By C.J. Okeke
To the inquisitive mind currently reading this article, how did your love of hip-hop start? Did you start with old-school rap, like the eighties and nineties era? Maybe it started in the early 2000s era, or in the latter half? However, and whenever it started, we all have the period that sparked the reason for our love of the rhyme.
For me, it was old-school rap. One of the groups that hold a special place in my heart is Mobb Deep. This month marks the death date of one of the members of Mobb Deep. June 20, 2022, marked 5 years since Prodigy, one-half of the Infamous rap duo, passed away. He is still remembered by those who loved his music to this day.
Albert Johnson, known professionally as Prodigy, was born November 2, 1974, in Hempstead, New York, and raised in Queens. It’s no wonder that he would inevitably make music his profession as various family members of his were also musically inclined. His grandfather, Bud Johnson, was a saxophonist, and his grand-uncle, Keg Johnson, was a trombonist. Both are noted for their contributions to the jazz and bebop era.
Following in their footsteps, he attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. While at school, he quickly became friends with his future rap cohort, Kejuan Muchita, better known as Havoc, the other half of Mobb Deep. The two teenagers connected over their love of the arts and hip-hop. He and Havoc would practice writing raps and even became known as ‘poetical prophets’ around the school.
They eventually decided to form a group and came up with the name, Mobb Deep, in the early 90s. The newly formed duo dropped their first album in 1993, Juvenile Hell. The album didn’t sell particularly well, however, the two MCs showed promise. Two years later, Mobb Deep came back with their, in my opinion, best and most recognizable album to date, The Infamous, in 1995. This album is a top ten all-time for me, and I urge every lover of hip-hop to check it out. In 1996, just one year later, Mobb Deep came out with another classic, Hell on Earth. By the mid to late 90s, Prodigy and Havoc had become solidified as two of the East Coast’s elite rappers and they continued to make successful albums going into the 2000s.
Mobb Deep stood as one of the premier rap groups during the 90s. Both Prodigy and Havoc used vivid, hardcore, and a rather dark street imagery to speak to the masses that lived the very life they rapped about. This is what made Mobb Deep special and widely respected in the music business.
Growing up and throughout his adult life, Prodigy suffered from Sickle cell anemia. The disease caused him to experience extreme bouts of pain, so much so that he would bring his issues to light when he rapped about the subject in his song “You Can Never Feel My Pain.”
On the morning of June 20, 2017, while on tour with Havoc, Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One, and Ice-T, he became hospitalized due to medical complications linked to his sickle cell anemia. Later that day, he was found unresponsive and was eventually pronounced dead by hospital staff. This news would quickly spread amongst the rap community and devastate everyone who considered themselves a fan of Prodigy, Mobb Deep, and rap in general.
Some of you reading this may have never heard of Mobb Deep nor listened to a single song of theirs. If you love old-school hip-hop, I urge you to give them a listen, you won’t regret it. However, for those that have heard of them and have listened to their music, we can all agree that the passing of Prodigy was a major loss to the hip-hop community.
Many iconic rappers have since spoken about special memories involving Prodigy while he was still alive, and with the anniversary of his death date recently passing, I saw many artists paying tribute to him all over social media. Prodigy made amazing music and had an impressive music career. He was and will forever be remembered as a legendary rapper and hip-hop pioneer. It is irrefutable that Prodigy is and will remain forever infamous.
Written by: ktsw admin