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

Friday, April 24th, 2015

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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.

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Happy 75th Birthday Queensbridge: The 75 Greatest QB Rap Songs

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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Words by Paul Meara (@PaulMeara)

Queensbridge Houses was infamous long before any hip-hop gatekeeper donned it such. The harrowing hallways of North America’s largest housing projects were a refuge for drug dealers, stick up kids and mob figures long before Marley and Shan touched a 4-track or mic and broadcasted about it. Opening in 1939, The Bridge has a long history of housing the hard-stricken. Those who famously made it out did it either with a basketball or a microphone.

There’s no doubt the crack epidemic affected the surroundings of those who would choose music. Pioneering clique The Juice Crew’s earlier rhymes didn’t typically assume the gangster element but those who spawned from them couldn’t help but represent what they saw. The youngest member of the 80s mega posse began to take it exclusively to the streets. Intelligent Hoodlum, and his debut self-titled LP, was one of the first in a long succession during the 1990s to represent QB’s dark street vibes while incorporating a wiser message. And this trend continued with nearly everyone who followed. Nas would be next. Up to that point in Hip-Hop’s history, nobody had ever come across an 18-year-old with such a firm command of the English language and rhymes imparted with a wisdom beyond his years. Mobb Deep would release their peak project at the tender age of 19 soon after. Tragedy Khadafi disciples Capone-N-Noreaga would keep the fire burning two years later with another Big Apple classic. No other neighborhood in hip-hop music’s history released more quality in a shorter amount of time. It was legendary and heavily influential in not only New York’s rap makeup, but also the genre’s.

In honor of Queensbridge’s 75th year in existence (and Nas’ recent release of Time is Illmatic), Nah Right has compiled and ranked as many songs. The greatest QB hip-hop cuts of all time. You know, the joints that scream grimy. The ones that take you straight to 41st and Vernon. The jawns that helped shape the legacy of Queensbridge and were important in its musical vibrancy. This list isn’t the greatest songs from artists who happen to be from QB. Nah. This is that diggin’ though crates for unreleased white labels shit. That dun lingo laced crack that brought you straight across the 59th Street Bridge into the valley of tough cats and rhymes just as thoro. Or as Mobb Deep would call it “Hell on Earth.”

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Video: Ron Artest Back in Queensbridge

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Artest was back in QB yesterday for his annual Ron Artest BBQ. Funkmaster Flex spun, EPMD performed and Ron Ron shook hands and kissed babies. I hear he also hopped on stage and did “Champions”.

Spotted @ 57thAve