NahRight x UpNorthTrips Present: Memory Lane, a Digital Museum of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous

Memory-Lane-Banner-The-Infamous

Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara) with additional reporting from Evan Auerbach (@UpNorthTrips)

Mobb Deep were legends far before anything they created touched wax. The two met each other in high school when a young Prodigy witnessed his eventual rap partner fighting a kid twice his size in the school yard. Outmatched by size and the fact that his nemesis had a knife, Havoc dipped every swing and eventually won the bout. There was no such thing as Mobb Deep back then. Poetical Prophets didn’t even exist. It was just Albert and Kejuan. At the time, P was perusing a solo career but that quickly changed after meeting Hav. All connections he made and access to free studio time disolved once potential labels found out that any ink-to-contract came with also signing a then unknown lyrical accomplice.

The duo would eventually land on 4th & Broadway in 1992 and release their debut Juvenile Hell album a year later. The project was widely regarded as a flop and Mobb Deep was dropped from their first label later that year. Only 17 at the time, each have admitted in retrospect that their immaturity and work ethic weren’t all the way there when recording their first LP. Luckily, they would have a second chance. That re-up would be The Infamous.

The Mobb’s sophomore effort developed in a manner similar to their own childhood. It was cultivated in the cramped confides of Hav’s childhood home in building 41-15 and later brought to the studio for further development. Q-Tip, who originally helped Mobb Deep obtain their first deal with the Def Jam offshoot label, would become one of The Infamous’ masterminds. Every scratchy sample spawned by Havoc’s MPC 16 and every cold-blooded verse from Prodigy’s barbarous delivery was amplified by the A Tribe Called Quest producer. He, along with the Mobb, put together one of the darkest albums the genre has ever seen and arguably the best sonic representation of the place they called home.

The Infamous was released on April 25, 1995 but it was a body of work that represented the short lived triumphs and struggles Mobb Deep had faced since officially joining forces in 1991. It was the cultivation of learned lessons both musically and in life during the four years previous. The album represented the transition from a written off, immature duo to the makings of what would become one of hip-hop music’s preeminent groups. NahRight recently spoke to numerous key players involved in crafting The Infamous, including P and Hav. To best understand the album, where it came from and the people who made it what it was, we also gathered photos and key audio to accompany stories about its formation and lasting impact. Or a trip down “Memory Lane,” as Nas would put it.

1 Premier x Mobb Deep

DJ Premier produced “Cop Hell” in 1992. It was one of Mobb Deep’s earliest songs as a duo.

Who: DJ Premier (left), Prodigy (middle), Havoc (right)

When: 1991/1992

Where: Long Island, New York

In Retrospect: “They were little guys, 16 years old [at the time]. I went out to Long Island to link up with them. I remember we got pulled over by the cops on the highway and we were dirty, we had stuff in the car. And we thought we were going to go to jail, but they just let us go. Ironically, we just did a record called ‘Cop Hell’ which didn’t come out because that’s around when Ice-T’s ‘Cop Killer’ kicked in. The label wasn’t trying to hear it, so we had to dead that. We didn’t work together after that, but it was more so a timing thing. I actually broke ‘Shook Ones (Part II)’ because I used to be on WBLS. Mobb Deep brought it to me personally. I heard that record and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going into this.’” – DJ Premier (Complex, 2011)

“With the Mobb it was definitely a maturity thing [early on]. When they signed to 4th & Broadway, you’re talking about 15/16-years-old and signing a huge record deal for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prodigy bought a fucking Sterling. I don’t even know if he had a license. He had a brand new Sterling. He couldn’t see over the wheel, with jewels all over. They were young dudes with a deal. They didn’t even know what they had until they lost it. You have something, you lose it, you go through some hard times, play the block for a while, you see people dying… When you think of some of the greatest emcees–KRS-One, Rakim–they were pretty much 19 when they made a lot of the stuff we consider classic. So that was something we were keeping in mind too. We couldn’t fault the fact that they were just young dudes when they caught that first deal. We had to pay attention to the growth.” – Schott Free (Former Vice President of A&R at Loud Records)

“My experience at The Source was just priceless in what I was able to do through out my career in the music industry because I was able to help a Mobb Deep or a Biggie or Wu-Tang get their start. I was a journalist calling up producers and artists, interviewing them about their experiences and their albums and Premier and Guru and GangStarr was one of them. There were so many groups that I was fortunate to have a conversation with, learn about how they made their records before I was involved in making them. Those same people were helpful in guiding me through the process. And it was just as important with Premier for sure… For shows I would have with B.I.G. and Mobb down in Virginia and Maryland, I would have Premier come be the DJ.

“’Cop Hell,’ that never even came out. Obviously there was that cop issue and I don’t know if that turned into a big profitable situation for Premier but he just wanted to help Mobb Deep, he just loved them and I think that says a lot for the group and for him too.” – Matty C (Former Senior Vice President of A&R at Loud Records)

2 P and Hav Juvenile Hell

Mobb Deep on the set of “Hit It From The Back,” one of the singles off their debut album, Juvenile Hell.

Who: Havoc (left), Prodigy (right)

When: 1992

Where: New York, New York

In Retrospect: “We would travel all over Brooklyn to Coney Island just to do some sessions, use the equipment and get some beats. When I think about then I just think about getting out of school and getting our music done because it’s really what we wanted to do with our life and we were really serious about it.” – Prodigy

“The Mobb demo was a big catalyst. They played a song called ‘Paddy Shop’ and I was hearing the maturity rhyme-wise and production-wise, just kind of [thinking of singing them], ‘Yo, that might be the move.’ When you’re joining a label, you want to be holding something. I came with the Wu. The Mobb was the first chance for me and Matty to do something together.” – Schott Free

“I knew Prodigy and Havoc before they got to Loud [Records]. I knew them when they were on Island/Def Jam because Bonz Malone was one of my friends. He was an A&R at Island back then so that’s how I got to know them and by the time they got to Loud, my friend Matt who was with me at The Source became an A&R [at Loud Records]. It’s kind of a small community and I was always the eyes to everybody’s ears so I was kind of a natural fit to come in.” – Chi Modu (Photographer)

3 CHI MODU - Basketball P and Hav

Prodigy and Havoc walking through Queensbridge in 1994

“They are extremely talented cats and it’s tough for that to not come out when you’re around them. I was always amazed at how incredibly talented these young guys were. They were younger than me–not by much–but back then a few years mattered. They were always really loyal to me. They would always check in with me, always shout me out whenever they could and not all our artists do that. Those guys always remembered their beginnings and I’m always grateful to them for that because a lot of people forget where they came from. Prodigy and Havoc never did.” – Chi Modu

“When they were younger, they say that Havoc really used to be the catalyst with the topics when it comes to what they would talk about. At times, he would even sketch out and help P out on the writing side and Prodigy was the guy that taught Havoc how to program and chop beats. He was the production dude but since P would get sick so much, Hav had to learn to make his own beats and P couldn’t really do anything except sit around from his sickle cell disease, so he had all that time to think of song concepts. And that’s how everything started to change.” – Schott Free

4 CHI MODU - Mobb Deep Face Profile 2

One of several portrait photos taken by Chi Modu, an accomplished photographer and one who documented Mobb Deep during the time The Infamous was created.

“Being an East Coast/New York cat, I always had a love for my New York dudes. I know the winter, I know the summer and I know what they go through. I was in Staten Island before the Wu were ever signed to a record deal–when they were still pushing ‘Protect Ya Neck’ and that whole tape. I know them from there. And I knew Nas when he was working on ‘Halftime,’ this was before Illmatic, so I was kind of around for everyone’s fame when it began and then when it became something. In a way, I kind of came up with them all. I dealt and moved with them as peers.” – Chi Modu

“Inside of the ‘Ear To The Streets’ section that I edited was the ‘Unsigned Hype’ column and there was a guy who worked over at Rush Communications–Russell Simmons and RPM, Rush’s producer/management division, his name was Andre Kyles and he and I became friends. The Source’s offices were only a couple blocks away and he was also a DJ for Organized Konfusion in the early days before they were called that, they were [Simply II Positive MCs]. He was from Queens and he knew a kid that went to school with P and Hav at Art and Design High School. He brought the tape and then one day at lunch he played it for me and that’s the first time I heard the Poetical Prophets. So then Dre brought them up to The Source and [I] met them and that’s where it all started.” – Matty C

4 CHI MODU Mobb Deep Profile 3

Modu again working his magic; this time with the Mobb in color.

“My first time meeting P, as the story goes, he comes up to the RCA building and I see him and I’m thinking to myself, ‘No way is this dude coming up–in his first meeting, the ink ain’t really even dry–and this dude still has heat up on him. He’s got the [Mac-10] on him.’ This dude just walking in with the heat just bulging out. I’m like, ‘Yo man, is that what I think it is?’ And P cracks a little knucklehead smile and pulls up his shirt and says, ‘Yeah, you know.’ We got talking and [said], ‘Yo, we got beef around the way [laughs].’ I guess you could call it an omen to the journey we were about to get on with the Mobb.” – Schott Free

“When [Q-Tip] and I discussed him getting involved with the album, he didn’t want to just do a song or two, he wanted to be involved with the mixes after he heard it. He liked the idea of it being self-produced but he knew the production, he had the same criticism as me when he heard the Wu-Tang and RZA. He liked the creativity but he knew if he was involved he would have that shit sounding a little more smacking on the bottom end. It was kind of RZA quirkiness, all scratchy, fucked up records out of the crib in the projects, recorded all fucked up but then Tip was really able to help me articulate to the engineers what really needed to happen to give it some Low End Theory-type of vibe.” – Matty C

5 Mobb Deep x Biggie

Mobb Deep and Biggie soon after he signed to Bad Boy Records. The two camps appeared together on the Big Mack Tour in 1995.

Who: Havoc (left), The Notorious B.I.G. (middle), Prodigy (right)

When: 1995

Where: Maryland/Virginia

In Retrospect: “Back in Queensbridge, the new rapper Biggie Smalls started making a lot of noise with his song ‘Party and Bullshit’: ‘I was a terror since the public school era, bathroom passes, cuttin’ classes, squeezin’ asses, smokin’ blunts was a daily routine….’ The Scarface Twin constantly played it on his boom box out on the block. Puff signed Biggie soon after offering us that deal.” – Prodigy (Excerpt from My Infamous Life, 2011)

“Part of the reason I brought B.I.G. to Puff was because Puff liked P and Hav and he knew that I had featured them and helped them get their deal with Bonz [Malone]. That’s part of the reason he was still calling me like, ‘What else you got Matt?’ That was The Source/Unsigned Hype-era of it. But of course we know that that first album didn’t do that well so after that [Juvenile Hell] had some time to fizzle out, Havoc showed up at The Source with this demo song he had [“Paddy Shop”]. I think it was either Dante [Ross] or Stretch [Armstrong], or both of them in the office… He was doing some independent A&Ring for Steve [Rifkind] and he tipped Steve off to Mobb Deep coming back.” – Matty C

“We never really been on the road at that time. [It was] just us with unity, before the money started coming in. It was just for the love of the culture. We had fun doing it… We was drinking a lot of liquor, lot of beers, smoking crazy. Every night we would go into the studio at 5 or 6 pm and not come out ‘till 7 am during the days when we recorded the album. [We were] intoxicated every night and making crazy songs.” – Ty Nitty

5 Extended Biggie Pic

Matty C (pictured bottom right) wrote Mobb Deep’s “Unsigned Hype” piece in The Source magazine and would later help them obtain a deal at Loud Records as an A&R.

“To see that picture of B.I.G. and Mobb Deep. I don’t even know how that got posted or online. That’s the amazing thing that they were able to share those moments together and have that mutual respect for each other. It just confirms what I was trying to do and make something great and something positive happen. It was like in the old school days of hip-hop when the five or ten biggest groups out at the time would do records together and shout each other out at the end of a song. It’s a cool thing.” – Matty C

5.5 Twins

Scarface Twin and Dirty Harry (not pictured) died in a tragic car crash in 1996. Scarface played a behind-the-scenes producer role in the then newly formed Infamous Mobb.

Who: Scarface Twin (left), Chinky (middle), Twin Gambino (right)

When: 1994

Where: Queensbridge, Queens, New York

In Retrospect: “When he was alive. I would never mess with a girl by myself. We used to go hustle from Monday to Friday and chill with the girls all weekend. We used to do that for years. That was our little thing. It kind of kept us out of trouble because on the weekends everyone would party, in the hood, get drunk and that’s how people get shot, etc. It was a good situation. I remember that. And us having fist fights sometimes [laughs].” – Twin Gambino (Big Twins)

“After my brother got murdered man it all started to go downhill. Havoc brother died, Killer Black, Scarface Twin. We had lost so many people. Dirty Harry had got killed in that accident too [with Scarface Twin]. It was so many people that we lost but it also tells me that I’m here for a reason and I’m blessed to be here at the end of the day because so many of my friends ain’t here. It’s crazy when you think about it. It’s scary too.” – Ty Nitty

“[On death in 1995/1996] My father, Killer Black, a bunch of our friends, Twin [Gambino’s] brother [all passed away]… It was a real dark time for us. It was a real bad time really. [There are] not too many good memories about making [Hell on Earth] except for the love for the music that we were making. Making those songs, all those songs came from a dark place. It was a lot of death happening around us.” – Prodigy (NahRight, 2014)

6 CHI MODU - Mobb Deep Studio

Mobb Deep and a couple of engineers recording/mixing records.

Who: [From left to right] Prodigy, Havoc, Mario Rodriguez, N/A (assistant)

When: 1995/1996

Where: Platinum Island

In Retrospect: “The most important element to that album, that made it a little different than the first was the idea of being a self-produced group. What I noticed about Hav and P, even though they had Large Professor, Premier and a couple other pretty established producers working on the first one with them, they knew how to produce and they had a real good sense for music on the production side so trying to see this album come out as a self-produced–like A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill–they were having success at the time with that and so the beginning of the album was beautiful because it was like these 5-10 songs that were made right in the crib in Queensbridge then brought to a small room in Battery [Recording Studios] to be recorded and it was a real organic thing going on. I think even more special than we realized at the time.” – Matty C

“I was there most of the time when Hav made the beats. Hav lived in 41-15 and I lived in 41-16. He would look out his window and call me and we could talk to each other. Early in the morning he used to hit me up, ‘Yo, let’s get some beers and some weed!’ I used to go and get the beers and weed and go to his crib and he used to push on them [MPC] buttons all day. I heard every beat he made–“Survival of the Fittest,” “Shook Ones Pt. II”–I was right there. It was dope but I didn’t know what he was doing really. He would press on the buttons, the beat would come out dope. Later on we would go to the studio, I didn’t really understand it. I was just happy to get off the block for a couple of hours and not hustling or anything.” – Twin Gambino

“It was kind of dope to witness when Tip was showing [Havoc] the double-ups on the pads and the kicks and all the little jewels. At that point it was a Queens thing. [He would say] ‘I’m only showing you this because you’re from Queens.’ He agreed to come in and mix the album and he would say, ‘Anything thing you want to do or anything you want to change, it’s your call.’” – Schott Free

“The studio sessions were all-nighters. We lived in the studio. We spent $100,000 on food [laughs]. We woke up under the track board, woke up in the mic booth. We had a plush studio so there was a lot of room everywhere.” – Triple L (Godfather Pt. III)

7 CHI MODU - Eye For an Eye 1

Queensbridge and Shaolin connect for one of 1995’s greatest collaborative cuts.

Who: Prodigy (left), Havoc (top middle), Nas (bottom middle), Raekwon (right)

When: 1994

Where: Staten Island, New York

In Retrospect: “It was just like how the picture looked–smoky in the room and it was just the love for what we was doing. I remember when Hav first made that beat we was like, ‘Woah, God! We’ve got to go in with the rhymes. This beat is crazy!’ That was definitely a dope studio session. It was ill that someone was there to take pictures of it.” – Prodigy

“We didn’t know what we was going to do that day. We didn’t even know. I just made the beat right there on the spot and Prodigy came in and did the hook and it was on.” – Havoc

7 CHI MODU - Eye For an Eye 2

Nas, Havoc and The Chef cracking jokes in the booth. The Illmatic rapper’s Escobar persona would be introduced for the first time on “Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines).”

“I’ve been in a lot of studio sessions in my life. Some turned out to be hits, some just turned out to be weed sessions but you do it an awful lot. You don’t know each session what it’s going to be. I always got along with Nas, I always got along with Rae and Mobb and them so I’m someone who could show up and I’d be welcome. I would show up, take a few shots and then leave… It’s kind of cool now that you look back at the photograph and people now every lyric for the song you were in the studio for, that’s always kind of nice.” – Chi Modu

8 Noyd x P x Hav x Twins

Mobb, IM3 and Noyd kicking it. Scarface Twin was a member of Infamous Mobb before his death and would lay his only verse to wax on Big Noyd’s “All Pro” from Episodes of a Hustla in early ’96.

Who: Big Noyd (left), Ty Nitty, Scarface Twin (middle), Prodigy (bottom left), Twin Gambino (Big Twins) (bottom right), Havoc (right)

When: 1995

Where: Queensbridge, Queens, New York

In Retrospect (on “Give Up the Goods (Just Step)”): “If I’m not mistaken, me and Hav were at Q-Tip’s crib and he had threw on this record and when we had heard the record we were like, ‘Oh, that’s what LL Cool J song [‘Pink Cookies in A Plastic Bag’]’ and we was playing different parts of the record. That’s where I first heard the original record that that sample came from. So it was like, ‘Yo! Let’s do a new version, our version of it.’” – Prodigy

“Noyd was a dope lyricist that was just around us from day one. It just so happened that me and Prodigy already had a group formed and we was just, in general, figuring out a way to incorporate this lyricist into the album and the ‘Give Up The Goods’ song is upbeat and all of that. Noyd had an upbeat style so that was a perfect song for us to get him on the album and introduce him. And it worked for him really well. He got a deal. And it was classic.” – Havoc

10 CHI MODU - IM3 x Mobb Deep x Capone

Queensbridge out in full force for The Infamous photo shoot.

Who: (from left to right) Dave Brown, Ty Nitty, Havoc, Capone (back), Prodigy, Twin Gambino

When: 1994

Where: Queensbridge, Queens, New York

In Retrospect: “It was fun. I ain’t going to front, we kind of blew our budget up when we did the Murda Muzik album. We spend $2 million on a recording budget. I never forget that but it was cool…  I used to bring the whole hood there and say, ‘Order what y’all want.’ We ordered 10 cases of Heineken, everybody brought all the cigarettes, etc. We had the whole hood there and Hav and P didn’t care. They were just so zoned in to making dope music and that’s the only thing they cared about. I kind of felt bad because I didn’t know what we was doing.” – Twin Gambino (Big Twins)

“It was good for us because growing up in Queensbridge, it’s all we really knew… First it was making music for how our projects thought about us like, ‘Yo, they doing they thing,’ but then it just blew up and became worldwide. Music is powerful.” – Ty Nitty

10 CHI MODU - IM3 x Mobb Deep x Capone 2

Capone and Havoc were the Queensbridge arms of their respective groups. Prodigy and Noreaga are from Hempstead and LeFrak City respectively.

On The Infamous’ interludes and skits: “It was all Hav and P. We were all in there drunk, having fun. And they was like, ‘Aight, we going to go in and do something, shit is about to get hectic.’ We would all go in there and say that. I wanted to rhyme. I just wanted to be on the mic. I wanted to shine. It was just fun and that was before we was thinking about money. Hav and P was thinking about the money but we wasn’t thinking about the money.” – Twin Gambino

“They was unrehearsed. It was just, ‘Bring the mic in the lounge and cut it on and we going to do this skit for the ‘G.O.D. Pt. III’ song.’ They had nothing written or nothing. They just went in and put it down. Even the background affects like the Twilight Zone, that was the T.V. in the background. Whatever was playing, that’s how we was doing the skit.” – Triple L

“As far as the skits, that was for us to really express ourselves. Our slang, the Dun Language, that’s when we brought that to the whole world. Like ‘fatty bangin’,’ that was me who said that in the intro [to ‘Q.U. Hectic’], certain things like that. Infamous Mobb, Mobb Deep, we had our own slang that we created. It’s global now.” – Ty Nitty

11 CHI MODU - IM3 x Mobb Deep x Capone 3

Cuzzo (pictured left of Havoc) and Ramone (pictured left of Prodigy) were childhood friends of the Mobb camp.

“Scarface was my brother. I miss him. Him and Harry. We’ve went through a lot of turmoil. We had a lot of success but we also went through a lot of turmoil and a lot of real life shit. That’s why I had to get up out of the hood because niggas got murdered and I couldn’t stand it. It was really tearing me apart.” – Triple L

12 CHI MODU - Affiliates Album Cover B&W

Mobb Deep and friends on the roof of a Queensbridge Houses building during The Infamous album photo shoot. Not pictured is Big Noyd, who was unavailable due to a court date.

Who: (from left to right) Prodigy, Scarface Twin, Triple L, Cuzzo Farad, Alimo (child), Capone, Jeremy, Dave Brown, Twin Gambino, Ty Nitty, Havoc

When: 1994

Where: Queensbridge, Queens, New York

In Retrospect: “I remember that day–the rooftop picture that we took–to this day people still be sharing those pictures on Instagram and Facebook and everywhere like, ‘That’s a classic picture.’ Scarface Twin was in that picture too… Looking at that picture brings back memories for when we was just all together for the unity and just being friends and family, just the whole Mobb team–Mobb Deep, Infamous Mobb–we was family before we started making music.” – Ty Nitty

“I remember Havoc and P were like, ‘Yo, we need a shot of The Bridge,’ and they would always ask us if was cool to go on the roof. We went on the roof, shooting pictures–maybe for like 15 minutes–and then there was like 20 or 30 cops that surrounded us and we almost got in trouble and we had to leave.” – Twin Gambino

12 CHI MODU - Affiliates Album Cover B&W 2

Alimo, the child pictured, is Scarface Twin and Twin Gambino’s biological brother. They also have another brother, Monk Monk (not pictured). 

“The idea was, let’s go into the Queensbridge Projects–the place where people hear about in lyrics–but very few people have ever been to. I always like to take pictures of where people are from. I want to see where they come from. I was always very curious and had quite a bit of a no fear element about me too. I wanted to see the places that spark the music–who are your friends? who’s on your block?–that’s where I always like to go and because that a lot of artists respect my approach… I’ve been to Queensbridge numerous times. I was there when Nas did Illmatic and so I know the area. I’m not from there but I know it well and I also know its reputation, and I’ve always enjoyed the people I’ve met there.” – Chi Modu

12 CHI MODU - Mobb Deep x Affiliates Infamous Cover 1994

This picture featuring Prodigy’s double guns and Havoc’s tough-guy prose is featured as a shrunken version on the bottom righthand corner of the album’s cover.

“If you ever spent any time in New York in the ‘90s, there was housing police–now it’s all one thing–but back then there was housing police who policed the projects and then the transit cops who policed the trains and they were usually pretty close behind. While at times the projects were Wild, Wild West but whenever we were seen doing something good the cops would appear but all we were doing was taking photos. It was actually very funny because even though we got kicked off the roof I still got that famous photo done.” – Chi Modu

13 CHI MODU - GOD Pt 3 : Twin Scarface kicked off roof

Shakiesha was a neighborhood basketball legend. She passed away soon after this picture was taken due to an asthma attack during a pickup game in Queensbridge.

Who: Scarface Twin (left), Triple L (middle), Shakiesha (on bike)

When: 1994

Where: Queensbridge, Queens, New York

In Retrospect: “The cops came when we did that group shit. They we’re always fucking with us, that’s why I had to get up out the hood. I haven’t seen that picture with Shakiesha for a long time. They showed us the whole role when we did the shoot. I’ve seen all the pictures but we haven’t had access to them. Shakiesha, she was a very talented young woman. She was very good at basketball, very intelligent, good in school. She was a very good person, well known. She was a legend and died at a young age. I used to babysit her.” – Triple L

“This picture is mad interesting because it’s my brother and Shakiesha who have both passed away since. I remember that cop right behind us because we all was walking but they just got that picture. That cop behind us was being a dickhead. I guess they see us doing something positive and they don’t like that.

“[Shakiesha was] nice. I used to play her 1-on-1–throughout June to August–me and her used to play everyday 1-on-1. She was nice at basketball and that’s why she got good ‘cause she always played God. She was real cool and she passed when she was playing basketball… It’s a big hood so when somebody passed, everybody feels it.” – Twin Gambino

14 CHI MODU - Mobb Deep Under Bridge

Mobb Deep under the Queensboro Bridge, a structure that rests over the East River and connects Manhattan with Long Island City, Queens.

Who: Prodigy (left), Havoc (right)

When: 1994

Where: Queensbridge, Queens, New York

In Retrospect: “The Queensboro Bridge, that’s it. That’s Queensbridge, right? So any chance to have that somewhere around is kind of cool. I’m with them there in their hood and their whole crew is there so we pretty much have full reign. We can pretty much go wherever we want to go. There was a little baseball field around there, we took some shots. I got them under the bridge, got some more shots. To shoot, I like to do studios but I also like to get out of studio and go on location and that’s why I wanted to go on location of their neighborhood.” – Chi Modu

14 CHI MODU - Mobb Deep Tall Ts

Prodigy and Havoc signed to Loud Records in late 1993 and would begin recording their sophomore album in early 1994.

“For Mobb Deep, that has a lot of meaning because they both have a lot of strengths that make Mobb Deep, Mobb Deep. That Mobb Deep sound is Hav, right? So it’s kind of nice to play the tools against each other and I thought it was a good juxtaposition. You can’t really predict that stuff. It just kind of happens but you do have a certain comfort level with the subjects so that if you ask them to try something, they’re willing to do it with you.” – Chi Modu

“The first batch of records [for The Infamous] was fresh out of Queensbridge and then further baked and cheffed up in Battery Studios. I think later in the process Hav got a lot more comfortable cooking on the spot. [He would] be the first one there, cook something up early if he didn’t already have it done, and then the pattern of P and the rest of the Mobb showing up later in the afternoon/evening–once we had a beat up and running–it was an ideal day. P often had a rhyme ready in his head and then Hav would then pass out from the mental drain of creating a track for a while and then wake up and write something fresh.” – Matty C

16 CHI MODU - Mobb Deep Face Profile

A photo outtake from Modu’s legendary Infamous photo shoot.

“For me I was fortunate that day that P and Hav happened to be [in character] to the Mobb. I had the one with Hav in the front and P in the back. P could be a little out of focus and it didn’t matter because of depth of field so I was like, ‘Perfect!’ Havoc’s face is so strong and his features are so strong and he carries and holds the front while P’s the lyricist so P could actually be behind, so I did a reverse. The producer went to the front and the chief lyricist went to the back.” – Chi Modu

“One of the biggest frustrations to me in making that album is the fact that some of the greatest parts of recording The Infamous album had to come out. It related to sampling. For example: ‘Survival of the Fittest’ had a little James Brown vocal in the original chorus and it’s very small but to have cleared that would have been so exorbitant in costs and time and permission that it didn’t make sense. Before we were done, it had turned into a totally different track than the one you hear today after the engineer had really beefed up the drums and Havoc started to reprogram it a little bit and just completely took it out. There was also another one with a Gil Scott-Heron sample piece. It’s unfortunate to look back and you find these gems that didn’t make the cut and how often the stuff fell on the cutting room floor. It didn’t really fall on the floor. It just had so much red tape with sample clearance that it wasn’t worthwhile. When you look back, so much of people’s great material that didn’t make it, you love it and you wish it came out.” – Matty C

“[On ‘Party Over’] One day we was in the studio–me, Havoc and Noyd–and we had set up a thing where Noyd was like, ‘Yo, you say this part.’ And I come back in with this part of my rhyme. He involved me in it because everybody know I’m a ladies man so he put a story in it where I went to go see this girl in Harlem. It was like a plot-type of thing. I was supposed to be at this girl’s house and Noyd was supposed to come and get me… It was just us in the studio, drinking, chillin,’ and we just came up with that concept.” – Ty Nitty

16 CHI MODU - Infamous Cover Pic

The original photo used as the backdrop of The Infamous’ album cover (taken by Modu). 

“After the Shook Ones Pt. II video [was shot] I got arrested and went to jail for a year. Five minutes after we walk out the door from the last scene the police took me in. So when I saw the video [when it came out] I was in prison. So it almost played to the script of the video ‘cause we were wondering who shot the guy. I’m the first one you see at the end cooking up.” – Triple L

“The thing with the Mobb man is they’re pretty fun guys to be around. They’re crazy as all hell but they’re fun to be around. If you’re going to be with them all day you’re going to laugh a lot. Those are all of my memories of that stuff. It was actually kind of fun and cool. I take my job real seriously so I try to say, ‘Don’t worry about the pictures, that’s for me to make sure you look good.’ You just be you, let me try to find you in this day.” – Chi Modu

Photos via Chi Modu, UpNorthTrips 

Additional research by Vinny Thunn, POST AOW, Schott Free

Related: Mobb Deep – The Infamous Mobb Deep (Tracklist) | Mobb Deep vs. N.O.R.E. (Excerpts From My Infamous Life)

Previously: Interview: Krayzie Bone Says a Final bone thugs-n-harmony Album is on the Horizon, Recalls Three 6 Mafia Beef | Interview: John Buccigross is ESPN’s Biggest Hip-Hop Nerd | Interview: Prodigy & Boogz Boogetz’ Young Rollin’ Stoners Album showcases two Generations of Queens Hip-Hop | Interview: Theophilus London “Vibes” with Kanye West & Leon Ware for Sophomore LP | Made in Ohio: Stalley & Rashad on Ohio Culture and Music | Happy 75th Birthday Queensbridge: The 75 Greatest QB Rap Songs

Catch up on all NahRight interviews and features HERE.


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4 Responses to “NahRight x UpNorthTrips Present: Memory Lane, a Digital Museum of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous

  1. LadyGemStar Says:

    This was dope! Thanks :)

  2. Ace One Says:

    Very dope writing.

    MOBB DEEP!

  3. spirit equality Says:

    The one thing a lot of journalists don’t emphasize is that Mobb’s first album, “Juvenile Hell,” basically lays the groundwork for the multi-producer idea that was later perfected on Illmatic. Large Pro and Premier contributed to Juvenile Hell and later made classic contributions to Illmatic. Mobb deserves props for being the first to bring that multiple superproducers on one project idea to the forefront. Havoc (and P) also did some production on Juvenile Hell as well. They were talented from the very beginning. Ras Kass named “Hit It From The Back” as his favorite song of all time in one interview, that song is pretty heavily slept on and was a really entertaining joint on their debut.

  4. Bonz Malone Says:

    Well said. I agree 100%

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