What’s the deal folks! I’m back with another twentieth-anniversary salute to an album that rocks every bit as hard now as it did on the nineteenth of November of ’96. This album had a damn near impossible task of equaling or exceeding the potency of their prior album – but did they pull it off? Did they ever!
Queensbridge’s most infamous returned nearly two years after their sophomore album The Infamous became a classic that still impacts the game today, thanks to the violently anthemic “Shook Ones Pt. 2”. Mobb Deep shook the game down to its core with their very brooding sophomore album that helped shift the momentum back from the west coast, whom were killing the game via Deathrow Records, namely Dre and Snoop at that time. While “Shook Ones” was causing more stick ups and jackings all over NYC, their next single “Survival Of The Fittest” was just as aggressive and bleak. It was official, Hav and P were here to stay, especially after The Infamous went nearly platinum. Could they do it again?
We started seeing full page ads with a bright red, fiery background and a dragon insignia with the words “Once again” right in the middle. Heads at that time immediately knew it was Mobb season again. The first cut that was presented to underground radio was “Still Shining”, a violent drum track with haunting chords. Being the biggest Mobb fan south of the Mason-Dixon line, my mouth was watering for this new Mobb album.
Then came the beef. What beef you ask? The beef between them, primarily Prodigy, and the late 2Pac. We are familiar with perhaps the vicious dis record of all-time “Hit ‘Em Up”. In it, 2Pac mentions P’s ongoing struggle with Sickle Cell Anemia, which a lot of us never even knew he had before the dis. This, and various other interviews, caused the brutal response “Drop On Gem On ‘Em”. Originally placed to be the second commercial single, Shakur passed so Loud Records decided against it and went to “G.O.D. Pt. 3”, a Scarface-sampled chiller that could’ve easily fit on The Infamous. Keep in mind, this followed their macabre first official single, which was the title track. This very dark and visually bloody track depicts chaos and wylin out for the night shank imagery. The rest of the album followed suit and was well worth the wait.
Considerably darker and maybe even more violent than the predecessor, Hell On Earth was aiming at even more faces and leaving more bodies in their wake. An aural horror movie like something a serial killer would conjure up, only in a Hip Hop sense, this album continued to not only highlight the impeccable production of Havoc, but the intense, vivid lyricism from ol’ Bandana P. On The Infamous, tracks like the chilling “Cradle To The Grave” and “Temperature’s Rising” showcased P’s knack to paint pictures of bloodshed, war, and paranoia. On this one, cuts like “Extortion” featuring an on point Method Man, “Get Dealt With”, and “Animal Instinct” P takes his pen to ever further depths of despair and even less about humanity or peace. Instead replacing it with mayhem and lots of shell casings. That’s not knocking Hav either and his ability to tell stories such as on “More Trife Life”, which is a sequel to his first “Trife Life” on The Infamous, only this one, we’re left with whether or not he even lives at the end.
Hell On Earth is a macabre masterpiece that can very well rival with The Infamous in every single way imaginable. Although their next album would put them into the Platinum light with Murda Muzik (which in itself is an insane album), this was a very bleak and disturbing album, but one that showed just how talented the Mobb was during this time. There was no other duo outta NYC that were touching them at this point, and Hell On Earth solidified their stance. We wouldn’t hear another album this dark and deranged until C-N-N’s The War Report, which was like The Infamous and Hell On Earth combined into one violent landmark album.
One can’t help but seriously place Hell On Earth on the same level as Infamous, and there are even those that place it above it. No matter your stance or where you feel this should be placed, Hell On Earth is a bonafide classic and will continue to show why the Mobb became one of the best duos in all of Hip Hop.