Citizens of New York City and direct victims of poverty, institutional racism and gang violence Kejuan Muchita and Albert Johnson turned to music to address the growing problems in their society. Forming the rap duo Mobb Deep, Muchita (Havoc) and Johnson (Prodigy) reached critical acclaim with their albums The Infamous (1995)and Hell on Earth (1996). Hip-hop heads often credit Mobb Deep as one of the artists who revitalized the dying East Coast rap scene in the early ’90s. By delivering dark lyrics, unmatchable flow and gritty beats, Mobb Deep brought societal issues to light without filter; they spit the dirty and depressing truth of inner-city life.
To celebrate the release of their new album, The Infamous Mobb Deep, and 20 years of Mobb Deep, Havoc and Prodigy performed at Oakland’s the New Parish on Thursday, bridging old and new material together, past and present, dark and light.
With 20 years of hip-hop experience and influence under their belts, Mobb Deep resuscitated ’90s hip-hop that night. Sporting a red buttonup Hawaiian shirt and a white fitted cap, Prodigy ran on stage rapping 1995’s “Survival of the Fittest:” “Ain’t no such things as halfway crooks.” Havoc, in a contrasting blue sweater and black cap, came on straight after to deliver the hook: “We livin’ this ‘til the day we die / Survival of the fit, only the strong survive.”
After playing a few crowd favorites such as “Got It Twisted,” Mobb Deep then transitioned to newer material from The Infamous Mobb Deep. “We’re going to play some new shit for you,” announced Prodigy. “I hope y’all fuck with it.” Blasting the bass-heavy and party-certified “Say Something,” Havoc reached his prime in the verse, “Tears down the face of those that most adore you / Fuck the king of New York, H been royal.” Prodigy followed up with the indisputable gangster anthem of 2014, “Taking You Off Here.” Although the crowd was somewhat skeptical of the new material, Mobb Deep delivered the performance of a lifetime.
The duo closed their set with their most popular song to date: “Shook Ones, Pt. II.” When the infamous drum pattern began looping and the ominous strings and horns echoed the stage, the crowd erupted in awe. Simply put, Mobb Deep shut the New Parish down. Mobb Deep maintains the same flair, filth and fly-ness — something most rappers fail to keep even after a year, let alone 20.
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