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Review Apr 20 2023 Written by

Mobb Deep – The Infamous (1995) | Review

Mobb Deep - The Infamous (1995) | Review

In the mid-1990s, East Coast Hip Hop was undergoing a significant transformation, led by the likes of Notorious B.I.G., Nas, and Wu-Tang Clan. While these artists were dominating the scene, Mobb Deep, a Queens-based duo, was making waves of their own with their gritty, street-level tales of life in the projects. After dropping their debut album Juvenile Hell in 1993 to modest success, Mobb Deep came back in 1995 with what would become a classic Hip Hop album, The Infamous. The album’s production, largely handled by Havoc (with additional work on the boards done by ATCQ’s Q-Tip), is characterized by haunting piano loops and sparse, hard-hitting drums, creating a dark and ominous atmosphere that reflects the harsh realities of life in the Queensbridge projects.

The Infamous is driven by two monumental singles, “Survival of the Fittest” and “Shook Ones, Pt. II“. These street anthems have stood the test of time and remain some of the most celebrated tracks in the genre. “Shook Ones, Pt. II” is an iconic classic in particular, its hauntingly addictive piano sample and spine-tingling air horn sound make it one of the best Hip Hop beats ever produced. Moreover, the song’s lyrics are among the most vividly graphic in Hip Hop history, despite the absence of any curse words.

The lyrics on the rest of The Infamous are equally impactful, with Havoc and Prodigy painting vivid pictures of the violence, poverty, and struggle they experienced growing up. The album’s themes of survival and street life are deeply personal, with the artists drawing from their own experiences to create an authentic and raw portrayal of life in the projects. Prodigy’s verse on “Survival of the Fittest” and his heart-wrenching ode to his comrade on the run from the law on “Temperature’s Rising” are just two examples of the raw and powerful storytelling that makes The Infamous stand out even in a sea of classic 1990s Hip Hop albums.

The icing on the cake is some impressive guest features that add to the album’s overall appeal. “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)” showcases the talents of prime Nas and prime Raekwon, resulting in a brilliantly horrifying track. The debut of Big Noyd on “Give Up the Goods (Just Step)” is a standout moment on the album, while “Right Back at You” features another Raekwon appearance with a dizzying back-and-forth alongside Ghostface Killah. Finally, Q-Tip delivers a post-Midnight Marauders lyrical gem on “Drink Away the Pain (Situations)”.

Mobb Deep - The Infamous (1995) | Review

The Infamous is not for the faint of heart, as it presents a dark, depressing, and gritty atmosphere that highlights the harsh realities of the streets. The album is a representation of pain, struggle, violence, and despair, which can be difficult to swallow for some listeners. However, it is precisely this deeply-rooted despair that has propelled many albums, regardless of genre, to the heights of acclaim and recognition.

Production on The Infamous is a masterclass in the use of minimalism and atmosphere to create a mood that is both dark and introspective. The use of haunting piano loops and sparse drums creates a hypnotic and ominous soundscape that perfectly complements the album’s themes. The Infamous has had a lasting impact on Hip Hop as a whole, with many artists citing it as a major influence on their own music. The album’s gritty and uncompromising style paved the way for a new generation of East Coast rappers who embraced a more street-level realism in their music.

While it achieved platinum sales in the United States, The Infamous is sometimes overlooked in favor of some of the other influential Hip Hop classics that were released in the mid-1990s. However, The Infamous is on par with other classics of the era like Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (1993), Biggie’s Ready to Die (1994), GZA’s Liquid Swords (1995), Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1995), and even Nas’ Illmatic (1994).

In short: The Infamous is a quintessential album of 1990s Hip Hop that has stood the test of time. Mobb Deep’s unflinching and raw portrayal of life in the Queensbridge projects remains as powerful and relevant as ever. The album’s dark and ominous atmosphere is created through the masterful use of haunting piano loops and sparse drums, making it a masterclass in minimalistic production. With its deeply personal lyrics, impactful storytelling, and impressive guest features, The Infamous is a standout album that deserves the same recognition as other classic Hip Hop albums of the era. It’s an album that has left a lasting impact on the genre and continues to inspire new generations of artists.

Mobb Deep - The Infamous (1995) | Review

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One response to “Mobb Deep – The Infamous (1995) | Review”

  1. Pigford says:

    I was born in DC in 1971 & fell in love with hip hop in 82-83 & it’s cool as s*** to see stuff my generation created (musically we did pretty good 😉) get the recognition & praise it gets from the younger folks….makes me feel like we did something right

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