The Story Of Mobb Deep's Beginning & Juvenile Hell Album Review

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CLASSIC RATING: 3 OUT OF 6

Juvenile Hell is Mobb Deep's debut album and it was released on April 13, 1993. The Queensbridge duo started a few years prior to this when they were known as the Poetical Prophets and were making their demo tape, Flavor for the Nonbelievers. After completing their demo tape they needed a way to get it heard by the right people, so they looked at the inlays of albums to find the offices of record labels located in Manhattan. After writing down the addresses they would get on the number 7 subway and head down to Manhattan and stand outside of the record labels, Prodigy explains ''When me and Hav first met and started doing our demo tape, we’d get the address off the back of albums and go stand outside whatever company with our headphones on and our Walkman and wait for celebrities or somebody that we recognized to come out like, ‘yo, could you listen to our shit?''

You can just imagine the two diminutive rappers in their baggy jeans and baseball caps standing on the busy sidewalks of Manhatten asking people if they can listen to their walkman for a second. After receiving their fair share of no's, a guy named Q-Tip happened to be passing by. Prodigy tells us "Nobody would stop for us. Everybody was like, ‘I ain’t got time for that shit.’ Q-Tip came out the building, we asked him to listen to us and he stopped and he was like, ‘aiight.’ Listened to our shit, he was like, ‘yo, where y’all from?’ ‘We from Queens, yo.’ He was like, ‘yo, I like y’all. Come in the office, I’ma introduce y’all to some people.’ He introduced us to Chris Lighty that day and a bunch of people in the Rush Associated Labels in the Def Jam office — that’s how we met everybody."

Shortly after this Prodigy was signed as a solo artist to Jive Records which was the label A Tribe Called Quest were signed to at the time. During Prodigy's time at Jive, he had an uncredited guest appearance on a track by High-5 titled ''Too Young'' which appeared on the Boyz n the Hood soundtrack. However Prodigy and Havoc (Poetic Prophets) were still unsigned, so they sent their demo tape to The Source and ended up being featured in their Unsigned Hype column in July 1991. This column was quite influential back in the day and it helped them get signed to 4th & B'way Records, and during this time they also changed their name to Mobb Deep. 

From there they started work on their Juvenile Hell album which they recorded during June 1992 and January 1993. They recruited sought-after producers DJ Premier and Large Professor to help with the production because Havoc was only a producer novice at the time. They produced two singles to help promote the album, the Premier-produced ''Peer Pressure'' which didn't make the charts, and ''Hit From The Back'' which charted at #18 on the US Rap Chart despite its overtly sexual theme. 

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Musically Mobb Deep had yet to find their sound and voice on Juvenile Hell and were still figuring out how to make beats and were just finding out how the music industry worked in the general. It wasn't until fellow Queensbridge native Nas dropped Illmatic that they started to develop their own sound by direct inspiration from how brilliant and pure that album's expression was. So coupled with the fear of being dropped from their new label (Loud) if they flopped again, they began the process of creating their classic album, 1995's The Infamous. Prodigy explains, ''We regrouped, we went in the crib — mad 40s, mad weed — and started grinding, really focusing on the production — that came first. What did we want our sound to be like? The lifestyle that we was living, the lifestyle that we grew up in. The beats just naturally came out as some dark, sinister-sounding shit, so the lyrics was easy after that." 

The best songs on Juvenile are the aforementioned ''Peer Pressure'' and ''Hit It From The Back'', while the rest of the album is just okay and features a lot of jazz-tinged beats, which is really not the sound Mobb Deep became known for. There are only nine tracks (not including the instrumental ''skits'' and the remix of ''Peer Pressure'') and most of them are forgettable although ''Project Hallways'' and ''Flavor For The Non Believes'' are a notch above the rest.

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How Classic Is Mobb Deep's Juvenile Hell Album?

CLASSIC: None | GREAT: None | GOOD: Peer Pressure, Hit It From The Back | OKAY: Me & My Crew, Locked In Spofford, Hold Down The Fort, Bitch Ass Nigga, Stomp Em Out, Project Hallways, Flavor For The Non Believes
Alexander Ramalho