Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The landscape that Mobb Deep have always painted is one with something a few levels rougher than a matte finish. It's the very opposite of glossy. The place that they have rapped about for over 20 years now is one of those sketchy places where some folks are forced to live and try not to die in. It's a place where you might be able to grow up, but just barely, and even if you do, the reality that you've come to know is one that's so grotesque and hardened that you will feel as if there are few other places that you could fit into. A person has few options in these urban battlefields, amongst unavoidable squalor and they're taught to eat or be eaten at the earliest of ages. It's a sentiment that's baked into their nursery rhymes and it floats through the air, with the weed and cigarette smoke.
The lifestyle of protecting yourself and those that you love is not exclusive to living in the projects, but when Prodigy and Havoc rap about the survival of the fittest, it's a full-time occupation. The desperate times and the desperate measures used are habitual. Breaking the chain is near impossible and so the only thing that can be done is to perfect the defenses, to shore up all the weaknesses and to build the callouses, get as close to unfuckwithable as you can get. It's the only way, because as Mobb Deep reminds us on "Taking You Off Here," "My gun don't premature nuthin'. It busts at the exact time it's supposed to bust."