This April, the infamous Mobb Deep are dropping their first proper album together since 2006’s controversial G-Unit release Blood Money, conveniently titled The Infamous Mobb Deep. Of course, all ‘stuck in the ’90s’ tragics and CRC members are more interested in the second disc on the album – The Infamous 1994 Sessions – which will finally provide CD-quality mixes of abandoned tracks and demo versions from the QB duo’s beloved second album. Meanwhile, fellow former Queensbridge resident Nas is releasing Illmatic XX with a second disc of remixes, freestyles and the only song that didn’t make the final cut, ‘I’m A Villain’. Are these (nevertheless welcome) acts of fan service an admission that their best days are behind them, or simply fond tributes to simpler times in their careers?
For Nas, the legacy of his near flawless debut has weighed on him heavily ever since its release twenty years ago, with 2012’s Life Is Good being the closest he’s come to shaking it off. With news of this re-release and the premier of the Time Is Illmatic documentary, Nasir appears to have accepted the inevitable and has chosen to celebrate the thrill of being hailed as the “second coming of Rakim,” while busying himself throwing money at worthy causes (Mass Appeal magazine) and not so worthy (Rap Dummy) – even deciding to offer “more kicks than a baby in a mother’s stomach” at his 12.00 am Run sneaker store.
Mobb Deep’s story is markedly different, in that their 1994 represented a commercial and creative rebirth following the poorly promoted Juvenile Hell album from the year before, as ‘Shook Ones, Pt. II’ transformed them from hardcore teenage rappers to certified New York heavyweights worthy of features from Wu-Tang and reigning prince of the city Nas. With a seemingly limitless reserve of gun clap raps and moody beats at their disposal, the Mobb recorded a huge catalogue of demos and studio tracks that would float around the rap ether (an arena that was once dominated by mixtapes, but is now a little place called YouTube) for the proceeding two decades, including their own take on the much covered MC Shan staple, ‘The Bridge’. After further refining their technique on Hell On Earth and finally shipping platinum out the gate with Murda Muzik, Hav and P have amassed a legacy of unreleased work that’s better than most people’s official releases.
How bodes the future for these rap legends though? Will Nas maintain the momentum from Life Is Good and turn in another mature, quality release this year, instead of his disturbingly predictable bait-and-switch of dropping a hardcore single which doesn’t sound anything like the accompanying album? Will Mobb Deep put outside their quarrels and recapture that old chemistry, or will the new LP just sound like a compilation of Prodigy and Havoc verses that happen to be on the same song? Interestingly, Nas is featured on the Alchemist-produced ‘Get It Forever’ from the new Mobb LP, which will no doubt provide one of the highlights.
Regardless, I for one am willing to embrace any such pandering to nostalgia which gives me the chance to catch a flashback to these QB veterans in their prime. And it actually makes me realise that we’re lucky to even hear this stuff since so much great unreleased music wound up in the garbage cans of many-long forgotten recording studios. Tales of T La Rock songs produced by The 45 King and the Artifacts songs that T-Ray left at Power Play Studios still make me cry myself to sleep at night with thoughts of what could have been. Even if this all just a cynical marketing ploy in an attempt to sell CDs to cynical old Mobb Deep fans, this is one shady industry trick that I’m willing to embrace in order to provide the perfect soundtrack to drink myself unconscious while sporting army pants, Avirex and 40 Below Timb boots.
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