Mobb Deep makes urgent, desperate music. Rarely do they relish the spoils of a life of crime, focusing more on the need to make money at any cost and the danger of getting caught doing it. Their world is a paranoid one, full of snitches copping pleas, police on the prowl and competition lurking in every alley.
They may paint a bleak picture, but Havoc and Prodigy are exceptional storytellers, layering each track with real characters, believable stories and even traces of self-doubt. One of their finest moments is “Up North Trip,” an often sad depiction of how jail time affects the inmate and the family they left behind. It’s these details that separate Mobb Deep from the bevy of faceless mid-90s “gangsta” rappers.
Their sound even strays from the status quo. Havoc handles the production brilliantly, maintaining a sonic continuity birthed from classic New York jazz and merged with menacing piano loops and a feverish sense of dread. It’s to his credit that he crafted a focused piece with so many collaborators (i.e. Q-Tip’s guest production, Nas, Ghostface and Raekwon verses), but with a crushing drum track in the forefront on nearly every song, most contributors are forced to coalesce with the beat.
The end result is an authentic slice of Queens crime “fiction.” The Infamous is free of cheesy party tracks, pop hooks or moralistic backpedaling. It’s completely honest about its intentions and depicts street crime at its most dehumanizing.