Prodigy (real name Albert Johnson) is a rapper from Long Island, New York. Before embarking on a solo career he rose to prominence as one half of the popular East Coast hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, alongside longtime friend Havoc (Kejuan Muchita). The duo met at the prestigious High School of Art and Design in New York City in the late 1980's, originally billing their rap act as the Poetical Poets. When Prodigy and Havoc began experimenting with a more gritty, streetwise sound, the pair chose to represent themselves with the darker and more ominous sounding moniker Mobb Deep.Mobb Deep released their first album Juvenile Hell in 1993, recorded during their senior year of high school. The album was a hit on the streets of New York City, with Prodigy and Havoc managing to sell upwards of 40,000 copies of the independently recorded album by themselves. The pair was picked up by Universal Music Group subsidiary Loud Records (Wu-Tang Clan, Megadeth) in 1995, releasing four albums on the label before it was shut down on 2002. They then released one album independently before signing to their current label, 50 Cent's G-Unit Records (Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo). The pair released their most recent album Blood Money in 2006, which has spawned hit singles "Give It To Me" and "Lets Have a Party". While Mobb Deep's critically acclaimed career continues to this day, Prodigy - widely considered to be the better rapper of the two, with Havoc primarily singing hooks and handling production - has also branched out with a solo career. He originally made his solo debut in 2000, releasing his first album H.N.I.C. (Head Nigga in Charge) on now-defunct label Relativity Records between Mobb Deep's 1999 release Murda Muzik and their 2001 effort Infamy. H.N.I.C. - helmed by such top-notch producers as Alchemist and Just Blaze - performed well on the charts, debuting at number 6 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums index and eventually selling well over 500,000 units. Despite the success of H.N.I.C. Prodigy didn't return to the studio for another solo album for a few years, instead concentrating on working with Havoc in Mobb Deep. His next solo release occurred in mid-2007, when he dropped the 14-track CD Return of the Mac on Koch Records. Originally intended to be a promotional mixtape for his next planned release, H.N.I.C. Pt. 2, Return of the Mac impressed Koch executives so much that it was instead released as a full-length album. The mixtape-turned-album debuted at #32 on the Billboard 200 and produced three singles, among them "New York Shit" and "Mac 10 Handle". Although Return of the Mac's solid sales did a good job of setting the stage for the long-awaited sequel to H.N.I.C., things took a turn for the worse in late 2007 when Prodigy was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm found during a traffic stop in New York City. Though he is currently serving a three year prison sentence, Prodigy managed to record enough material before his conviction to release H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 in early 2008. The album has so far produced two singles, "The Life" and "A, B, C's", with the latter making an appearance in the hit 2008 multiplatform video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
(Not to be confused with the group The Prodigy.)
Prodigy is generally considered to be the more lyrically skilled member of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep. He was born to parents of Ethiopian and Jamaican descent. Prodigy was born with sickle cell anemia and has suffered from the disease throughout his life. Propelled to awareness partially by fellow Queens, New York rapper Nas, who took a similar approach lyrically on his championed "Illmatic" album from 1994, as well as with the aid of a successful single, "Shook Ones Pt. 2," Mobb Deep suddenly found themselves developing a quickly growing cult. A year later, in 1996, Prodigy and Havoc released "Hell on Earth"; debuting at number six on SoundScan, the album found them fully realizing their approach, dropping both evocative beats and cinematic rhymes that communicated the dark side of New York's urban landscape. Thanks to a grim video for "Hell on Earth (Front Lines)" and theatrical Scarface-like photos inside the CD booklet picturing the duo with guns and a mound of cocaine, Mobb Deep had created an elaborate image for themselves that took hardcore gangsta rap to a new level for east coast hip hop. Their next release, "Murda Muzik", was heavily bootlegged while still in its demo stage, leaking rough versions of the nearly 30 songs the duo had recorded onto the streets and over the internet.
Months after the bootlegs leaked and after several pushed-back street dates, "Murda Muzik" was formally released, debuting at number three on the Billboard charts and quickly going platinum on the strength of "Quiet Storm," a song that epitomized the Mobb Deep style. The album was welcomed by critics, who again lauded the group's lucid cinematics, driven primarily by Havoc's production. In late 2000, Prodigy finally released his long-rumoured solo album, "H.N.I.C.", which saw the more lyrically gifted member of the group collaborating with outside producers such as The Alchemist and Rockwilder on tracks that didn't depart far from the trademark sullen Mobb Deep style. Their follow-up, "Infamy", was the duo's last album for Loud, distributed by Columbia Records and was, for some, a disappointment lyrically and musically, while others praised it as amongst the best rap albums of the year. Loud was absorbed by its new distributor shortly afterwards.
Mobb Deep then signed with Jive, under a unique deal that gave the duo its own imprint, Infamous Records, and released "Amerika'z Nightmare", a very uneven effort, which featured production by The Alchemist and Lil' Jon. However, despite a successful single that featured a Thomas Dolby sample. The duo was not happy with Jive, and were let go at its request. The duo took a hiatus afterwards and came back in 2006, signing to 50 Cent's Interscope/Universal-distributed G-Unit imprint. Their well-hyped "Blood Money" was a failure from the money side when compared to fellow label mates like 50 Cent, Young Buck and Lloyd Banks. Some accused the duo of selling out, with their beats and rhymes not up-to-par with previous efforts on Loud.
He completed work on his third solo album "H.N.I.C. Part 2", which was previewed on his official mixtape "The return of the mac" on the independent label Koch Records. The mixtape single and mixtape video are called "Mac 10 Handle," and it shows Prodigy once again reverting to his trademark braids that he had prior to the release of Mobb Deep's 2004 "Amerika'z Nightmare" album; different from the short fade he had from 2004 to 2006. "H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 was released through Voxonic Inc., of which Prodigy is an equity holder.
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