Tag Archives: mobb deep

FAREWELL, KING

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Many wars and feuds did Conan fight. Honour and fear were heaped upon his name and, in time, he became a king by his own hand..
Narrator, Conan the Barbarian

Farewell Prodigy. The Mobb changed my life, and I definitely wasn’t alone in this sentiment, from those introductions in seeing the strangely named duo advertising their debut album on 4th and B’way, mentioned in the same breath as accomplished young acts like Illegal and Da Youngstas around that time (despite being comparatively senior at 16/17), to that Black Moon cameo to the Loud-assisted coming of age when that Nudder Brudders sampler hit in late 1994. While many of their equally acclaimed industry friends and foes flamed out post-millennium, the self-contained nature of the crew (having Havoc and Alchemist in the fold meant that the production side never faltered, (a key contributor to the demise of so many other acts) and P’s prolific approach to guest appearances and solo EPs and LPs paralleled the work ethic of one-time nemesis 2Pac. Incidentally, size jibes are irrelevant when you’re that willing to go to work with absolutely all-comers — something that’s even more admirable in the era of the subliminal. Instead of pursuing the A-list or becoming an enigma, despite extolling the no-new-friends mentality long before Drake, Prodigy’s man of the people accessibility was apparent by the glut of beaming fan photos showcasing those tattooed knuckles (and who else was that inked in the rap realm before he got covered around Hell On Earth?) lighting up social media during the last 24 hours. He was a poet who never papered over that pain and the world is significantly worse in his absence. How many other two-man acts have managed to create their own universe, dress, sound and aesthetic like them? They even went full Droog and had their own language (dun beats nadsat). We lost him as a standalone artist and we lost Mobb Deep — condolences to his family and friends. Even at 42, I don’t think he ever reached the physical age of the mind state he hinted at in his late teens. Fortunately, we’ve been left the ultimate soundtrack for shut in the room gloom.

Given that he brought the quotables from 1992 to 2017 and factoring in that take-no-prisoners approach when it came to letting off those opinions, it’s impossible to single out one highlight. I know exactly which portrait was best though. Around summer 1999, The Source ran ads for the much-anticipated H.N.I.C. portrait with a jewel swoosh mid and grey marl clad Prodigy on an ice throne. In his essential autobiography, My Infamous Life, he mentions the campaign,

Steve Rifkind was serious about promoting my album and Loud started running magazine ads for H.N.I.C. six months in advance. Since my album was called Head Ni**a in Charge, I was sitting on a throne in the ads. The idea came from the end of the movie Conan the Barbarian, when Conan sat on a throne like the king of the world.

RAIN

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Back in summer 1996, an Oasis shoot in Arena Homme+ by Peter Robathan showed that, long before Liam did the cod-mod Pretty Green thing, he had a lot of style when it came to outerwear, while Noel has always understood the power of a good coat. Rain was rooted in the north’s inclement weather and the duality of the siblings. Liam opted for Lefthand, Donna Karan and Hugo while Noel gravitated towards Polo Sport and Kenzo. 20 years on, this Ralph (“coat £165 by Polo Sport Ralph Lauren”) is still a highlight. Trips to Bicester to get this one that Christmas yielded nothing. Continue reading RAIN

HELLY-HANSEN & HIP-HOP

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Every now and again I put together the kind of thing that would traditionally be here for somebody else. My friends at size? asked if I could throw together something on Helly-Hansen’s moment in the spotlight back in the 1990s, and its subsequent trend-level moments. It’s kind of a celebration and cautionary tale. I’ll always respect the brand for trying to take that Nautica cash and embracing its hip-hop audience to the point where they ran HH Dead Prez promos.

Got back to the mansion, to divvy up the paper/Helly-Hansen was the brain of the whole entire caper
Q-Tip ‘Drink Away the Pain’

I went from Helly-Hansen to mini mansions
Mase ‘Top of the World’

Had on the Helly-Hansen and a knot that was fat/Had the spotlight beaming on my Astro Black hat
Quasimoto, ‘Hittin’ Hooks’

I’m holding up for ransom, still rock the Helly-Hansen
Action Bronson ‘Brown Bag Wrap’

Continue reading HELLY-HANSEN & HIP-HOP

PEER PRESSURE

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Music videos get mentioned here a lot as an inspiration and introduction to brands for a sheltered Bedfordian back in the day. Big up Ronan at Nike for pointing me in the direction of this one: with the M-O-B-B being the party house band of choice this year (with both Supreme and KITH drafting them in), Havoc and Prodigy (who, despite claiming he invented everything a few years back, is one of the original heavily tattooed east coast rappers, back when MCs were showing off a solitary piece on their shoulders) are getting some coin to compensate for their contribution to hard rock style. With the recent ACG relaunch (and the eventual arrival of some proper winter weather in the UK), the 1992 Peer Pressure video deserves some retrospect. Not only is it the track where P reveals his George “It’s called a T-square” Costanza style dream of becoming an architect, the gear being worn is notable too. In a discussion with Ronan from Nike, he pointed out that Puba isn’t the only Air Revaderchi king — Mobb Deep rocked matching pairs of the 1992 classic in this promo, back when they were on their sickle and teen thug rap wave. The Blink-and-miss Raids, that yellow Carhartt sweat and Air Force 1s with tucked in socks and faded denim were huge looks too. Now, hip-hop videos are cheap again, but this era of getting a crew into a couple of locations and doing a lot of walking towards the camera and behind fences is golden. The sickle (which, if my memory of the Prodigy autobiography is fully operational, was referring to his sickle-cell condition as well as their bleak outlook — though it may have been coincidence) and zip up Champion hoods to give them grim reaper looks is a nice, Queensbridge gothic touch.

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ENTER DA ARTHOUSE

‘Black Moon’ doesn’t involve drivebys on skateboards or anyone hitting their head on the concrete to beat defeat. It’s Louis Malle’s once-maligned, 100 minutes of glorious confusion, originally released in 1975. If you can kick back, spark one up and go with the flow, there’s something in here about nature, sexuality and, um, talking unicorns. I’ve never really read into this film any more than I’ve attempted to decipher Jodorowsky’s very best, but to have this weird contemporary fairy tale in Blu-ray format via Criterion in a couple of months is a winner.

As has been noted before, where, say, ‘The Holy Mountain’ feels like a director’s shamanistic mindset translated onto celluloid with an earnestness that pays dividends and makes the escalating madness so compelling, Malle doesn’t seem quite so strange and there’s a sense that he woke up one morning and decided to do a surreal film. That contrived senselessness and 1970s look actually makes me admire it a little more.

The original poster is one of my favourites, with that block lettering and bird/moon interface, but kudos to the Criterion designer who took on the challenge of not recycling the existing imagery with a Rorschach/face/unicorn hybrid and a particularly elegant font. ‘Black Moon’ isn’t the easiest film to summarize visually, but as ever this imprint comes correct.

Shit. That wasn’t much of a word count, was it?

Time for some barely connected discourse.

Seeing as any mention of Black Moon evokes some NYC spirit of a frequently referenced era, with all this Mobb hype I’ve been desperately hunting 2006’s Supreme Mitchell & Ness ‘Hennessey’ baseball jersey — a definite one that got away — that was part of that collection that included the long-sleeve shirts . I thought the Prodigy book might explain a little more about the ‘Shook Ones Pt. II’ but apparently P may have been too cracked out during the video shoot to shed too much light on them. Why were Hav and P’s tees lacking an ‘N’? Could they only accommodate ‘HENNESY’ or was there more to it? Gotta love the ‘QUEENS BRIDGE 95’ on the back. P knew they were important – hence their inclusion on the legendary 2008 ‘TRENDS PRODIGY HAS SET SINCE 1992 AND STILL IS SETTING IN 2008 AND BEYOND’ list, “#6 CUSTOM MADE FOOTBALL JERSEYS WIT HENNESSYand E&J ON EM“

After his Supreme shoot (the real Skateboard P?), Prodigy has been getting his streetwear on via a Mishka interview and shoot, but 40oz VAN NYC got involved a couple of months ago, with a shirt inspired by the legendary ‘HENNESY’ efforts too. They repaired that spelling as well, and managed to get a shot of the Mobb in the shirts too. That’s good going. Now they’re putting out some H.N.I.C. ones too. Somebody still needs to reinstate the typo.* But as Mr. Ben Rayner recently pointed out, who’s fucking with Project Pat’s ‘Tennessy’ tattoo in that classic font?

*Shouts to Alex for alerting me to this Hennessey mesh jersey sighting. I also recall an anecdote from someone (a skater?) about obtaining the actual one from the video.

On a New York subject, Mr. Charlie Morgan put me onto the Smart Crew’s blog and their ‘NYC A-Z Series’ highlighting some acts of lesser-known gulliness.The Canal Street instalment touches on topics raised in T.J. English’s ‘Born To Kill’ — a worthy supplement to the awesome ‘The Westies’ by the same author.

Aaron Bondaroff linked to a YouTube upload of ‘Apple Juice’ — a 1990 skate documentary made by the crew from New York’s Skate NYC store. You owe it to yourself to visit the awesome NY Skateboarding site’s blog and read the piece about the store there. While you’re there, read the previous entries too. Skate NYC’s roster included Harold Hunter and Jeff Pang, and the images that accompany the blog entry are crazy — the hangtag that accompanied Harold’s own t-shirt is especially amazing, and the below video they’ve unearthed is amazing too. And what’s the current status of the ‘SK8FACE’ documentary?



It was NYC’s skate culture 8 years before this kind of proto-hype lunacy:



When I was a child, I had a plethora of crappy sweatshirts bearing fictional baseball leagues and rally-related imagery. They were hastily cobbled together and I was once quizzed by a kindly doctor as to whether I did actually play baseball, which made me embarrassed and caused me to spin an outlandish lie which I’m sure he saw right through, but opted to play along regardless. That fills me with an odd feeling of embarrassment and nostalgia — the same nostalgia that led me to pick up this dumb but awesome RRL sweatshirt from the American Graffiti collection.

I think there’s some 1930s and 1950s influence in the collection, but beyond the references to some Bonneville Salt Flat hot rod legends, it just reminds me of that goofy sweatshirt. Like Garbstore’s 1950s-themed Mechanic Sweat, this design’s saddle sleeved assembly gives it some extra personality — the detailing on the underarm is even more severe than the British interpretation of vehicle-themed fleece cotton and the mix of marl colours is a winner. It also looks like some pyjamas I had when I was a toddler. Again, I believe that’s a strong selling point when it comes to sweatshirt purchase.

On that note, I recently saw someone selling Polo Western Wear jeans from 1979 on eBay with excitable talk of it being a proto-RRL. Wasn’t that the ill-fated Ralph Lauren GAP hookup that bricked even harder than RRL did in 1993?

INFAMOUS

“Bout to do a photoshoot for supreme…that skater brand.. Freeedom is great!” (Prodigy via Twitter a month ago)

I need to confess an act of hypocrisy. After mocking the notion of e-books as “robo books” I had to buy one on iBooks. Waiting two weeks for Prodigy’s ‘My Infamous Life’ in the UK was a step too far and my hearty appetitive for rap trivia meant I had to catch this one early and it doesn’t disappoint. Prodigy’s on his usual form when it comes to talking shit, and in a realm where even constructive criticism constitutes “shots,” his appetite is doubly refreshing. Having been a Mobb fan since the first album, back when they were referenced alongside Da Youngstas and god forbid, Another Bad Creation, its been interesting to watch P and Hav evolve as an act. Prodigy’s a complex character and he’s got stories for days. If you relished his ALL CAPS listings of what he invented and who’s wack a few years back, you haven’t seen anything yet. Rap autobiographies are usually patchy, written in a self-conscious style, pulling punches and overblown in their execution.

This one might not be pretty like Jay’s ‘Decoded’ but it’s vastly superior simply because while Jigga stays media savvy, and calculated, P’s hot-headed ways mean nothing’s unguarded. Sure, there might be some “Never get the truth get in the way of a good yarn” Chopper Reid type theory at work (see the debate over his Capone and Noreaga tales, but we learn plenty about the man — his mother was in the female vocal group, the Crystals, his friends Nitty and Killer were the kind of guys you wouldn’t want a run in with, he had ways of getting guns and razors into the Tunnel (Prodigy was a big fan of knives and guns), Mobb were actually affiliated with 2Pac’s crew, he’s no fan of Keith Murray or Saigon (he calls Def Squad “Deaf Squid” but there’s not Tru Life talk), he got the dragon hand ink when he was very young and his relationship with Nas is particularly complex. He’s seen UFOs too. There’s few who could top this one in terms of content. Between this and Dan Charnas’s ‘The Big Payback’ the bar for rap-lit has been raised significantly.

Havoc is depicted as an exasperated creative partner, frequently infuriated by his friend’s aptitude for personal chaos, and rumours of crack and the scale of the Bars N Hooks beef are confirmed. So you trivia-junkies and hip-hop gossips know you need it, but lest you think it’s merely one for the rap weirdoes, there’s a strong narrative of severe illness, incredibly bad behaviour, revenge, karma and a redemption of sorts (on P’s own terms) underpinning it all. Rappers can be one-dimensional and few could put out something this deep — though I’d like to see a Scarface autobiography — and it’s smartly timed to remind us why this relatively young veteran of the industry remains relevant. Let’s face it — you need any book contains the line, “(we) chilled in Wu’s hood, smoking angel dust blunts with Rae and Ghost and two white kids in a silver Benz.” Thank the stars for beaming down this intense kingpin of Beemer-driving bleakness and that big mouth of his.

You know it’s time for multiple asides though, right?

Despite their breakout from that brief spate of young ‘un rappers talking that proto-thug talk, the recently sample decoded ‘Shook Ones (Part II)’ changed everything for me with regards to the Mobb and rap sonics in general. I recall hunting for the mysterious promo double vinyl ‘Nudder Brudders E.P.’ (what was up with the Alkaholiks ‘Daaam’ fragrance too?) from Loud in late 1994 for the aforementioned track and its prequel, obtaining it and marvelling at the Helly Hansen jacket themed artwork. Mr. Steve Rifkind did some work with Helly Hansen that popularised the brand with his pioneering street level marketing approach, and like Tommy Boy’s Carhartt commissions , I’ve never been able to track down one of the promo Helly Hansen jackets made specially for the Loud team (these pictures are from an eBay auction I missed out on). I’ve never seen the jacket depicted on the ‘Nudder Brudders’ sleeve beyond that record but I’m sure it exists too.

Reading the book also reminded me of how much I liked Live Squad back in the day — Live Squad affiliate and Queens rapper E Moneybags (gunned down in 2001) recorded a fine recorded a fine record called ‘Regulate’ with a guest spot from Prodigy in 1999 as a bonus track on the ‘In E Moneybags We Trust’ album. Like MobStyle, there’s a realer than real feel to Live Squad (Stretch was slain in 1995) and their finest moment is the ‘Game of Survival’ fifteen-minute mini-movie. Pre empting Master P’s grimy ‘I’m Bout It’ by five years, this ultraviolent trio of music videos with a basic rise and fall of a killer theme is a favourite of mine.

It’s low budget, but it’s well made, laden with bloodshed and bullets to the head — the ‘Murda Muzik’ DVD couldn’t compete with this VHS rarity that got a DVD release a few years back before descending into obscurity. To this day, I’ve never seen such a violent hip-hop video and there hasn’t been a better visual depiction of gangster rap’s brutal excesses circa 1993 (when this was released) either. Signed to Tommy Boy in 1992 when ‘Murderahh’ and ‘Heartless’ were released as one single (both the videos make up the bulk of ‘Game of Survival’) and the title track was released as a promo in 1993.

Just as the Almighty RSO’s ‘One in the Chamba’ got them dropped from Tommy Boy during the ‘Cop Killer’ fiasco, Live Squad’s brutal video (complete with a cop killing) and lyrics meant the ‘Game of Survival’ soundtrack was shelved and the group sent packing. Shouts to Majesty and K-Lowe. Most people remember this as the mind-bogglingly ignorant video where a baby is chucked to its death to the lyrics, “Well the job is done — now we can go.” “What about the baby?’ “Throw it out the window.” Best of all, the end titles list ‘Intellect’ as the man who plays ‘Baby Killer.’ That never fails to amuse me. Because I couldn’t find this significant proto-Worldstar oddity on YouTube, I just upped it in two parts. Watch it and tell me that it isn’t one of the most entertaining rap videos you’ve ever seen.





Even in early Summer 1992, Bonz Malone knew that the Mobb was coming.

While the spinning G-Unit efforts, Twista’s egg timer with diamond dust and Flocka’s Fozzie Bear are grander gestures, Prodigy’s Virgin Mary pendant (I’m weak with religion, so feel free to correct me on that) from 1994/5 press shots (as seen far above) is my favourite piece of rap jewellery. I recall seeing this piece on several artists at the time, but when ‘ twinned it with Carhartt and a Newport, he created one of hip-hop’s strongest looks. I was saddened that it never made an appearance in Miss Info’s excellent ‘Bling Bling’ but in ‘My Infamous Life’ the foundations are set back in the Poetical Prophets days as, “At the Coliseum Mall near Jamaica Avenue, I bought Havoc a big gold link with a Mary Mother of God pendant with a big ruby in it. Hav was happy.”


All this gold talk is reminding me how much I want to see ‘The Devil’s Double’ — this poster beats the plainer Sundance one I upped here earlier in the year. Nobody’s even matched this one on a mixtape cover, and it reminds me of Homer’s lottery daydream again (“Oh, I know what it is. You’re the biggest man in the world now and you’re covered in gold.”).

MARL STAYS IN CONTROL

On these pages I’ve talked too much about sweatshirts — about Champion, about the Dexys’ “Athletic Monk” phase and about how Einstein wore fleece jersey very well indeed. But I like to exorcise my preoccupations on this blog, so I’m happy to repeat myself. “Exorcise” was the intended spelling, because I’ll be damned if I ever wear cotton fleece to actually exercise. I love grey cotton jersey.

It can be worn with anything as an utterly neutral accompaniment. For me, it’s a wearable comfort blanket — I can remember growing up in bootleg ‘A-Team’ and ‘Ghostbusters’ (complete with a lurid Smarties stain) grey sweats, then becoming obsessed with the same colour in skate wear before getting myself some ludicrously oversized Carhartt hoodies in outmeal and grey that had the perfect imperfections that the marl meeting-of-faintly-differing-yarns guarantees.

Some days the repro slim fit feels right, and other days, I want some cheap boxy excess to my sweats. So I keep a stack at hand. It could be made in Japan, Indonesia, Canada, England or assembled in the Dominican Republic (from American components) — it doesn’t matter. Loopwheeled or straight from a sweatshop? Whatever. Raglan sleeves and side panels make for the very best examples of everyman apparel done to perfection.

Sometimes those excessive stitches externally can make the garment too fussy. Less is more, but I mourn for the mass of zig-zags and ribbed shoulders of my £9.99 Gap 1969 variation – missing in action since 2005 . Just as Gap seem to have missed the khaki boat of recent years, much of the year 2000’s 1969 collection was slept-on before it was reduced to little more than a tenner for each component.

Like my white t-shirt quest, each sweatshirt has a shortcoming somewhere that reveals itself during repeat wears and washes. Thus, I’ll keep adding to the pile until I reach my platonic ideal (though it’s worth noting that Our Legacy make a sweatshirt that veers toward my idea of a perfect fit after 20+ washes).
If finding a solitary sweatshirt that ticks the boxes is tough, finding the whole suit is an even tougher brief. Nothing beats the grown-up romper suit styling of the marl tracksuit (hood and zipper optional) for the last word in anti-formality. It’s you’re engaged in physical activity for a living, it’s the non-work suit . Patta’s underrated outfit with Reigning Champ last year has the best track pants I’ve worn in a long, long time. They’re heavyweight, but they’re not excessively ASBO baggy.

Despite working in an environment devoid of dress code, my plan to visit work in them fizzled out because a. They made me look like a mature sports science student who’s going to get kicked of his course and b. Because I didn’t want to associate loungewear with the workplace — that’s separate worlds colliding.

Still, the full tracksuit shouldn’t be confined to the sofa and the airport. It shouldn’t just be for the wifebeaters, shoplifters and crap degree seminar attendees. Executed correctly, it’s a work of art (Timberlands are optional). Just as the tracksuit deserves an open mind, marl doesn’t need to be grey. Pink and orange marl are strong looks. But the wings + horns Large Loop Terry Sweat Suit (a pretty late arrival, seeing as there’s only a month or two left of probable full sweatsuit weather left) as brought to my attention by Hypebeast, but available from Canada’s Haven are more proof that CYC keeps on running this sweatshirt game. It’s officially the best item of clothing I’ve seen this year.

Other good things spotted today:

The UK’s Beat Butcha producing Havoc’s pre-Prodigy release banger ‘Bang On My Bullshit’ (when P gets on Twitter, the current Sheen-mania will subside in favour of Albert’s trouble-making) is worth repeat listens. I don’t fuck with too much UK hip-hop, solely because our scene is corny as fuck, but Beat Butcha’s got beats for days and he’s had Sean Price and Tony Yayo (over the Hav beat) blessing his productions. UK stand up.

The terrifyingly prolific homie Maxime Buechi’s Flickr account is probably better than yours: www.flickr.com/photos/sangbleu

‘PORT’ finally hit shelves. Of course, it couldn’t live up to those breathless pre-release Vimeo testimonies, but it’s very good. It’s content-heavy without being oppressively dense with text, beautifully designed and well written. It still doesn’t feel fully formed — as is the case with any launch issue (and I always feel like an idiot buying anything billed as “Intelligent”), but the Commentary section is better than anything I’ve read in any other magazine lately. There’s a decent article on Nike’s Sports Research Laboratory and Innovation Kitchen, plus Margaret Howell extols the virtues to the duffle coat in here too. I hope it proves successful. There’s a decent Creative Review interview with guys behind the magazine here.