Today the world lost a certified, undeniable Hip-Hop legend. Those are not words to be thrown around lightly but for someone of the likes of Albert Johnson, known by his millions of fans across the globe as Prodigy, those words can only scratch the surface. At age 17, fresh out of the streets of Hempstead and Queensbridge, Prodigy and his partner producer/rapper extraordinaire Havoc would first start the duo Poetical Prophets which quickly gained them the famed Unsigned Hype slot in the Source Magazine at the peak of its circulation. Soon to follow was their official debut as Mobb Deep on their first album Juvenile Hell in 1993 which established their style of dark, gritty, street corner rhymes and laid the foundation of a rap career that would span over 20 years.

Prodigy of Mobb Deep passes away at age 42

Mobb Deep’s second album The Infamous… would send a shockwave through the music industry and popular culture that is still felt today. The 1995 album would spawn the lead single “Shook Ones Pt II,” a song that is considered a cornerstone of East Coast rap music. Pitchfork places the record at #25 in its Top 200 Songs Of 90s, but its importance to the culture cannot be quantified in numbers; the song is a generational piece of music that literally defines a moment in time. After the drums drop and eerie strings creep in, and Prodigy begins his verse, “I got you stuck off the realness, we be The Infamous/ You heard of us, official Queensbridge murderers,” it becomes very clear to the listener that this is a different type of rap song, this is realness. “Shook Ones Pt II” has been sampled by the likes of Mariah Carey and Sublime, and Prodigy’s famous words “I’m only 19 but my mind is older” are now spoken in the Tony-winning hip-hop-themed play Hamilton. The instrumental of the song can be heard on televisions daily as it’s featured heavily in Eminem’s hit film 8 Mile, and used as the beat for the final epic rap battle of the film. Alongside Capone-N-Norega and Tradegy Khadafi, Mobb Deep went to lyrical war with Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur as part of the mythical West Coast East Coast beef with the record “LA LA.”

The Mobb would go on to release other classic LPs such as Hell On Earth, Infamy, and in 2000 Prodigy would follow up with his stellar solo debut _H.N.I.C. _That album received acclaim from critics and the streets quickly fell in love with the lead single “Keep It Thoro.” After a project with long time collaborator Alchemist and the release of H.N.I.C 2, Prodigy faced some legal issues and was incarcerated for a gun possession charge in 2007.

After his release in 2011, I had the blessing of working with him on a music video for a single titled “Most Dangerous” featuring his good friend Kliffnotez, who also has passed away, and King Chip. We shot the video all around Los Angeles and didn’t have a lot of time to get things done, but I always remember him being calm and cool, just telling us that we would get it right, which we did. It was like playing a pickup baseball game with Derek Jeter, he was a real veteran.

Hip-hop pays its respects to Prodigy on social media after his death

Working with him on that video was an incredible experience and we developed a relationship that would span these past years throughout many interviews, events and just time spent kicking it. Most recently we joined forces for AZ’s newest single “Save Them” featuring Raekwon and P. We had AZ of The Firm, Prodigy of Mobb Deep and Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan together and the energy was incredible. Again while there was some craziness and stress around the set, he was smiling and cool as always. We spoke about Kliff who had passed from cancer and Prodigy had so much love for him. Prodigy will always be remembered as a Hall of Fame MC and a just very good person, a real New York City veteran. Rest In Power, king.