If there's one group that personifies hard-core East Coast Hip-Hop at it's finest, it's the Infamous Mobb Deep. Ever since they released their classic LP "The Infamous" in 95', Mobb Deep has remained one of the most invariable artists in the game. Their niche for producing that classic thugged out, Q.B. material is undeniable. From "The Infamous", to "Hell on Earth", to "Murder Music" the formula has remained the same; dark, raw and gritty production from Havoc combined with that razor sharp lyricism by Prodigy. Lately however, this formula has taken a big hit. Ever since the lackluster "H.N.I.C.", the Mobb has slowly been on the decline. The brunt of the criticism lying mainly on Prodigy, who unfortunately has seemed to lost his once dominant hunger for the game. Most critics sited Prodigy's lackadaisical flow and rushed, inconsistent lyrics as the problem. However, Mobb Deep has always been one of the most consistent groups in Hip-Hop history and both Havoc and P would turn up the heat with their fifth album "Infamy". However, this is not the case with the end result.
Unfortunately, "Infamy" is the Mobb Deep's weakest album since their debut failure "Juvenile Hell". The problems are blatant and extensive throughout "Infamy", and unfortunately overshadow most of the finer parts on the album. The two aspects that have always been the stronghold of any Mobb Deep album are Prodigy's lyricism and Havoc's production. However, both have languished on "Infamy".
A major part of the problem lies within Prodigy's performance throughout the album. No longer are we entitled to see the Prodigy who once single handily ripped 2pac on "Drop A Gem On Em", or spit such a ferocious verse on "Apostle's Warning" that it made you shiver in response. In 2001, all shads of Prodigy's old self are all but gone. Gone is the truculent flow he once possessed. Prodigy instead showcases a more slowed down flow, almost to the point of lethargy. At times you wonder if Prodigy is still awake or even worse, if you are. Besides his flow, lyrically Prodigy has fallen to the depths of disbelief. P's lyricism has gotten so pathetically simple its to the point you can predict what he's about to say. There's no structure, organization, or thought put into any of his verses. They are all rushed, and sound more like a freestyle than anything. The constant thugged verbatim he spits runs very line after a couple listens.
But the blame doesn't lie completely on Prodigy's shoulders. The main problem with "Infamy" is its inconsistency and Havoc and P's attempt to change up their formula to strike a broader crowd. What you expect from Mobb Deep is that typical thugged out Hip-Hop full of dark, sinister production and vicious tales depicting the harsh reality of the streets. However, on "Infamy", Mobb Deep goes in a different direction for a good part of the album, and tried to follow the "industry blueprint" for making an album. "Bounce" is a horrific attempt at a club banger and is the total opposite of what you would expect from Hav and P. "Live Foul" is a West Coast influenced Scott Strorch produced track that doesn't fit the Mobb Deep style. While the production isn't horrible, it's not the type Havoc and Prodigy should be rhyming over. However, "Hurt Niggas" is a typical Mobb track, but its awful production from Havoc brings it down. And while some tracks such as "Kill That Nigga" and "My Gats Spitting" may be the typical product you would expect, they are both mediocre tracks that offer nothing new and innovative. "Crawlin" is the Jay-z inspired track, which features Prodigy going at everybody's favorite target. Even though it seems that the Mobb isn't paying much attention to the Jay-z situation on "Infamy", Prodigy goes all out on "Crawlin". The only problem is, P really doesn't say much.
But if there's one track that is truly horrible it's the unbearable "Handcuffs". Saying this track is the worst Mobb Deep has ever put out is an understatement. Havoc attempts to switch his flow up by doing his best "Bone Thugs" impersonation, but it ends up as just plain embarrassing. The track is a typical forced effort that seems to show up on almost every album theses days. Its almost an industry rule that every album has to have a West Coast influenced joint, a fast rhyming track, one or two club bangers, and of course a track for the women, and "Infamy" is no different.
While the mistakes are blatantly evident, "Infamy" is still a solid album due in part to the Mobb sticking with the formula that has made them the stars they are. The finest moments coming when Hav and P go no holds bar spitting that fire we are accustomed to, as seen on tracks like "The Learning (Burn)", "Nothing Like Home" featuring Littles, and "I Won't Fall". And even though Mobb Deep gathers an assortment of R&B figures for the album, such as LiL Mo on "Pray For Me", 112 on "Hey Luv", and Ron Isley on "There I Go Again". They still remain true to the Mobb Deep formula and are spectacular to say the least.
"Get Away" features some amazing production from Ez-Elpee, which gives Hav and P the backdrop they need to succeed. "Clap" is a vicious Mobb banger, thanks to one of Havoc's best performances behind the boards. The track even goes well with Prodigy's lazy, narcoleptic flow. Even if he doesn't rhyme accordingly to the production. But the albums true gems lie within the Alchemist produced "Get At Me" and the heartfelt tales on "So Long". Both are prime examples that the Mobb is still capable of making those classic, monumental tracks that will forever be etched in time.
"Infamy" is a strange album in its own right. At one moment we witness the classic Hav and P combination we always knew and the next we witness the total opposite. Neither Havoc nor Prodigy remains consistent throughout the album's entirety. Havoc's production takes a couple new turns on "Infamy". Havoc's sample free production has gotten more simplistic over the years and on "Infamy" it finally catches up to him making the production repetitive and boring for the most part. Its very evident that Hav's production no longer encompasses that gritty edge as it once had. As with Havoc, Prodigy follows the same path. A couple years ago, even mentioning Havoc as a better Emcee would have been blasphemy. However, that is exactly was we witness on "Infamy". Who would have thought it would have come down to this, when Prodigy is outshined by Havoc? The lyrics are evidence for themselves. In the past it would be "My empire strikes with the strength of poisonous snakes". However, today it's "Wrap that nigga up like a package". It's definitely a sad sight to see!
Overall, "Infamy" is a good album that casual listeners will enjoy due to its variety. However, diehard Mobb Deep fans will definitely be disappointed with this latest release, and will be left wishing for more. Mobb Deep is one of those select groups that shouldn't stray far from their formula, and "Infamy" is an example of what happens when they do.