Prodigy Reveals He Wrote 20 Albums in Jail, Is ‘Competing’
Prodigy doesn’t mince words when it comes to his time behind bars. As one-half of the bruising hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, the bantam veteran MC, along with his rhyme partner-producer Havoc, blazed a nearly 20-year standout career that saw the pair take New York gangsta rap to a brazenly dark and complex direction with such classic albums as ‘The Infamous’ (1995); ‘Hell on Earth’ (1996) and ‘Murda Muzik’ (1999). But Prodigy admits that his three years spent in prison for criminal possession of a loaded gun was more than just a sobering moment.
“Going to jail is beyond what anyone thinks it is,” Prodigy explains to the BoomBox of his incarceration. “You can go to jail for a year and end up doing life in there because you may have to hurt somebody. You may end up killing somebody. You can bump into some C.O.s [correctional officers] that wanna just throw a razor in your cell, throw a knife in your cell. Or a C.O. could just say, ‘Yo, he spit on me.’ And that’s a seven-year assault charge. So little things like that can happen to you. But you don’t even realize it can go that far.”
Prodigy, born Albert Johnson, has since made the most of his March prison release. He has dropped a well-received autobiography ‘My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy,’ a book that details his wild times in and out of the proverbial spotlight. There’s family-driven tales of growing up in Long Island, his brotherly relationship with Havoc and their coming-of-age story in the notorious Queensbridge, New York projects, and the early days of a teenage Mobb Deep. But what’s grabbed most of the headlines is Prodigy’s often times harrowing and hilarious stories detailing his experiences with a who’s who of hip-hop royalty. From Havoc accidentally shooting a Def Jam employee and Prodigy’s beefs with the late Tupac Shakur and Jay-Z to Prodigy attempting to bed Lil’ Kim, it’s all there, many times without filter.
“I wanted to tell my story,” Prodigy simply says of his reasons for writing the book. “A lot of industry people already knows some of these stories, but the fans didn’t know.” But it was his time in prison that really sparked the project. “I did a lot of reading … I read a lot of books. I’ve never read that much in my life,” Prodigy adds with a laugh. “You stuck in this hole, in this cell, and you are not really progressing in a sense. So in order to overcome that, I decided that when I go in there I was going to transform myself mentally, physically and spiritually. I ain’t do too much watching TV and playing card games. There was nothing else to do but to workout, read and write.”
Of course Prodigy was also writing lyrics for new music. “I wrote about 20 albums in there,” he says. “So yeah, I got a lot of work done in there, so I used my time wisely. I think that I definitely did what I planned on doing with the time.”
Mobb Deep fans have already gotten a taste of the group’s next artistic phase. Prodigy recently released his solo work, ‘The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP,’ a digital-only project that doesn’t stray too far from Mobb Deep’s double-fisted roots. “It was a gift to the fans,” Prodigy says of the set. “I’m not doing anything different … Just being me. I just wanted to release something that could [hold down] the fans until we release a new Mobb Deep album.”
But the question remains: What does a new Mobb Deep album sound like in 2011? Both Havoc and Prodigy have managed to stay relevant throughout label changes and sweeping musical turns. The duo, who were dropped from 4th & Broadway Records in 1993, following the lackluster sales of their debut album, ‘Juvenile Hell,’ went on to help drive legendary hip-hop imprint Loud Records, an influential label that had the likes of the Wu-Tang Clan, Big Pun, Xzibit, and Dead Prez on its storied roster. And while a 2004 switch to Jive Records didn’t work out for Mobb Deep, the pair was able to bounce back after signing with 50 Cent‘s G-Unit label. So what’s next?
“We are not signed to a label right now,” Prodigy says of Mobb Deep’s current state. “We will worry about that later. But we are working on new material. We have a lot of songs ready to go. It’s about competing. Me and Havoc want to show that Mobb Deep can be that hip-hop group 20 years [into a] career and still make a great album. That’s what we are trying to do.”
Watch Prodigy’s ‘Give It to Me’