'The Infamous' Turns 20 Today. This Is A MUST Read.

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It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since 'The Infamous' came out. I remember being a lil 4th grader seeing Prodigy push that Acura across the Queensboro Bridge with the red custom Hennessey jersey on. Before I knew he had a "Mack-11 in the engine", I was automatically attracted to the visual because they looked as young as the older guys from my brothers generation, it was just so relatable. (The first Jordan Retro's also make an appearance in the dice game.) Where before, rappers just seemed so much older. These guys barley even had facial hair. That's part of the beauty of the album, and what cements its importance in the culture of Hip hop.

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"Check it out now.."

This comparison might make some mad, but please hear me out. If you pay attention to the "Drill Music" scene, this is what The Infamous was to 90s New York hip hop. The streets of New York were a complete mess. I'm talking 5-7 murders a night. EVERY night. In most cases the housing projects was just an incubator of violence, drug sales and drug use. Here you have 2 teenagers, and their crew telling their truth to the world. Mind you during this time, the West Coast still had a stronghold on rap both sales wise and influence wise. True, '36 Chambers' was almost 2 years old at the time. 'Illmatic' was a year old, and 'Ready To Die' was a little over 7 months old.

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The Infamous will be remembered with all of those albums, and sonically maybe even better. The whole feel is much darker than those previously mentioned. These are literally the kids that were making the streets unsafe to play in. This is the narrative to that lifestyle, and while their actual street credentials may be questionable now, they served as 2 of the best narrator's of mid 90s crack era hip hop. Where Illmatic was the culmination of Hip hop culture from the 70s to the 90s, 'The Infamous' is street culture of the daily crack wars, killing fields of the east coast. That's what made the album such a hit in the streets.

I've heard from reliable individuals deeply involved in street activity, how important this album was to them. Dudes would literally listen to this album and go on all night robbing sprees. This is no exaggeration at all, that's why I make the connection to "Drill Music", if not soundwise, it's the feeling. The way a kid today might listen to Chief Keef or Lil Durk and become Rambo on the street corner, this is the precursor to that. This was 'Gangsta Rap' without 'gang affiliation', just pure unadulterated quality street music.

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The fact that everything is handled in house is equally amazing. Where as NaS and Biggie had the assistance of some of the biggest producers creating their classics, Havoc is behind the board for about 95% of the tracks. The only exception being the conceptually clever, "Drink Away The Pain" which Q Tip did some post production on. The song itself had already been recorded even before Loud Records became involved. The 3rd single "Give Up The Goods" which is a mixture of Tribe at its best and signature Infamous sinister sound. It's so grimey, yet so smooth, in ways it's an answer to the West Coast's G Funk.

Q-Tip also has co production credits on "Temperature's Rising", which in reality may be the closest thing to a true single on the album, if for no other reason the R&B chorus. While it sounds like it was recorded by a singer with little to no vocal training, it fits into the raw sounds of the project. It would've almost seemed forced if they had just got an already popular singer to handle the duty. It goes against the energy that the first 5 or so tracks creates. The song itself is nothing radio about it, it's describing the climate of Queensbridge following the arrest of Havoc's brother, Killa Black for a murder, that Prodigy described in his Autobiography (My Infamous Life) as a robbery gone bad. What was he robbing the person for you ask? A Sony Walkmen. Remember this is grimey New York, something as simple as a $50 tape player could be the difference between life and death those days. Absolutely nothing in the streets of New York was safe or sweet.

While some may not remember the BET Rap City days, "Shook One's" was an absolute hit single. It spent weeks as #1 on the Saturday Rap City Countdown. I remember being in Los Angeles in 1997 and seeing two dudes chilling in the parking lot listening to Mobb Deep. Their sound and music just resonated throughout the country. While it stayed true to New York's newly formed sound, it had a national appeal, if for no other reason, this **** was going on everywhere. Mobb Deep served as the mouth piece for kids in the street throughout the county. Anyone growing up in the late 80s to mid 90s can cosign that.

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The following 2 singles, "Survival Of The Fittest" and "Give Up The Good" were also very successful. They were hits on urban programming, and depending on where you resided, the radio. All of this was organic, there's no attempt at all to sound commercially appealing anywhere on the album, it's just an honest perspective of the streets from a teenagers perspective.

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Features are limited, fellow Queensbridge resident, NaS appears on "Eye For An Eye" along with Loud Records labelmate Raekwon. Rae later appears going back and forth with partner in crime Ghostface Killah on "Right Back At You". Big Noyd serves as an unofficial member of the Mobb, has some memorable verses on the album. This could even be seen as the catalyst for NaS adopting his Escobar persona, between this verse, his verse on Raekwon's "Verbal Intercourse" and his involvement with both AZ (Doe Or Die) and Kool G Rap's (4,5,6) 95 albums. The Mobb Deep influence on NaS is quite tremendous. They would go onto collaborating on NaS 1996 follow up to Illmatic, 'It Was Written' and also on Mobb Deep's 'Hell On Earth'.

Overall the album is a hip hop masterpiece, in retrospect it personifies mid 90s New York better than any other album. It's not as over the top as 'Ready To Die' is at times. If definitely doesn't possess the 'Pop' appeal. It features exceptional storytelling on tracks like "Temperature's Rising", "Trife Life" which describes a trip to my current stomping grounds of Bed Stuy, Brooklyn so hearing it and knowing the locations just gives the song that much more lovable, because you can almost retrace the steps. If you've ever met a girl that lives in a different borough and go to visit, it serves as a cautionary tale of sorts. Not so much now, but in those days I could only imagine. "Drink Away The Pain" features Prodigy comparing his addiction to alcohol, personaified as a female love interest, and Q Tip describing a shootout with Clothing brands and designers as the culprits.

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"Up North Trip" is another cautionary tale about the penal system, where NaS was writing a letter to those on the inside on "One Love", the Mobb takes on the perspective of those behind the walls and the constant threat of violence. It basically serves as preparation for your first Rikers Island trip. What you'll witness, the dos and don'ts. If I must say, it's a very acquired depiction of incarceration in New York facilities.

I had this album on tape, couldn't count how many times I had to repair the film and or rerecord it on a new blank tape. Listening to it now, it sounds just as good as it did back then both lyrically and sonically. It's a shame it doesn't quite get the respect it deserves, without a doubt this is one of the Top 10 Greatest Hip Hop albums recorded. It's honest, it's refreshing and scary at times, but through it all its equally complex and creative. Mobb Deep captures lightning in a crack vail on this album. For those old enough to remember, and for those who may just be getting intuned to their catalog, there's a reason why Mobb Deep became the target of 2Pac's venom, because there music was that powerful. They had a real impact, and even Pac admitted to being a fan of 'The Infamous', now what's ******* with that?

"Party's Over.. tell the rest of the crew"

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One of my top 5 favorite rap albums

Got to see them perform pretty much the whole album at Rock the Bells a couple years ago :smokin

When Noyd came out for his Give Up the Goods verse, I went absolutely nuts. Few verses get me as hyped as that one

Prodigy was a top 10 mc from here to HNIC imo, its shame what he sounds like now
 
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True True, man I must say you write so well man did you have another SN before?
 
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And yes the drill analogy is dead on. I didn't listen to infamous when it first because I was only six, but the way you describe is the exact way I feel about it. I could only imagine the impact it had when it first dropped.

I want pose this question, what do you think about people who say that most the songs sound sonically the same? I obviously don't care because I'm big fan of that sound, I like those type of instrumentations.

One last thing Your completely write about Havoc his production is what makes the album so visual and descriptive. Havoc was already painting picture for you with the instrumentation, then Prodigy put the icing on the cake with the vivid and very descriptive imagery.
 
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I want pose this question, what do you think about people who say that most the songs sound sonically the same? I obviously don't care because I'm big fan of that sound, I like those type of instrumentations.
I wouldn't say the tracks sound the same, but to a certain extent they almost have to in order for it to be the cohesive body of work that it is. To the untrained ear I could see how that claim could be made. But the same could be said about The Chronic, these are 2 landmark albums that shaped the sounds of their respective coast's for the remainder of the decade. And even till today.

'The Infamous' is one of the most influential albums this side of 'Straight Out Of Compton', without this, NaS, Biggie, & Jay's careers change course. Pusha T just tweeted about this albums impact on his life, and the Clipse direction musically. You can hear the difference between albums after 'The Infamous'. There's no CNN without this, no N.O.R.E., Cormega, Nature, Screwball, Lake, Littles, Tragedy recreating himself and so on. These are 2 kids that pioneered a sound and style. This is the precursor to #Squad music dudes makin now. All that is from the Mobb.

When you look back at it, only Wu, NaS, and Biggie can be mentioned with Mobb Deep, these are the artist that preserved NY's importance. There's others on the underground circuit, but these artists were the architects of a new sound to rival what was goin on in LA. Without them, we'd been doin that "King Kunta" dance for the past 20 years. No MPVs, we'd be riding drop top Chevy's in the summer. Rockin Converse instead of Timbs.
 
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Still super bummed I didn't make it to bb kings in the city last night.

So pissed..

Mobb deep celebrating the anniversary
Alchemist
Smiff n Wesson
Tony touch
Funk flex

And countless surprise guests I can only imagine.

I was calling nas maybe, AZ, action Bronson, Joey bad*****, lox, wu members. Boot camp I had high hopes

Hope there is a review at least
 
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I want pose this question, what do you think about people who say that most the songs sound sonically the same? I obviously don't care because I'm big fan of that sound, I like those type of instrumentations.
.
If anything I felt like Hell On Earth had the same sound throughout.

Either way this one of my fav albums, joint was literally my theme music for a min when it came out.
 
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My cassette didn't have "Up North Trip" on it.
I had a dub. But "Trife Life" was the last song on the first side.

I used to be really nerdy and I'd copy the tape exactly as the OG was. Used to bug my bro cause he'd fill the tape so you'd had 5 albums on like 3 tapes. That **** annoyed me to the core.

I'd have 12 min of free film. Just in case a remix or maxi single came out.

I don't remember falling in love with "Up North" till middle school when I got the actual CD. But I don't know if the 4th grade me would've skipped it or not, but I remember listening to the whole thing from side to side.
 
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Did "Up North" ever make it onto a retail cassette? On a second pressing or was it just a CD joint?
I wonder how many songs I missed on classic albums with my anti technology proclivities & how they would have shaped my perception of the album.
 
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Did "Up North" ever make it onto a retail cassette? On a second pressing or was it just a CD joint?
I wonder how many songs I missed on classic albums with my anti technology proclivities & how they would have shaped my perception of the album.
That's how I felt about "North Star", Purple Tape has always been a personal fave, I finally get it on CD and here is a song I went 6 or 7 years without hearin :smh:
I used to just play it on repeat to make up for all the times I had heard the album without hearin that song.

When did you finally hear "Up North Trip"?
 
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