Queensbridge Represent: Prodigy’s 20 Best Rap Verses
Prodigy of Mobb Deep was a major figure in establishing and defining the sound and image of hardcore New York City rap. Mobb Deep, with classic albums like The Infamous, Hell on Earth, and Murda Muzik, is a definitive act in 90s hip-hop and Prodigy was among the very best emcees of the wave that emerged between 1993 and 1996. His sudden death at the age of 42 shocked fans and contemporaries, but his legacy speaks volumes.
Delivering classic singles and deep album cuts that would rival other rapper's biggest hits in terms of fanfare, Mobb Deep would become an institution in their own right, however, Prodigy's popularity would create the demand for him to release a solo album, which would arrive in 2000 with the release of H.N.I.C., which achieved Gold status off the strength of "Keep It Thoro," one of Prodigy's biggest hits as a solo artist and one that proved his ability to stand on his own two and craft a certified street banger. While Prodigy would continue to release albums alongside Havoc, he would take an increased focus on solo endeavors throughout the aughts, strengthening his case of one of the elite rap scribes of his generation and able to evolve and stay afloat in an ever-changing rap landscape.
Prodigy's death is a shocker and he will surely be missed. In memory of his immense skill and reputation as a rhyme animal, we've compiled 20 of Prodigy's most brilliant rap verses ever spat on wax.
"There's a war goin' on outside no man is safe from/You could run, but you can't hide forever," Prodigy begins on "Survival of the Fittest," one of the more memorable songs from Mobb Deep's sophomore album, The Infamous. From coining the phrase "Halfway Crooks," to comparing his wrath to the putrid concoction that is vodka and milk, Prodigy comes correct with one of the signature verses in his arsenal.
When a rapper threatens to "rock you in your face, stab your brain with your nose bone," you know he means business, as does Prodigy on "Shook Ones Pt. 2," his most iconic performance as a lyricist to date. Getting us stuck off the realness from the rip, Prodigy etched his name in stone as one of the illest to ever touch a mic with his verse on this seminal rap classic, which remains among the definitive records in rap history decades later.
"Give Up The Goods (Just Step)" is among the more mellow offerings from The Infamous, but doubles as one of its more addictive cuts, much to the credit of Prodigy, who delivers a pair of poignant verses filled with emotion and insight. The more iconic of the two, however, is the opening verse, on which he reminds us that Queens gets to the money by any means, as well as giving listeners a glimpse into his mindstate, serving as a moment of introspect and one of his more thoughtful verses.
Many rap fans are familiar with 2Pac's scathing diss song "Hit 'Em Up," which includes a blatant shot at Mobb Deep, but the duo would strike back with "Drop A Gem On 'Em," a buzz cut from their Hell on Earth album that would be one of the more notable responses to Shakur. Feeding off of Havoc's stellar opening verse, Prodigy comes off strong, dishing out a little of Pac's own medicine and standing his ground for one of his better showings from 1996.
"We shut it down like the Muse and blast like fresh tecs/Out the box, we outbox, get suplexed, Prodigy spouts, giving a nod to famed NYC hotspots while talking greasy on "Can't Get Enough Of It," a grim selection from Hell on Earth that makes for another bodybad for Houdini P. Painting a picture of him and his QB cohorts holding court in the party, Prodigy rises to the occasion once again, annihilating the crackly sample with ease and showing why he's regarded as a supreme lyrical being.
Raekwon joins Havoc and Prodigy on the Hell on Earth highlight "Nighttime Vultures," one of the many instances in which the Wu and QB collided, and although Raekwon delivers a cinematic set of bars, Prodigy nabs pole position with a masterful opening verse. Rhyming "Yo I rose early mornin, spread my wings yawnin/Vague memory of last night now it's all dawnin/Look down and see dry blood all on my garment/It stained all my Guess farmer's, colored enormous," Prodigy proceeds to lock in, rolling off a flurry of witty one-liners and smug boasts.
"Yo, the saga begins, begin war/I draw first, Blood, be the first to set it off" is a hell of an opening line on the part of Prodigy, and sets off the first verse on Mobb Deep's 1996 single "Hell on Earth (Front Lines)," however, it's the third verse on the song that's the most impressive. Going bonkers over the Havoc produced beat, Prodigy continued his assault on the competition with his stanzas on "Hell on Earth (Front Lines)" and proved his case as one of the premier wordsmiths of his time.
Produced by Havoc, "Quiet Storm" is one of a handful of Mobb Deep selections that finds Prodigy going for dolo sans Havoc, and although all three of the verses on this record are vicious, the third is especially bruising. Delivering a dominant close-out verse, Prodigy gets grisly, rhyming "stirrin' up pots of brew/In hell's kitchen, I chef the impossible," and sprinkling visceral lyrics like "One-thousand one-hundred CC's on the throttle/I peel off, chest naked on Katanas," the Lil Kim-assisted remix may be the first to come to mind, but Prodigy's performance makes this the superior version, pound-for-pound.
In 1999, Prodigy and Havoc released their fourth album, Murda Muzik, arguably the most anticipated effort of their career, filled with a slew of standout tracks. While there are more enticing songs on Murda Muzik, the title-track contains one of the more unsung lyrical performances by Prodigy as he takes credit for him and Havoc's influence on the rap game, and threatening to do bodily harm to rival rappers and those who get on his bad side.
Prodigy runs roughshod over the hard-boiled, Havoc produced backdrop "Man Down," among the more pulsating compositions on their 1996 release. Batting lead-off, Houdini P goes southpaw with the flow, delivering off-kilter couplets like "My coalition specialize in collision/The clash of the cliques/The duel of the iron MAC spit" and other quotables on this impressive showing from the Hempstead native.
"Oh, y'all niggas killers now?" Prodigy inquires at the beginning of "Keep It Thoro," the lead single from his 2000 solo album, H.N.I.C. Produced by the Alchemist, the song's opening verse would become among the more popular from Prodigy and showcase his brashness and dry-humor, two traits that encompass who he is as an emcee.
Prodigy tests his skills against fellow east coast luminaries and rhyme specialists Big Pun and Wu-Tang Clan member Inspectah Deck on Pun's 1998 posse-cut "Tres Leches." Produced by RZA, "Tres Leches" finds Prodigy taking the first swing at the track, employing his unique delivering for heady bars like "Stuck on some wild out shit, all about it/We move gambit, through the overcrowded," and keeping listeners on their toes. Although Pun edges him out with an otherwordly performance, Prodigy gives his Latin collaborator a run for his money, resulting in an unforgettable guest appearance on his part.
Producer "Digga" provides the beat for Losin' Weight, a brooding standout from Cam'ron's sophomore album, S.D.E., which includes a guest verse from Prodigy. Following up Cam'ron's introductory stanza, Prodigy contributes a steely performance of his own, comparing his street exploits to that seen in classic blaxploitation, and adding to his endless list of quotables.
A few of Queensbridge's finest team up for "Live Nigga Rap," a deep cut from Nas' 1996 album, It Was Written, that boasts a feature from Mobb Deep and captures all three spitters at their prime. Turning in a verse so ill that Nas was compelled to use it for his sophomore outing, resulting in it not originally appearing on Hell on Earth as originally intended, Prodigy proved the might of his pen with this showing.
"I open my eyes to the streets where I was raised as a man/And learned to use my hands for protection/In scuffles, throw all my blows in doubles," Prodigy sneers on "Q.U. Hectic," a bone-chilling number from The Infamous that gives a look into the lifestyle and mindset of Queens residents. Shouting out infamous hoods like Baisley Projects, Prodigy examines the change in the times, where gunfights replace fisticuffs and it's every man for himself, making for a riveting rhyme.
Prodigy links up with Raekwon and Ghostface Killah for "Tha Game," a selection off of Pete Rock's 1998 compilation Soul Survivor. Sandwiched between Rae and Ghost on the track, Prodigy turns in a show-stealing verse from a period in time when he seemed unstoppable and indefatigable.
Prodigy gives a soul-stirring testimonial on "You Can Never Feel My Pain," the close-out selection to his debut album, H.N.I.C. The lyrics "You cryin cause you broke from the projects/That's not pain, that's emotions, you a bitch" is a shot at those who take their health for granted while those afflicted with disease and sickness have to cope with real pain. Inspired by his bout with sickle-cell anemia, the opening portion "You Can Never Feel My Pain" is one of the more moving verses Prodigy has recorded and a transparent look into his reality.
"Yo, my rap taste good in my mouth like Deer Park/For your ears to list-this/You don't wanna miss this," Prodigy flows over the murky soundbed on "What's Ya Poison," from Murda Muzik. Reminiscing on the days of yesteryear, Prodigy drops couplets like "Every summer in the projects we partied on the benches/A few gallons of gin and Pepsi" that bring to mind simpler times, before getting trigger-happy by verse's end, which is among his premier stanzas.
"I'm headstrong, at peace with myself like Islam," Prodigy brags on the opening verse to "Still Shinin'," one of the more intense tunes on their 1996 release Hell on Earth, an album that finds Prodigy at his best lyrically. "My Infamous Mobb get on they job/The truth gets revealed like we W Fard/Some sheisty New York niggas, thirsty for cheddar/You shining, you get your jewels taken with your Hill sweater" is a quote that leaves the listener spellbound and amazed, as does the rest of Prodigy's captivating sermon on "Still Shinin'," which stacks up well when measured against his best work.
Prodigy gives us a an inner-look into the hopelessness and despair that plagues QB projects on "Streets Raised Me," the introductory song on Murda Muzik. Rhyming "Vision the canvas I paint a picture/Similar to Ernie Barnes nigga/But mines is more ghetto more guns," Prodigy gives a bleak picture of the hood he was rose from on this solemn rhyme spill.