How Classic Is Mobb Deep's The Infamous? | 1995 Album Review

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CLASSIC RATING: 5 OUT OF 6

"The Infamous" is Mobb Deep's second album and it was released April 25, 1995, and it features guest appearances from Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Q-Tip (who also helped produce and mix the album). Despite its hardcore sound, it produced several successful singles, most notably 'Shook Ones Pt. II' which peaked at number 7 on the US rap chart. "The Infamous" is also recognized as a major contributor to the East Coast Renaissance together with ''Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)'', ''Illmatic'' and ''Ready to Die''.

During the Spring of 1993 Mobb Deep (still in their late teens) dropped their debut album ''Juvenile Hell''. And despite having stellar producers such as Large Professor, DJ Premier and Kerwin Young (Public Enemy) they were unable to achieve significant commercial or critical success. Even the relative success of their single 'Hit It From The Back' was not enough to avoid being dropped from their label. So during the summer of 1993, Loud Records was looking for another group similar to the Wu-Tang Clan (who they had already signed) and they came across Mobb Deep and signed them in the fall of 1993. The subsequent recording of the album began in early 1994 and was completed almost one year later in early 1995.

The first major change on The Infamous was the decision to produce most of the album on their own. Havoc then took over the production responsibility despite having no actual producing experience at the time and what he knew he learned from watching others. As we know now his dissonant, minor-key piano samples and heavily filtered basslines would become a hallmark of the mid-90's east coast sound. The first example of this sound is 'Survival of the Fittest' which features a somber piano loop which is interspersed with a horn part that warns the listener of the dangers of street life with Prodigy famous lines:

"There's a war goin' on outside no man is safe from
You could run but you can't hide forever
From these streets that we done took
You walkin' witcha head down scared to look
You shook 'cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks"

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On 'Eye for an Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)' Mobb Deep get visits from fellow Queensbridge native Nas and Raekwon from the borough of Shaolin. The beat is spooky and driving especially Raekwon shines on this track as it sounds like the track could have been off his debut "Only Built For Cuban Linx" which came out later that year. Next up is the first chilled out beat 'Give Up the Goods (Just Step)' which is pleasantly melodic and a nice break stylistically from the other beats. It's produced by Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest (he produced three tracks) and is one the best tracks on "The Infamous" with engaging verses and a quality chorus. The laid-back vibe continues for the next couple tracks with 'Temperatures Rising' and 'Up North Trip' before it's back to hard headbanging beats on 'Q.U. - Hectic' which is similar to the "Hell On Earth" sound with its dramatic keyboards which are typical for that album while the emotive horn stabs are more at home on this album.

The last quarter of the album sees another visit from the Wu-Tang with Raekwon bringing Ghostface Killah along for the ride on 'Right Back At You' which is a slow burner with it's heavy double bass and string instrumentation while 'Drink Away the Pain (Situations)' sees Q-Tip grab the mic as well as handle the production. After the boys are done drinking away their sorrows they lay down one of the most famous hip-hop anthems of all-time with 'Shook Ones Pt. II' which exemplifies the Mobb Deep sound perfectly with it's low key and somber piano loop which is interspersed with an alarming sample from Quincy Jones' 'Kitty With A Bent Frame' which has a chilling effect as Prodigy and Havoc famously state

Son, they shook
‘Cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks
Scared to death, scared to look, they shook
‘Cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks
Scared to death, scared to look
Livin' the live that of diamonds and guns
There's numerous ways you can choose to earn funds
Some get shot, locked down, and turn nuns
Cowardly hearts and straight up shook ones, shook ones
He ain't a crook, son, he's just a shook one

 The CD inlay for Mobb Deep's 1995 album "The Infamous"

The CD inlay for Mobb Deep's 1995 album "The Infamous"

How Classic Is Mobb Deep's The Infamous Album?

CLASSIC: Survival of the Fittest, Give Up the Goods (Just Step), Right Back At You, Shook Ones Part II - EXCELLENT: The Start of Your Ending (41st Side), Eye for an Eye (Your Beef Is Mines), Temperature's Rising, Up North Trip, Q.U. - Hectic, Drink Away the Pain (Situations) - AAIGHT: Trife Life, Cradle to the Grave, Party Over - SUBPAR: None - SHOOK: None
Alexander Ramalho