Hip-Hop, Rap Interviews : Prodigy
By RIOTSOUND.COM contributing writer Todd Davis
It’s been nearly two decades since the Mobb Deep saga initially began. Comprised of two young rappers, Albert Johnson, born in Hempstead, New York, and his future partner-in-rhyme Kejuan Muchita, the duo first met as teenagers while both attending the prestigious Art and Design High School in Manhattan. Originally calling themselves Poetical Prophets the group would eventually change their name to Mobb Deep and release their moderate selling debut album Juvenile Hell in 1993. Although not a commercial success Juvenile Hell featured stellar production from Large Professor and gave Albert, who spit rhymes under the moniker Prodigy, and his group-mate Havoc, a proper platform to launch their careers in Hip-Hop.
P, who was always considered the lyrical force behind the M-O-B-B, and Hav, the musical backbone, have since gone on to release six additional Mobb Deep LPs, including such classics as The Infamous, Hell On Earth and Murda Muzik. Earlier this year Prodigy rebounded from what many fans viewed as Mobb Deep’s sub par G Unit opus, Blood Money, with the release of Return Of The Mac, a collaborative album with frequent Mobb Deep contributor Alchemist.
While suffering a lifelong bout with sickle cell anemia, P has obviously become used to pain and adept at battling adversity, but he is now facing what may prove to be the biggest challenge of his life; incarceration. On October 9th, 2007, the 33 year old father of two plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and received a three and a half year prison sentence. With only a few weeks of freedom left, RiotSound.com recently reached out to Prodigy while he was holed up in a recording studio putting the finishing touches on his soon to be released new album H.N.I.C. 2. We ask everyone to pray for P during this difficult time and remember, the Hip-Hop police is real and they’re not playing by the rules.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What’s good, man? How you doing today?
PRODIGY: Alright - hold on for a second, okay?
RIOTSOUND.COM: Back in 2000 you dropped your gold selling solo debut H.N.I.C. As an artist, how have you evolved from that record until now?
PRODIGY: I mean, it’s different first of all because, you know, it’s gonna be eight years later so you’re gonna get to see the growth. Just saying basically you get to grow with us and see how we’ve progressed. So that’s what’s different about it. It’s all new music. And, I mean, basically the new album is real tight. It’s a tight package. Like when it comes to H.N.I.C., my solo albums, I don’t play no games. I make sure it’s tight, every song back to back, you ain’t got to skip past nothing. And that’s how I try to keep it.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Conceptually, where did the H.N.I.C. title come from?
PRODIGY: Basically, H.N.I.C., I got the name from my grandmother. She called herself the H.N.I.C. ‘cause she owned her own business. She was like one of the first black women that owned her own building in Jamaica, Queens. So they gave her that name, H.ead N.igga I.n C.harge. That’s where I got it from. I’m calling [the new album] H.N.I.C. 2, letting people know that it’s in that same tradition. That’s what it is for my solo album, it’s the H.N.I.C.!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Production wise, who did you work with this time around and how much input do you usually have when it comes to a Prodigy track?
PRODIGY: I mean, I got Alchemist, I got Havoc, I got Sid Roams. Basically, as far as the tracks, when you’re working with producers like Alchemist, Hav and producers I work with, basically they come to the table with the fire already. So I don’t really gotta tell them what to do. They bring they fire to the table and I bring my fire to the table.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Since you are known for your lyricism, where would you say you draw your inspiration from?
PRODIGY: Just real life man. My life, period. My life is so crazy, [I’ve] been through so much stuff, like I could never run out of topics. I can never run out of shit to talk about.
RIOTSOUND.COM: For H.N.I.C. 2 you aligned yourself with a new imprint, Voxonic Inc. What’s the new venture all about?
PRODIGY: Yeah, Voxonic is a brand new company. I’ll be the first rapper that they put out. They got this technology where they could take a song, they could take one of my songs, like say “Shook Ones” for example, and they could translate that into any language in the world. It’s actually me and Havoc’s voice that’s saying it in a different language and it’s kinda crazy. They got this ground-breaking technology where it’s gonna allow people in Russia and Germany [and other countries] - now they’re gonna be able to understand what we saying. Where before we would do shows in Russia and Germany and we would perform and the crowd would be into it, and after the show when we try to speak to some of the fans, like you would see a fan repeating the whole song while we performing they’re reciting all the lyrics but then after the show backstage we try to talk to them and they can’t even have a conversation with us, but they know how to repeat the lyrics.
So with Voxonic the fans are gonna be able to understand what we’re saying now, and now they’re gonna be really into the music ‘cause they’re gonna be like - damn, P’s saying some shit that I went through yesterday. So it’s basically like, that’s what Voxonic is. They got the translation technology and they’re trying to promote the translation technology through music. They started a company and they hired me to do A&R and basically tell ‘em what acts to sign and who not to sign and just basically help out as far as the music. And, you know, I’m one of the first acts that they signed to the label. Ky-Mani Marley was actually the first one signed, he’s a reggae artist, and [after that] they did my deal.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Are there still plans to do an independent H.N.I.C. film in conjunction with the album?
PRODIGY: Um, naw, not really at this point, but we always look forward to Prodigy movies and Mobb Deep movies. We always working on films and stuff.
RIOTSOUND.COM: In the aftermath of your recent legal woes you will be going away to prison for a considerable length of time. How are you planning your time away from, not only the business, but sadly your family and friends as well? And, is there any light that you can shed on the case itself?
PRODIGY: I mean, basically, as long as I got my album out there, I feel like everything’s gonna be good. As long as my family is straight, my album is out there, everything’s gonna be good. So with the case, the case is definitely some bullshit ‘cause the cops is lying on the stand. It’s definitely - the cops is grimy out here in New York, the Hip-Hop cops. Even at L.A. and Cali, everywhere across the map cops are grimy, but over here they like really harassing us and watching what we’re doing, profiling and all that kinda shit. So that’s what the case is about really. They were profiling me. They followed me from a club, they illegally searched my car, they were lying on the witness stand during the trial, so it is what it is. I had to cop out because they were trying to give me up to fifteen years. So basically I just had to cop out.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you feel that this whole court case has been blown completely out of proportion because you are a Hip-Hop artist?
PRODIGY: Yeah, that was the whole thing, being that they were harassing me ‘cause I’m a rapper. Mobb Deep and G Unit, like this is what they do, they harass us. The cops even told me that before, he was like, “Yo, get used to seeing us ‘cause we’ve been assigned to you”. So, yeah, it’s kinda crazy. It’s real. It sounds like it’s hard to believe but it’s some real serious shit that’s going on. They’re really harassing Mobb Deep in particular.
RIOTSOUND.COM: That seems like a definite violation of your civil rights. Is there anything that can be done to stop this type of police harassment?
PRODIGY: Yeah, it’s different ways you can stop it, but like I said, when they get together and conspire and lie on witness stands and illegally search your car and racially profile you, pull you over like they got they stuff together. It’s a whole plan. So they gonna make sure they case sticks. And a lot of times they gonna get away with this bullshit.
RIOTSOUND.COM: On a less somber note; over the course of your career, what is it that you feel has allowed you to remain relevant over such a long period of time?
PRODIGY: I mean, basically the key to success is just having that fire in your heart and just like, this is what you were meant to do man. For me, this is what I was meant to do. I’ve been doing it since I was fourteen. It’s all I do everyday. I do music. And when I hear other people’s songs on the radio, if I hear something I like it’ll make me mad. It’ll make me want to go to the studio and make a new song. That’s how passionate I am about rap music. So it’s definitely - this is what I’m here to do. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. That’s what keeps my success, I just keep going, I don’t stop.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Is there anything else that you are looking to branch out and do, maybe even completely away from the entertainment world?
PRODIGY: Just running the Voxonic company, ‘cause I’m a partner in that company. Just running that company and signing good artists and making a successful company among the other things that I’m doing. That’s what I really want to do, turn Voxonic into a successful company and give people like Koch competition because a lot of these rappers they running to Koch ‘cause they don’t have no other way to go. Now we giving ‘em a choice, like we’re giving ‘em another way besides Koch, and that’s what the world needs. Especially the rap world needs that, because everybody’s running to Koch for a deal and sometimes that’s not the best thing to do. But it’s the only thing to do, so it’s their own choice.
RIOTSOUND.COM: So, with your new alliance to Voxonic, Inc, how does that affect the future of Infamous Records and its current artist roster?
PRODIGY: Anywhere Mobb Deep go, Prodigy go, that’s where Infamous Records go [too].
RIOTSOUND.COM: So Mobb Deep, as a collective, you are no longer under contract with G Unit?
PRODIGY: Naw, Mobb Deep’s still on G Unit. We’re still doing our thing over there.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Are you satisfied with today’s Hip-Hop music?
PRODIGY: Oh yeah, definitely! Hip-Hop is poppin’, that’s why I’m still here doing it. Everybody that’s not happy with it, they’re not happy with their position in life. Definitely!
RIOTSOUND.COM: Projecting ahead, what is in store for you in the future?
PRODIGY: Uh, shit, I don’t even know man. Keep hustling, still hustling, making moves, being innovative and bringing new shit to the game.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When is H.N.I.C. 2 set to drop?
PRODIGY: It’s like the first week of March.
RIOTSOUND.COM: First single and video “A.B.C.’s” is out now, correct?
PRODIGY: Yeah, that’s the first joint we put out ”A.B.C.’s”, and then we just gonna see. It’s just gonna keep coming after that ‘cause the album about to drop so you’re about to see all the songs drop back to back.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Is there another Mobb Deep album in the works as well?
PRODIGY: I don’t know; that’s down the line. We’re gonna cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, it’s just all about H.N.I.C. 2.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Before you have to go away and start serving your bid, will you have anytime to go out on the road and promote the new record?
PRODIGY: Naw, I’m about to go to jail in like another thirty days.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Any parting words?
PRODIGY: I want to tell the people to log on to www.HNIC2.com and I’ll be corresponding with all the fans and writing ‘em back. They can find out what’s going on. They can buy our t-shirts. We’re selling hoodies, ringtones, we got everything. I got my own little MySpace world going on right now. So, especially the fans, check that out. www.HNIC2.com, you can find out all the information.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Thank for taking your time out today. Good luck with the new album and most importantly keep your head up and stay strong; we’ll see you when you get home. God bless!
PRODIGY: Definitely. Yo, thanks a lot man!
For more news and info on Prodigy stay tuned to www.HNIC2.com