by Alex Shtaerman
Currently serving out a three and a half year jail sentence in relation to gun possession charges brought against him in 2007, Prodigy, while incarcerated, is by no means broken. Since dropping H.N.I.C. Pt 2 in April, P has continued to work on everything from his autobiography to screen plays and maintains his visibility with fans via his official web blog www.HNIC2.com. As one half of legendary duo Mobb Deep, Prodigy remains steadfast in his conviction to carry the mantle of classic ‘90’s New York Hip-Hop into the new millennium. While countess artists that followed him have fallen by the wayside, it’s no coincidence that the MC who told you “there ain’t no such thing as halfway crooks” has continued to remain relevant with fans around the globe. In a recent interview conducted from behind bars, we talk to P about his plans for the future, the early years of Mobb Deep as well as his views on Barack Obama’s candidacy to become America’s first Black President.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You’ve been incarcerated for several months now It’s often said that when someone’s freedom is taken away, one can see or realize certain things about oneself that may not have been apparent before. Have you had any kind of experiences that might fall under that category where you realized things about yourself you didn’t notice prior to being incarcerated?
PRODIGY: Nah, same old me, ain’t nothing changed. The only thing I realized is my connection with God, you know what I mean? I fixed my relationship with God; so basically that’s the only thing, really. I was a spiritual person but me and God was always beefing, you know, because of my sickle cell pain. I was going through a lot of personal problems with my God beliefs. So, basically I’m older now and I done seen some shit being in here and I done been through some shit where I know God is always watching my back and he’s always watching over me.
I hate to call God a “he” or a whatever because nobody know what God is; all we know is it’s an energy and it really exists. It’s something that really exists and that’s what I found out being in here. Because I’ve been through some shit in here and I know that God got my back.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Just to give the fans some perspective, yourself and Havoc met at a young age and you’ve been recording Hip-Hop ever since. You’ve lived the culture pretty much your whole adult life. Going back to the very beginning, when the two of you first formed Mobb Deep and were in the process of learning the game and sharpening your skills, what would an average day be like?
PRODIGY: An average day would be like, being in the studio, like twenty 40’s, a poor man’s dinner, which was rice and gravy, or maybe on a special day we might throw some chicken in there, and also mad blunts. Downstairs we’d be making beats and writing rhymes all night and day. Sometimes we wouldn’t even eat and just go with 40’s and the weed. So that’s what average days and nights were like back then. [Me and Havoc] were always together, everyday, so we would just work on the music nonstop. It wasn’t never no plan, it was just what we did nonstop. We would either be in Queensbridge or in my grandma’s basement in Hempstead, Long Island. The vibe would always be real high and real drunk. So we’d just drink, smoke and make beats, write rhymes and joke around. And then after we got too tired we’d fall asleep.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When you look at the Mobb Deep discography, without a shadow of a doubt there are at least three classic albums, The Infamous, Hell On Earth and Murda Muzik. A lot of artists that came up though the 90’s and are sometimes compared to you can barely claim one classic LP. It seems like sometimes people over-focus on “Shook Ones” and forget how many classic tracks and albums you have in total. Do you feel like that’s the case sometimes?
PRODIGY: Yea, I guess. Whatever kind of people those are, they’re just ignorant, because if you look at Mobb Deep, there are endless [amounts of] songs and endless albums. You can’t just say like “ohh, Shook Ones was the best shit”. Nah, that whole entire album [The Infamous] was the best shit; “Survival Of The Fittest”, “Give Up The Goods”, “Up North Trip”, “Temperature’s Rising”, you could just go on and on and on, “Right Back At You”, “An Eye For An Eye” with Nas and Rae[kwon], there are endless songs on that album. So whoever just remembers “Shook Ones”, they don’t know too much.
“Nothing stops our train; it just keeps going
and going and going, that’s why I be here
[in jail] in 2008 and still dropping albums”
RIOTSOUND.COM: When you were an adolescent and still just a fan of rap music, who were some of the artists that inspired you to start rhyming?
PRODIGY: Run DMC, LL Cool J, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane all the OG’s, you know what I mean. I was like ten years old and listening to they music, those are the ones that gave me [the inspiration] to do what I do today. So [I pay homage] to them.
RIOTSOUND.COM: As the situation with G-Unit and Interscope appears to be getting a bit shaky and differences between Jimmy Iovine and 50 Cent continue to get aired out in the public, a lot of fans want to know if and how that affects artists such as yourself and Havoc? As far as your recording career, does the situation that G-Unit is going through right now impact you in any way?
PRODIGY: It doesn’t affect us, me and Hav we do what we do regardless of anything. Nothing stops our train; nothing stops this money train. Whoever is in the way is getting knocked the fuck down and ran the fuck over, you know what I’m saying? Nothing stops our train; it just keeps going and going and going, that’s why I be here [in jail] in 2008 and still dropping albums. So whatever Fif is going through with Interscope and Jimmy [Iovine], that’s what they going through, but that don’t stop Mobb Deep’s money train.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Joe Budden recently released another track directed at you; do you have any plans to respond to this latest attack?
PRODIGY: Joe Budden, I don’t even acknowledge Joe Budden, I don’t listen to his music, I don’t know nothing about him. So if he got a song, I mean, I’m never going to hear it ‘cause I don’t look for Joe Budden’s music. And I’m sure radio is never going to play it and nobody around my way, in Queens, The Bronx, or wherever I be at, they never going to play it because that’s not the type of shit that we listen to. So whatever he doing, he’s doing in his own little world and it doesn’t affect us at all.
RIOTSOUND.COM: For those that might not know, how did the beef with Budden originate?
PRODIGY: Ain’t even no beef with Joe Budden, there ain’t no beef with that nigga. Basically he probably might just be upset because I said that I don’t care to listen to his music. You know, I choose not to listen to Joe Budden, that’s just not what I listen to. So I guess he’s catching a bit of a bitch tittie attack because I said that. I mean, beef is something different. Beef is where niggas is gettin’ beat up and shit like that, it’s violent. But whatever [Joe Budden] is sayin’, I don’t know what the fuck he talkin’ about. He don’t want no beef for real, trust me, he can’t handle that.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Despite being incarcerated, you are obviously still very active as far as outlining your future goals and setting the stage for your return to Hip-Hop. What do you plan on spending time on while you serve out your sentence?
PRODIGY: While I’m going to serve out my sentence I’m going to be writing books, movies, stuff like that. I got an autobiography about to drop so right now I’m just finishing that up. I’m just working. I’m on my blog, my website www.HNIC2.com and also I’m writing for Vibe.com. So that’s what I’ve been doing as well as planning for my future when I come home. [Once I’m out] I’m going to drop all my projects, I got novels, I got movies, I got a lot of things happening that I’m working on.
“I don’t see him asking any of those questions, I see
him being a State’s nigger that the White people could
trust to put on TV. Dangerous niggas are the ones
who speak their mind and speak to serious questions
that people are scared of and are scared to ask”
RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you sometimes worry about how much longer Hip-Hop is going to last as a dominant culture? If you figure that Hip-Hop started with Kool Herc in 1973, that’s 35 years ago. Certainly one can say that R&B, Jazz, Funk and Rock N Roll aren’t what they used to be 30 years ago. What do you think the chances are that Hip-Hop will start to fade out and something else will start to creep in over the next several years?
PRODIGY: Rap music is rebel music. It’s for the hood, by the hood and it started in the hood. It’s not for MTV, it’s not for BET. It’s not for pop radio stations. It’s for the hood, straight up, period, no more, you know what I’m saying? [Rap music] is not for the suburbs, it’s not for anybody else but the hood. And then the whole rest of the world – radio, TV and all these other people – they come to the hood and be like “oh, what’s that ya’ll are listening to? Hey, we wanna be a part of that too”. ‘Cause they felt left out, and that’s how [rap music] got poppin’, ‘cause the whole rest of the world felt left out.
In the hood we had our own style – our own style of dancing, our own way of dressing, our own music and then the whole rest of the world was like “hey, what the hell is that?” And so they wanted a piece of it. So rap ain’t really going nowhere because real rap music is rebel music in the hood. All that other shit is just trendy bullshit. All that other shit that you see on the radio and see in heavy rotation on TV, that’s trendy bullshit that’s here today, gone tomorrow. Real rebel music is never going nowhere, it’s always going to be poppin’. That’s what I do for a living and I know I ain’t going nowhere no time soon.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Today, in Hip-Hop, more than ever, we do tend to see an overwhelming amount of diluted content. Can that, in your view, contribute to a decline?
PRODIGY: Uhmm, nah, like I said, people call rap music Hip-Hop and vise versa, but real rap music is rebel music, it’s for the hood, period. For the street. See, we’re the voice of poverty and poverty never goes out of style because poverty is not a gimmick. People are hungry, people are broke and people are living fucked up in the Black community and minority communities. And rap music is the voice of poverty, so that other trendy shit, whatever, whatever, that’s not rap music, that’s not rebel music. That’s what TV and radio wants to turn rap music into. That’s what corporate America and the corporate world want rap music to sound like, to water it down. To say “this is what you do if you want your video on the TV” or saying “this is how your records should sound like if you want to be on the radio”. That’s not what we do, that’s not rebel music. Rebel music goes against the grain. We don’t give a fuck about radio and the corporate world. All we care about is the hood and poverty, period.
RIOTSOUND.COM: In a recent interview you voiced some doubts about Barack Obama and his candidacy for president. While most politicians are, of course, cut from the same cloth and questioning them is always valid and essential, the thing I want to ask you is if you got a chance to see Obama speak in front of a quarter of a million people in Berlin and if you had any thoughts on that?
PRODIGY: Nah, I didn’t get a chance to see any of that, but I read Obama’s memoirs, his little autobiography. I check out his little speeches and hear him on the news saying his little things, and it’s cool. I’m happy that a Black man is running for President and it’s looking like he’s probably gonna win. He got a strong strong chance of winning, and that’s great, I’m happy for a Black man, it’s about goddamn time. But still, in all, what is he really gonna do? Alright, so a Black man is President, big fucking deal, now what’s gonna happen? You know what I’m saying? If he’s not going to do anything and make any serious significant changes and bring up serious questions that need to be brought up and answered, then he’s really just a puppet for these motherfuckin’ corporate America and the [ruling class]. He’s just a puppet if he’s really not going to bring up these questions that need to be answered; like why certain things are happening and why certain things are not happening?
I don’t see him asking any of those questions, I see him being a State’s nigger that the White people could trust to put on TV. Dangerous niggas are the ones who speak their mind and speak to serious questions that people are scared of and are scared to ask. Right now they scared of the rebel motherfucker that’s gonna get on TV and say some shit that they don’t wanna give the answer to because the answer will incriminate them and expose how corrupt they are. So they put a State’s nigga like Obama on TV and let him run for President, ‘cause he’s safe. So that’s what I see in that, just a regular safe nigga. He just like a video that gets on MTV, ‘cause he’s clean.
RIOTSOUND.COM: So at the end of the day, you’d probably say that the whole call for “change” is largely symbolic and not as much will come of it as some people may believe?
PRODIGY: Like I say, he’s just a safe nigga saying safe things. If he was a real motherfucker up there bringing up serious questions that need to be answered, questions that they try to sweep under the rug because they don’t want them answered because then it would expose how corrupt they are – well, [Obama] wouldn’t be up there if he was answering those questions. All those stank ass people in the crowd be like “yeaaaaahhhh, vote for change!” That’s bullshit, they don’t really want to vote for change, they want to vote for the safe nigga. So I’m not trying to hear any of that bullshit, you can’t fool me. You might be able to fool all the other 85%, just like the Gods and the Earths used to say. You could fool the other 85% but you can’t fool me.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Going back to Hip-Hop – this is probably a hard question to answer since you’ve worked and had so much success with them – but besides Havoc and Alchemist, who have been some of your favorite producers to work with over the course of your career?
PRODIGY: The RZA, Just Blaze, Sid Roams, a few other guys are out there doing their thing, Kanye West, a few L.A. producers out in Cali. There are a lot of hot dudes out now doing their thing. But there are only a few producers that can fuck with Hav and Alchemist.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When you and Havoc first met you both used to draw and were both talented in that regard. Do you still ever have time to do that?
PRODIGY: Yea, I might do it now and again, just a little drawing or something. I got my autobiography coming out soon and that’s definitely going to have a lot of my scrap drawing and just a lot of my drawings scanned in and put into the book. And with that people will be able to see what’s really in my head, that’s basically what my whole book is about, you get to come into my world and see everything. You get to read my story plus I got all my original rap pages, like all the different songs that I did, I got all the original rap pages [that I wrote the lyrics on] scanned into the book. So you’ll see all that in my autobiography.
For more news and info on Prodigy stay tuned to www.HNIC2.com