Prodigy, H.N.I.C.

Prodigy, H.N.I.C. (2000)

Prodigy’s first album, H.N.I.C., finds the Queensbridge MC revisiting many of the themes he introduced through his group, Mobb Deep. Naturally, most of it is geared towards the criminal minded, and no verse is complete without a mean stare or an intimidating pose. He even reworks Boogie Down Productions classic track for “Infamous Minded,” claiming, “You’re a chump, I’m a champ, you’re broke, I’m top dollar.” The sentiment is a reflection of Prodigy’s and by extension Mobb Deep’s current position at the top of the NYC thug heap. Far removed from a gangster’s daily real-world grind of street corners, smoky dives, and musty apartments, Prodigy raps about an abstract world of show-and-prove, with only the hoes he hits and the MCs he disrespects as details. However, he’s not afraid to show weakness – on “You Can Never Feel My Pain” he raps about his lifelong battle with sickle cell anemia, and “Can’t Complain” finds him reminiscing about a brush with death. “Surprised the fuck out of me/Got rubber Glocks pointed at me,” he says, before passing the baton to Twin Gambino. Prodigy gives ample time to his friends on H.N.I.C. Twin Gambino and Chinky add on “Can’t Complain,” longtime collaborator Big Noyd guests on “What U Rep,” Bars and Hooks show up on “Diamond,” and B.K. plays Carla Thomas to Prodigy’s Otis Redding on “Trials of Love.” Also present are Queensbridge rapper Cormega, and B.G. of the Cash Money Millionaires. Prodigy’s gallery of rogues can’t replace his partner in Mobb Deep, MC/producer Havoc, nor can the army of producers (Alchemist and EZ Elpee, among others) who faithfully replicate Mobb Deep’s classic atmospherics. Havoc shows up for only two tracks (“Wanna Be Thugs,” “Delt With the Bullshit”), and his presence is sorely missed. More than a foil for Prodigy’s superior rhyme skills, Havoc represented a strong friendship that guided Mobb Deep’s menacing songs. On H.N.I.C., it’s clear that Prodigy is taking the concept that made his group so famous – intelligent and cold-hearted hoodlums – and codifying it, creating a brand name for profit. Unfortunately, this new copy is weaker than the original. The Alchemist produced “Keep It Thoro,” a great lead single that has given this album a better reputation than it may deserve. Loud Records.

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