I’m a Mobb Deep fan, but would be pretty surprised to discover that I regularly listened to music made by anyone essentially dafter than members Havoc and Prodigy, whose twenty-year alliance is currently in the throes of messy dissolution. The end began a few months back, when usually silent partner Havoc – often rumored to enjoy a drink a little too much – hit Twitter at a suspiciously early hour one Monday morning to accuse Prodigy of being both gay and (wait for it) a pussy! The next day the group attempted to backtrack with a transparent cover story concerning lost phones and hacked accounts, but in recent weeks Havoc has admitted responsibility for the rant and resumed his attack in two [rubbish] new songs. Havoc, by the way, is 38 years old.
Now I couldn’t help noticing that in every outburst Havoc always mentioned Prodigy’s memoir, last year’s My Infamous Life. I’d been meaning to take a look at this for some time: as well as having once been a truly great emcee, its author is incapable of getting a glass of water without embarrassing himself (it promised to be funny). Havoc’s indignation tipped the scales. I chewed through it the other day – finding many likely sources of the intragroup bitterness, and plenty of general ridiculousness besides…
Take Prodigy’s portrait of Havoc’s late brother, “Killer Black,” whose 1996 suicide resulted in his practical canonization in subsequent Mobb recordings. In the book, Prodigy relates how Killer staggered home drunk sometime in the early nineties, carrying a revolver and a pair of Walkman speakers – he had, he said, just killed someone for them! In later years, Black would reveal to Prodigy that he had been “having conversations with the Egyptian King Tut,” a bombshell that is apparently received at face value.
“I listened real close because even though he did some wild shit, Killer wasn’t crazy at all, he was very intelligent. The only time he shot someone for no reason was when he shot that guy for his Walkman speakers, and he was extra drunk that night.”
When Killer does get around to blowing his own brains out – tormented, perchance, by guilt – Prodigy is flummoxed. “This was totally out of character,” he insists. “Killer wasn’t mentally crazy or suicidal.” Which is debatable, but then My Infamous Life raises plenty of questions about Prodigy’s own mental health. There is the incident, for example, when some strange lights outside their bedroom window wake him and his wife up.
“I knew what it was. A UFO was hovering over our crib, shining light beams into our bedroom. Holy shit. After three or four minutes, the night sky turned black again (…) I got the shotgun from the closet, woke the kids up, and brought them to our room.”
A memorable moment in any childhood: Your drug-addled, rap-star dad, shotgun in fist, shepherding you out of bed because the house is under attack by UFOs.
My Infamous Life enters especially amusing territory around 2005, when, just as Mobb Deep were getting stuck into what looked exactly like a terminal commercial and creative decline, long-term fan 50 Cent – then busily frittering away his freshly minted millions on a number of harebrained schemes – snapped them up to his G-Unit Records, handing over in excess of a million dollar advance and a pair of top-notch Porsches in exchange for what would amount to a single ropey album, Blood Money.
Prodigy quickly developed the world’s biggest man crush on his new boss – and the rest of his book reads like one protracted love letter to 50 Cent. Or better yet a longwinded attempt to flatter him into not dropping Mobb Deep from G-Unit Records, which he did anyway last year, citing Prodigy’s needless three-year conviction on a gun charge around 2008… Mind you, Prodigy had already been verifiably “dick-riding” 50 Cent for some time prior to the writing of My Infamous Life. During a 50 Cent tour Mobb Deep tagged along with as support, Prodigy even had the on-tour tattooist (don’t ask me) tattoo “G-Unit” across his hand, a gesture of debatable maturity for the then-31-year-old, but one that was to result in his memoir’s sentimental apogee.
“Later that night after the show, I was wandering around the hotel looking for everybody but they were all ‘busy’ in their rooms. I took a walk to the studio truck but only the engineer was there. So I walked over to a tour bus with a light shining through the windows and climbed inside and what I saw shocked the hell out of me.”
50 Cent fellating an alien? Unfortunately not – he was, instead, getting a tat’ too: the Mobb Deep logo, on his wrist. I know. Prodigy, lost for words, returns to the hotel.
“As I lay in bed trying to drift off, I thought about how glad I was that I got the G-Unit tattoo first without telling anyone. The next day, Havoc got a G-Unit tattoo when I told him that 50 got Mobb Deep.”
Dry your eyes and note that last sentence. The book’s full of spiteful Havoc-asides, and their bitterness and regularity intensify during its interminable coverage of Mobb Deep’s 50 Cent tours, where the man Prodigy would like to be wedded to – 50 Cent – provides a brutal contrast with the man he is – Havoc – depicted as “swimming in liquor like a tequila worm.”
“We gave him the nickname Mr Minibar because he would drink all the liquor in his room, then come back to my room and scheme on my minibar liquor. At first I’d think, Wow, Hav came to kick it with me. Five minutes later he would discreetly make his way to my minibar, then leave the room. He did that to everyone on the tour, including 50.”
Including 50!? Prodigy’s almost pathological contrasting of the two climaxes during the book’s closing pages, where he describes Havoc and 50’s respective (and respectively solitary) prison visits. 50 arrives, and is supposedly looking forward to Prodigy’s release “so they can start work on the next Mobb Deep album” (“it was a great visit”); Havoc, on the other hand, cuts a sheepish figure, apologizing for not having answered any of Prodigy’s letters (!) and wondering aloud if 50 was going to drop them.
You don’t need x-rap specs to see right through Prodigy’s projection-screen prose and make out the resentful, reluctant Havoc on the other side, exhausted by his partner’s borderline personality, and furious with him for getting himself pointlessly locked up and thereby sabotaging their G-Unit pensions. But, given that Havoc himself is something of a Charisma Bypass, he had obviously decided to suck it up and get on with business…
Then came the My Infamous Life.
Here, though, is the group in happier times, baby-faced and performing two of their precocious hip hop classics, “Shook Ones” and “Hell on Earth.” It’s pretty damn good, despite the ropey sound. M-O-B-B!