right behind it. Noyd wasn’t really serious about rapping.

"He just wanted to sell drugs because he was making money. He didn’t really take it serious, because he didn’t really know how serious it was. It was hard getting him to do it at first, but we finally convinced him and he seen the light after a while.”

Havoc: “That was another time when I wasn’t there. See, P just started taking advantage of when I wasn’t there and started doing shit totally unscripted. But there was a beauty to it. That’s where we got our balance from because if I would have been there, I would have been sticking to some kinda script. P, he goes away from the script.

"To this day that’s why I respect P because soon as I think that he’s doing something wrong, I step back and say, ‘Wait a minute. He might be right.’ He does a lot of shit that’s not scripted. There’s no rules to it, P knows that, and he uses that well.”

TaJuan “Big Noyd” Perry: “If you look at the back of The Infamous album, you’ll see all the fellas there, but I’m not there. I missed that photo shoot because I had court that morning. That whole ‘Three different cases in three different places’ was because I was literally going back and forth to court.

"I didn’t actually have three cases. I had one case that was a felony drug case and when I went to court and the judge saw my record, saw that I had gotten caught on a couple of bullshit misdemeanors and said, ‘I see you have two different charges even though two of those are misdemeanors, but you’re a good kid’ When they let me go, I came home and it was studio time and I just put it down on wax.”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Havoc would surrender to P in terms of whatever it was conceptually. It’s very rare that Havoc would spark a concept. He sparked the portrait, supplied the canvas, but it was more or less on P conceptually.

"P would tell Havoc in his ear where he was trying to go and he might have a little something that Hav would finish off. It would always be about waiting for P to whisper the first couple of bars of whatever he was gonna spit in Hav’s ear. Hav smiling and nodding his head, and then Prodigy walking in the booth and shocking the shit out of everybody.”

"Give Up the Goods (Just Step)" f/ Big Noyd

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Produced by: Q-Tip

Prodigy: “When we did that shit in Q-Tip’s crib we first came up with the concept for that song. He lived on Linden Boulevard in Jamaica. We were in his crib and he had made the beat right there and we were like, ‘Oh, this is fire right here.’ We took it to the studio later that night.

“Q-Tip was the one that got our foot into the industry. We met him and he brought us into the Def Jam building, which gave us a whole lot of connections for talent shows, parties, and things like that. People started knowing us and seeing our face. So when we finally got to The Infamous album, we were like, ‘We need to holler at Tip.’

“He helped bring us in and his production is crazy so we brought him in to consult for us. He executive produced the album, basically. He helped us out with drum patterns, he helped us tighten our sound up. Most of the songs on there—but not all of them—had his input. Like, ‘Yo, I think y’all should do this to this, add a little snare here, or a delay there.’ Little things like that. It just came natural.

“For that song, Q-Tip threw a record on, played it, and it was [Esther Phillips’ ‘That's All Right With Me’] which was the shit from LL Cool J’s ‘Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings.’ He had the original record. That shit amazed us back then, like, ‘Oh shit, this nigga got the original record!’ We was like, ‘Fuck that, we’ve got to take that beat and flip it, make it on some hardcore shit.’ Because L made the song talking about pink cookies in a plastic bag, it was kind of weird. We was like, ‘Fuck that. We’re going to make it some hardcore shit.’ So that’s how we flipped that shit.”

Havoc: “A Tribe Called Quest, their music was just crazy crispy and sounded so professional. We was so rugged and gritty with it, we just needed a snare that popped out the beat, and that’s where Q-Tip came in. And it wasn’t even verbal advice, it was like, ‘Just watch what I do as I go into the studio.’ He was like, ‘Check this idea out. What do you think about this?’ Basically, it was more of just a watch and observe and take that and run with it.”

Q-Tip: “I met Mobb Deep when they were doing their first album and we always stayed in contact. I remember I spoke to Havoc a few times and he was like, ‘Come through. Let’s work.’ I came through to the studio when they had the first ‘Shook Ones’ out. I can’t remember exactly though. You know, it was a long time ago.”

“I can’t remember which ones but I mixed a few songs on there that I didn’t produce. I don’t know if I was there at mastering, but I remember speaking to Matty and Havoc about the mastering and how they wanted it to sound. The engineers who engineered it, It was just another gig for them and they didn’t really give a shit.

“I was just trying to push the sound and make it sound as best as I could with what we were dealt. I remember wanting it to bang. Hav was really the general, I was just a soldier so I was trying to lend a hand. It was cool being in a dynamic where somebody else was taking the reigns. It’s a totally different sound than the Tribe stuff.”

Big Noyd: “I never really wanted to be an emcee signed to a label, but that one verse got me my first solo deal with Tommy Boy. We had a big show in Virgina and there was an A&R from Tommy Boy in the crowd. Mobb Deep was the first ones to wear bandannas and we made bandannas that said Mobb Deep on it. I wore mine to the show and when I was on stage, the crowd went crazy so I threw my bandanna into the crowd. When I saw them girls jumping for it, there wasn’t no turning back.

“And after the show my man is like, ‘Yo, somebody is trying to meet up with you.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t got time for this. I just seen them girls jump on my bandanna, I’m trying to go find some ass.’ He’s like, ‘This is important.’ I’m like, ‘Set it up for Monday morning once we get back to New York.’ Eventually, he introduced me to A&Rs from Tommy Boy. They signed me and I got a record deal for $300,000 just for [my verse on] ‘Give Up The Goods.’

“Sometimes, I didn’t even have a choice of what the beat was. If I walk in the studio and that’s the beat that was up. If I had to rhyme to it, I rhymed to it. I might write a rhyme to it that P would be like, ‘No disrespect, this shit is good but you could do better.’ And I would have went in and wrote something else. It would be like, ‘It’s your turn to rhyme. What you got for this beat?’ And sometimes while Hav and P are taking a break, but the engineers are still ready to work, I’d jump on the mic and rhyme to the beat and sometimes they would keep it.

“You would have a conversation with P and never know that in his brain, he’s jotting it down. Whatever conversation you had with him, it would come out in a verse. He would just say it and flip it and you wouldn’t even think he was paying attention to you when you were having the conversation.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “There was an original version of ‘Give Up the Goods’ that was done early on. The original version was not a Q-Tip beat. Q-Tip wanted to get involved and he was open to being involved behind the scenes with me, overseeing the mixes and the whole thing. He really just fell in love with that initial tape.

“Initially, he wanted to help beef up some drums and ended up changing two tracks completely, ‘Give Up the Goods’ and ‘Temperature’s Rising.’ The thing about ‘Give Up the Goods’ and ‘Temperature’s Rising’ is those were originally Mobb Deep songs that Q-Tip redid from scratch so much, that it wasn’t worth calling it a remix.”

Schott Free (A&R for Loud Records): “Noyd and Havoc came with different rhymes than they had on the original ‘Give Up The Goods.’ P used the same verse.”

"Temperature's Rising" f/ Crystal Johnson

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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.”

Havoc: “Q-Tip brought in a female vocalist that he was cool with at the time named Crystal Johnson. I had named the song ‘Temperatures Rising’ already and Q-Tip came and changed the beat. I had a song with the hook, ‘Temperatures Rising’ and we kinda scrapped that and let Q-Tip do it over.

“We laid our feelings on the page and took it from there. As I wrote, it just flew out of my pen. I was kinda just telling [Killer Black], ‘Hold your head up. We’re thinking about you. Everything is gonna be alright.’

“At the end, he did get arrested, but we won trial. We beat the rap basically. He liked it when he heard it. He was like, ‘Oh shit.’ But at the time, there wasn’t really too much to like because when you’re faced with a situation like that nothing really excites you. You’re just trying to get over the hump. But later on it was just like, ‘You made a song about me.’ It wasn’t like nothing to be like, ‘Thanks.’ [Laughs.] It was what it was.”

Q-Tip: “[The original version had an Al Green sample that they couldn’t clear that Havoc did]. I remember Havoc saying like, ‘Yeah, I wanna flip this. I like this but I wanted it to have more of that shit.’ Like I said, [he wanted] that Queens shit. That Queens shit is like Patrice Rushen’s ‘Forget Me Nots’ [Ed. Note—This song actually samples Patrice Rushen's 'Where There Is Love'].

"That Queens shit is you in the party, it’s four in the morning and niggas is highed up. You see this girl and you try to talk to her, but niggas is about to come to your back and apply pressure. They got them joints out and that shit is playing. ‘Forget Me Not’ [was] the perfect [sample for that]. It was just some real smooth criminal shit.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “We loved that one. The original [beat] had a Quincy Jones sample [that Havoc did]. But we either couldn’t clear it or it was too expensive. To be honest, I forgot the exact reason why we didn’t go with [the original]. But Tip liked it, wanted to redo it, so he did.

“Tip also introduced us all to Crystal Johnson. She had some success at Uptown Records with the Who’s the Man soundtrack. Then she was also coaching Mary J. Blige and Faith Evans on singing when she was up there. Tip has a working relationship with her on a couple of other things and she came in there and we were all just like, ‘Wow!’ She was super-professional. She knew her way around the boards too, not just on the mic.

“Here we are stepping beyond the realm of the red brick brigade, hip-hop shit. It’s so good. The Notorious B.I.G. was over there getting it on a more R&B level. It was kind of comedy because I was always trying to stay in that hardcore hip-hop zone and even telling Puff when I brought B.I.G. there, ‘Don’t put him in no shiny suit and all that. Keep it camouflage.’

"In reality, seeing them take it to that next level, it was funny because ‘Temperature’s Rising’ became that record for Mobb Deep. Me and Biggie used to kick it everyday and he used to always push, ‘Yo, y’all should make that the single,’ but they didn’t want to be that group that had to go that route. Biggie was an artist that was being made to take that route.”

"Up North Trip"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “That song is basically a song dedicated to our people going in and out of jail back then. A lot of niggas would get locked up, come back home, get locked up, and come home.

"Niggas were selling drugs and if you’re out there on the block selling drugs, you’re constantly getting caught. You can’t get away with that shit for long, especially if you’re a small-time hustler for clothes and sneaker money.

“That was probably one of the ones that we started writing in the projects at Hav’s crib. He had a couple things. Our first sampler we had was an EPS 16 plus. It was a big-ass keyboard.

"We had that for a little while, and when the MPC came out we bought that, and that was it. A little record player, a little mixer, and that’s all we needed. We had the big ass cheap speaker with the carpet on it, like block party speakers.”

Havoc: “You don’t have no job, you’re trying to eat. And it could be somebody that you got beef with, so you might have to shoot a mothafucka because you not gonna let nobody play you. So it’s just all sorts of challenges growing up in the hood. That’s just one of those songs that brought that fact out.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Q-Tip enhanced the drums on that lovely. If you listen to ‘Up North Trip’ you’ll hear the snare kind of bouncing a little bit. Cracking a little more [than normal]. Tip gave it a real nice crack compared to what it originally was. He just beefed the drums up on that one.

“Tip also worked with me closely on recommending certain engineers that were great for mixes. Hav and P would always do their own drops and Hav would always—and I would always encourage him—be the producer and do the final check on his own shit.

“The way that Tip contributed to the project was so cool because he wasn’t in there trying to say, ‘Yo, I’m the mixer for this, I’m taking credit for this.’ He was doing great in his career and he had mad love for us.

"He was just in it to help out and make sure it comes out right. Obviously, he got a nice deal. But it was really just trying to see Hav come up and really steer this ship with this group of emcees that he’s got.”

"Trife Life"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “Hav wanted to do something telling a story about how going to see a chick that’s from another hood is dangerous. A lot of people don’t understand that. For example, if you’re not from Queensbridge and you meet a chick and she calls you like, ‘Come to my crib,’ and she lives in the Queensbridge projects, that’s dangerous because you never know the niggas in the hood who she’s fucking with, and all types of shit.

“It was originally called ‘Don’t Ever Go See A Bitch.’ [We recorded it] pretty much fast. The only time that it wasn’t fast was if we were in there bullshitting, smoking weed, and joking.”

Havoc: “I made that beat at the crib. We went to the studio, let the beat do the talking, and interpreted that amongst the feelings we were feeling. [What I rhymed about in the song] didn’t really happen to me, but that was kinda a familiar scenario. Sometimes there may be a girl in the neighborhood who would be fucking with a dude from another town, they would come through, and we would be outside looking like, ‘Who the fuck is this nigga? Fuck that. We gonna stick this nigga. We gonna rob him.’”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “I loved the original version of that. I think Nashiem [Myrick] did the original. That record went through some phases because there was an issue with the sample. Hav ended up redoing it. I just dug up a couple of roughs. That original version never came out, never really got fully done in the studio and they just came with a different record.

“In fact, if I’m not mistaken, they recorded that up in one of them little Bad Boy rooms. The manager they were dealing with was dating Nashiem at that time and they just banged out a little demo and I was like, ‘That’s hot!’ Maybe she stopped messing with him and there was no real business on the deal with the song.”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “That was a record that was done towards the end. Havoc sounded like he was coming into his own [as a producer]. But Q-Tip came in there and mixed it better. I remember us going in and trying to make it a little bit bigger on the drums side and it not really quite coming out the way we wanted it to. Hav scraped it, made it something else, and then Tip embellished it a little bit.”

"Q.U. — Hectic"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “That was one of those days we brought the whole crew with us to the studio, and was like, ‘Alright, today you’re going to rhyme, you’re going to rhyme, and you’re going to rhyme.’ We were trying to make niggas rhyme, but niggas wasn’t rappers. The original ‘Q.U.—Hectic’ has a few people on it: Both the Twins, Big Noyd, Gotti, Godfather, Ty Nitty, and a bunch of people were rhyming on that.

“It was pretty long but we tried to make it as short as possible. Then it got changed around to where it was just me and Hav further into the album. [On the album version] the beat was a little different. We made it a little tighter and we ended up changing it just a little bit.

“When we used to go to the club back in the days when we made that song, it was about 50 or 60 of us. We were actually going to the club to beat people up, to get into fights. That was fun. So go drink, party, wild-out with the girls, and get into a fight. That’s what that whole song was about, just representing Queens every time you go out to the club.

“My grandfather left me his whole jazz record collection so we had hundreds and hundreds of records. And we used to go shopping for records. We was digging in the old record stores, getting our hands dirty, dusty, and shit. I used to buy most of the records for Mobb Deep, so my whole technique was I’d just go in the record store and I’d just look at the year.

“Anything from the ‘70s, because I’m young. I don’t know who these groups are and what their music sounds like. The only thing I know is James Brown and Marvin Gaye. So you’ve got all these shits to choose from, so I just came up with a different theory because I seen that most of the records that was hot samples was from the ‘70s. So I would go in the record store like, ‘Give me everything from the ‘70s.’”

Havoc: “[As far as records that were sampled] they just came from different places. My father was a DJ back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, so he had a lot of records. My grandmother had a lot of records in her house too. And Prodigy had a lot of records because his grandfather was a jazz musician, so he had all sorts of jazz records. P’s grandfather was named Bud Johnson and he was cool with Quincy Jones, so there was a lot of Quincy Jones albums amongst P’s grandfather’s collection. So that’s where you get the Quincy Jones sample [of ‘Kitty With The Bent Frame’] on that song.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “There were two songs. There was a ‘Q.U.’ originally that didn’t come out and ‘Hectic.’ I think ‘Hectic’ became ‘Q.U.—Hectic.’ I’ve got an old tape and it’s a James Brown [sample] of, ‘We about to get hectic.’ But I’m not sure. I think the rhymes [on ‘Q.U.—Hectic’] were the rhymes from [the original] ‘Hectic.’”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “That's all Hav right there. I'm not even sure if Tip came to touch that. By the end of the record, Hav had it. His production expertise was like he was a top tier producer.”

"Right Back At You" f/ Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, & Big Noyd

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Co-produced by: Schott Free

Prodigy: “We made that all at Platinum Island. We were in the studio, it was me, Matty C, Schott Free, and a bunch of our niggas. Hav started making the beat right there. Me, Hav, and Noyd laid our verses. As soon as we made it Matty and them were like, ‘We should throw Ghost and them on there,’ and we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea.’ They called them niggas, and Ghost and Rae came and laid their vocals on the same day.

“We told Noyd to rhyme last because Noyd’s rhyme was crazy. Noyd was the closer. Noyd’s just hyperactive when he raps and he spits that real hustling shit. So we threw him at the end of the song because we knew he had the most powerful verse.

“I don’t really remember how long it took, but it wasn’t really that long. We knock shit out quick. Rae and Ghost went in there and they did [their verses] little piece by piece, back and fourth. I don’t think they went into the booth together. They went in separately, one at a time.”

Havoc: “That sample was actually given to me by Schott Free. He was like, ‘Yo, I got this Les McCann sample, you need to flip it.’ I’m like, ‘Aight cool.’ I don’t even know how Raekwon and Ghostface ended up on it. But shit, if we could I woulda got the whole Wu on the fucking album because we were just big fans of them.

“Schott Free [gave me the sample] but that wasn’t a normal thing. That was the first time that had happened, but that’s just how cool we were. It didn’t feel like they were A&Rs. We took on a friendship. We would all get high, go drinking, go to each other’s houses. It was all very personal even though they had a job to do. It worked both ways, like I’m giving this to you as a friend and I’m giving this to you cause I think it would be dope. It was unprecedented. My last dealings with A&Rs was someone sitting behind a desk, not knowing nothing about hip-hop. With [Schott] it was a real laid-back business relationship that ultimately turned into a sound friendship. I was just with Schott last week.”

Raekwon: “That’s another scenario where the brothers called us in and they wanted to do a joint. At that time we were just about trying to pull New York up. They called me and Ghost, and we came down to the studio, and they were like, ‘Yo, this is the one we want to do,’ and we were loving the beat. At that time Havoc was coming crazy with the beats. Me and Ghost said ‘Fuck it.’ Other than just going in there and just doing two 16’s, we decided to mix it together.

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Schott Free is an MC and that’s a loop he’s had in his basement forever. Originally it was two other kids—Hype from Staten Island from a group called the Red Eye—just doing a rough version before [Raekwon and Ghostface Killah] got on it. Red Eye was the name of the group. They were in ‘Unsigned Hype’ and they were from Manis Harbor and Havoc and Hype got to be cool. Hype spit on it and then Rae and Ghost spit on it afterwards.

“It was amazing because off of the making of The Infamous, they started making [Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...] and they kept mentioning they got the charge off of The Infamous. And Mobb Deep wanted to fuck with Loud Records because Wu was on there. So it was reciprocal, that love was going back and forth. The groups were affecting each other and that made it all that much better.”

Big Noyd: “He wasn’t close to us but one of my friends that lived on our block, we don’t really know what happened to him. We don’t know if he got his marijuana spiked or some liquor he was drinking got spiked, but he kinda bugged out. He went from normal to where you couldn’t even recognize him. He would say crazy things. He would still remember who everybody was, but he wasn’t the same.

“One time he came up to me and started telling people that I owed him money, that he had given me a fucking brick. If you heard the story from him, you would think we were big-time drug dealers. The whole story was bizarre and that’s when people started realizing there’s something wrong with him. But it’s an incident that really happened. When it was studio time, I had to get to the lab, and that was one of the things that was on my mind. Like, ‘You must be crazy/Pulled out the heat and almost blazed me.’”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “I remember I said, ‘Yo let me throw one of these little Staten Island cats on.’ So he hit me with this kid named HDM, Hype Da Madman, and Hype had spit on it. Hav loved Hype and he wanted to leave it, but P was just like, 'I want him to say something else. Just tell him to come to the studio and lay down this other shit.' Hype—being the type of dude he was—was like, 'Fuck that. Fuck you. That version is hot man. I’m not changing shit.' So he didn't change the verse so Hav was like, 'He's gonna have to come up off of there. We'll do something else.’ So I said, 'If it's not gonna be him, let me keep it Staten Island. Let me get Rae or Ghost up on it.’ They was cool with that and he just called Rae and Ghost. You can imagine my boy HDM wish he woulda changed his verse right? This story coulda been different, but he didn't.”

"[The Grave Prelude]" f/ Big Noyd

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “That was a little skit we did about somebody getting shot on the block. It was a rainy night, and you just hear somebody getting shot on the block, and it was actually Noyd that was in the skit. Noyd had got shot, but it didn’t go down like that. We had just created that situation to match the song. So we were like, ‘Let’s create a skit where somebody gets shot and make it real dramatic just to build up the hype of the song.’ It was just me, Hav, Noyd, and our engineer. All we needed was the little rain and thunder.”

Havoc: “We had already made ‘Cradle to the Grave’ and we were like, ‘We don’t wanna make some regular album where it’s just song after song.’ So we had Noyd breathing hard like he got shot, and P acting like he calling for my sister out the window. It was a good start-up to the song that was about to come. We were just showing how easily one of your friends could get shot.”

Big Noyd: “That’s the thing about P, you don’t even really know what he’s thinking about. P came up with the skit. When he calls out ‘Mika!’—that’s Hav’s sister. He just used her name when he’s calling her out of Havoc’s window because that’s where we used to be. P coming up with the skit had a lot to do with the drama that I was dealing with at the time. I wasn’t the wildest guy in the crew at the time, but I had the case. You wouldn’t question like, ‘Why I gotta get shot?’ You wouldn’t really question anything that Havoc and P do. I still wouldn’t.”

"Cradle to the Grave"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “We made that one at Hav’s crib. That song is about certain things that was going on in the projects at that time. Real situations that was going on with us and we put it into song form. I know people hear it, and they don’t really know what we’re talking about. It’s an interesting story probably, but to us it’s a little more personal. Things were really happening, what we were saying. All that was real.

“There was this one time where our little cousin Ferg was outside on the block. He had on a little vest and he had a Mac-10 on him. He was probably about 15 or 16. We were outside chilling, and the police ran up on him, so he had to run from these niggas in the building. The police ran up in the building behind him, and he ran up the stairs, and he actually kicked one of the cops in the chest.

“He kicked them niggas down the stairs to get them up off him. He ran up, banged on the door, we let him in, boom, so they didn’t know exactly which apartment he went into. They probably was hurt and they just left because I don’t remember them banging on the door. They didn’t catch him. That happened a couple of times, where niggas had to run up in the crib real quick, because the Ds was chasing niggas.”

Havoc: “It was inevitable that we made something about living and then dying. That was just one of the top issues that’s always floating over our head. We felt like we wanted to express ourselves in that tone. The beat brought that emotion, it sounds real dark and ominous and fucked up. There’s nothing pretty about the beat so it was just fitting.

“We all collectively were fucking depressed [Laughs.]. But was trying to have fun and having fun was getting the fuck out of the projects for a little while. At the studio we were kinda at ease. We were in the creative process. Eat, drink, and be merry. But of course, even though we was in a good mood we still were making these dark, depressing songs.”

"Drink Away the Pain (Situations)" f/ Q-Tip

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Produced by: Q-Tip

Co-produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “We created that beat in Q-Tip’s crib. He had made these two beats in the crib, [one was ‘Give Up The Goods’ and] that was one of them. We were going through records. He was like, ‘Yo, I got this Patrice Rushen record right here. Check this part out.’ Q-Tip probably enhanced it. It was probably just like, a skeleton at first, and then he probably fixed it up, and threw all of the little sounds on it.

“We took it to Platinum Island, me and Hav did our vocals on it, and then Q-Tip did his a couple weeks later. When I heard it I was like, ‘What the fuck is he rapping about? It doesn’t match the song. He’s talking about clothes, we’re talking about liquor.’ It kind of threw me off at first, but then people was like, ‘Nah, that shit sounds good son,’ so I started liking it after a while.

“‘He was talking about ‘Polo is my dude, Tommy Hil is my nigga,’ and all that type of shit. So he flipped it. It was ill because we were doing the same thing about the liquor. We were talking about Hennessy and St. Ide’s like it was a female, like we was in love with it, and all our friends was like, ‘Yo, this is no good for you. Stop fucking with her. It’s going to hurt you in the end.’

“I came up with that rhyme in the park, drinking fucking OE one night with my man Gary in this little park in Hempstead, Long Island. We were just sitting there getting drunk and I just started freestyling that rhyme, ‘I used to be in love with this bitch named E&J/Don’t fuck with her no more, now I fuck with Tanqueray.’ That shit just turned into a real song.”

Havoc: “That record right there had a weird loop, a weird sample. It was a three-bar loop and Q-Tip was good for just doing things outta the ordinary. We was getting white boy wasted in the studio. [Laughs.] I can’t measure [how much we was drinking], but trust me it was too much for any young human being. We were just in there with gallons of liquor, mad weed. But amazingly we got the job done. That’s how hungry we were.

“Liquor was kinda like our aid. We converted it into energy and it should have the opposite effect, but when you have somebody that is determined to make it they’re gonna turn any negative into a positive. But here's the thing. Liquor was mostly my thing at the time. Even though I smoked mad weed, I would definitely drink more than I would smoke. Prodigy was more of a weed smoker and I was always more the drinker.”

Q-Tip: “They were obviously doing the liquor shit and it was they shit really. But they were just like, ‘Yo, jump on this shit.’ And, I mean, I was drinking but I wasn’t really drinking like that back then. That wasn’t my poison of choice. So, I was just like, ‘Yo, being that I’m the sore thumb on this record, let me just stick out all the way and go left of what they were saying.’ I flipped it and that’s one of my favorite rhymes actually.

“I loved doing that record. That’s that smooth criminal shit. It’s hard but it’s got that energy on it. Like when you listen to some thugged-out albums—for the majority of it—it’s real sausage music. You ain’t gonna really have a lot of chicks listening to that shit. So you can either do one of two things: You can make a song directly speaking to ladies or you can make it dark.

“There’s a difference between dark and hard. Hard shit is really hard for women to like because it’s such a sausage [fest]. You speaking to dudes, really. But if you do it dark, that’s a different emotion, a different sensibility. With dark, you could add sensuality or sexiness or all that shit. So, that’s what those songs kind of had to them for Mobb Deep. That’s what enabled that album to reach dudes but women as well.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Q-Tip messed with a lot of other ideas and he was headstrong about a certain vision he had. I think it wasn’t too hard for them to be cool with it after all Tip had done, despite any creative concerns about [his verse]. That was the time when Tip could’ve been doing so much more, but he was highly selective and he was mad cool about the budget situation. It was just such a huge look and I think P realized it.

“One thing that I remember that was interesting in the studio about Q-Tip at the time was he was on his righteous, Muslim, Kamaal; he was doing push-ups in the studio. He just wasn’t down with the plastic cups and the bottles of Henny. The booze just wasn’t his thing. P was starting to get into the more righteous outlook, looking for Rae and Ghost more. As he went into the second album, he was getting more into that headspace too. I’m glad he learned that.”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “A lot of times, if we had to be in the studio early I would make Havoc come home to Staten Island with me. I had [my own] house, but sometimes my moms would come through. One day, my moms is passing through and Hav is sleepwalking because everyday when he woke up and he had to have a 22oz of St. Ides. He wouldn't go to sleep unless his deuce deuce was in there for the morning. He called it his breakfast.

“So Hav is sleepwalking, grabbing his deuce deuce out the fridge, and my moms coming in. Hav is like, 'How you doing ma'am. Nice to meet you.' [Laughs.] My moms is pulling me to the side like, 'Who's that little boy you got drinking beer in the house in the morning?' And I'm like, 'That's my artist.' Right there was my mom's introduction to the Mobb Deep phenomenon.”

"Shook Ones Pt. II"

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Prodigy: “I remember that clearly. We wrote that in the crib high on drugs. [Laughs.] Probably weed, probably was some dust in there, mad 40s, getting twisted. That was one of the first ones where we were like, ‘Whoa. This shit is ill. This shit sounds crazy right here. This is some other shit right here son. This ain’t normal.’ So we knew we was making some shit with that song. We were in the crib and we were spitting it to each other like, ‘Yo, this shit is some other shit right here son.’

“It was just a remix of the first [‘Shook Ones’]. The first song we had made was cool. Then we made this new beat and I think the chorus was similar. We probably didn’t even intend for it to be a remix, but the chorus was probably similar. It was probably like Matty C and them niggas that was like, ‘Y’all should call this ‘Shook Ones Pt. II.’ So that’s why we did that shit.

“We had a lot of songs. When we first signed to Loud we had a 20-song demo. So all of those songs we wanted to put on the album. But we started making new ones, and through process of elimination, we wanted all the new ones. We didn’t like the old ones no more. [Laughs.]

“We made that beat at my crib in Long Island. Hav found the sample. Hav was down there fucking with the records, he was like, ‘Listen to this.’ I was like, ‘That shit sounds ill right there.’ He did that and then we were fucking with the bass and the drums together. I seen that whole shit where they found the Herbie Hancock shit. That’s crazy. I didn’t know it was a mystery or that it was that serious to people. They were really trying to figure out where that came from.”

Havoc: “A huge chunk [of the album was recorded after ‘Shook Ones Pt. II’]. As soon as we got the deal, ‘Shook Ones’ was one of the first songs we made. We were being tested like, ‘We signed on the dotted line and made a little bit of money. Now go in there and make some songs.’ So we made ‘Shook Ones’ and the response was lukewarm so we’re like, ‘Here go this bullshit again.’ But we knew we couldn’t let it go to waste because it was just a dope concept and we said, ‘Let’s make a part two.’ So we did part two and boom, it was buzzing. And that gave us a boost of confidence.

“I made that beat inside my mother’s house in Queensbridge. That house gave me a lot of inspiration because something could happen outside and I could go upstairs and make a beat. Like, I would have this feeling like, ‘Let me go upstairs and make a beat of how I'm feeling right now.’ So I just popped the sample up and I almost even erased it because I didn’t even really like it too much. [Laughs.] At that time I was always in the house alone by myself making beats and sometimes if i didn’t have somebody to co-sign it I’d be like, ‘Fuck it, whatever.’ But then my friends were like, ‘Nah, this shit is fucking crazy.’ So I kept it. Thank God because we probably wouldn’t be here right now if I had erased that.

“I used to go to record conventions to go buy records and breakbeats. The drums that actually came from this record was called Vinyl Dogs. Vinyl Dogs were actually from the ‘90s and they used to have all these drum breaks. They were these two white dudes that loved hip-hop who would go breakbeat searching and put just a whole bunch of drum breaks on a record for the hip-hop producers to use. I got that and used that for the ‘Shook Ones’ drums.

“[The LA Times only recently figured out the sample] because I used such a small part of a record. And I chopped it up and shifted the tempo a lot, so I put them on the keyboard. I made it faster, then made it slower. People were like, ‘What the fuck is that? What record does that come from?’ because so many producers, they blatantly use a sample. I can’t say there’s no creativity to it, but it’s nothing to figure out.

“Given that ‘Shooks Ones Pt. II” is a classic record, it just brought the curiosity out like,’What fucking sample is that?’ [Laughs.] And I’m not telling anybody what sample it was because I forgot what samples I used. [Laughs.] But that is definitely the sample because I remembered when they brought it out. [Laughs.] But that’s a secret between you and me. It’s good and it’s bad because I was reveling in the mystery of the sample, but if people wanted to know so bad then that just shows how much love people have for the track.

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “That’s the most magical shit that happened. It was about that record convention that me and Hav went to because these dudes who were old collectors had made compilations with really rare 45s and one of the tracks on there had the original drums to that song and we took those drums home. It was at the Roosevelt Hotel. There were several things like that that you would see big producers all getting there at six in the morning for, two hours before the shit opened.

“Me and [Rob “Reef” Tewlow] were up at nine and these motherfuckers were leaving, backpacks full already. Pete Rock’s over here spending $8,000, Large Professor’s over here buying records at $600 a pop, the PM Dawn Dude dude is catching all these little breaks and then turning around and making records out of them. It was the first time Hav caught that vibe. I knew about it from the Beatnuts and my man Reef and a lot of other record collectors. But Havoc wasn’t really up on the producer record conventions.

“The patterns on those are very similar to ‘One Love,’ if you listen to the kick-drum-snare pattern. I don’t even know how it happened. We just got charged and made the beat and turned it into ‘Shook Ones Part II.’ We had just dropped ‘Shook Ones Part I’ as the single and we made that and were like, ‘This is so hot! We gotta do it right now!’ I know Hav felt the same way too because we knew we had one of the hottest drum breaks to just come out of the convention.”

Schott Free (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “Fuck the radio. The radio is all dick riders and I say that about Hot 97 too. They tried to front, but I’m not gonna say no names. That wasn’t the radio hearing lines like, ‘You heard of us, official Queensbridge murderers’ and thinking, ‘Oh yeah, that’s good. Add that to the rotation.’ That was the street saying ‘We fucking with this.’ This is what the 15 year old that lives this shit everyday is playing. If he’s listening to it, then radio ain’t really got no choice. That was ‘Shook Ones.’”

"Party Over" f/ Big Noyd

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Produced by: Mobb Deep

Co-produced by: Matt Life

Prodigy: “Going to the club, hanging out with your boys, we would get into a fight, and the party’s over. Like, ‘Tell the rest of the crew, we’re about to fuck these niggas up. Pass the word because as soon as this fight’s done we’re out of here son. We don’t want nobody getting left back.’ That’s what that song’s about.

“[Me and Havoc produced that together.] I think Hav probably found the melody, loop, and then we started just fucking with the bassline and all that. I usually would do a lot of the basslines, and maybe the little sounds here and there on shit. I think we did that one in the studio. Noyd was probably in the studio spitting some shit, and we were like, ‘Yeah, put that on there. It sounds good.’”

Havoc: “That was one of the last songs we made when we needed something to finish off the album. Being young and never really going out anywhere, we were representing our hood to the fullest thinking that we had the toughest hood ever. We were gonna display that everywhere we went. We weren’t trying to be cool and calm and have fun. We had to go somewhere and let our presence be felt.

“I definitely remember some wild fights. I remember one of our very first shows we did in Manhattan, it was us and the Lost Boyz. We didn’t have nothing against the Lost Boyz at all. But when you get a bunch of young men in a small club and egos are flaring, something was bound to happen. I don’t even know how it started, but it ultimately ended up in a brawl with like 60 people. People were getting cut, stabbed, and hit with stuff on the street. It’s not even something that I brag about. It was fucked up but that was something we all had to go through.

“That led to a beef with us and Lost Boyz, which was squashed later on. Because look, we all from Queens so what are we doing? The Lost Boyz was doing their thing and I really liked their music a lot and we were doing our thing. We ended up being cool. Mr. Cheeks and I are cool to this day. That was our walk through life and you learn from it.

“Looking back at it and listening to it, I can step outside of myself and say, ‘Yeah, that’s a classic album.’ I listened to the album like eight months ago. I can’t lie. [Laughs.] Every once in a while I listen to it for a little bit of inspiration. I try to put myself back in that place. I’ll listen to it and try to actually remember myself making it and how I felt and what made that song so good. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Q-Tip: “It was just a great album and it’s definitely a true hip-hop classic. It’s easily a top ten album of all-time in hip-hop. It captures a moment in time. I’m not saying that because of my involvement, but I am blessed to have been a part of it. I had people pay attention to it who didn’t pay attention before to Tribe. It was just a great thing because I had did Nas’ Illmatic. And to be able to do it again and be a part of that same experience with Mobb Deep and then to have that sort of experience with my own group, it was amazing. It just put me in a different place in people’s heads.”

Big Noyd: “That was when the album was getting wrapped up. If you listen to the echos in the background, some of those guys aren’t even with us today. But they’re naming girls who they had sex with.”

Matty C a.k.a. Matt Life (Executive Producer and A&R for Loud Records): “I basically [produced that record]. I was the stickler on drums and percussion sounds. I was going to these conventions, wanting to produce myself, but it never popped off like that. I was hoping to try and make it happen right there. All I did was add a sound and put another drum behind it. It was kind of a busy mess when I go back and listen to it now. That’s another record that they already had early in a rough stage, It just had stiff programming on it and I tried to make something out of it.”

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