Anyone who claims to be familiar with hip-hop will also be familiar with Mobb Deep. Over the course of a highly influential career, and three particularly influential albums, the New York duo changed the paradigm of East Coast rap. “The Infamous,” from 1995; “Hell on Earth,” from 1996; and “Murda Muzik,” from 1999 — these three records became a blueprint for the gritty production and unsentimental content of pre-Kanye West era gangsta rap.
Prodigy, who founded the act along with fellow rapper Havoc, died on June 20th, in Las Vegas, Nevada after being hospitalized due to complications with sickle cell anemia, and the obits and tributes have been coming in with all the urgency and shock that befits a rapper of his stature. This Instagram post by Nas is what most of us had to go by to confirm the news. Drake, Lupe Fiasco, Nicki Minaj, Just Blaze, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent (who once signed Mobb Deep to his label, G-Unit Records) are just some of the others who’ve made tributes so far.
Prodigy was performing on the ‘Art of Rap’ tour along with Havoc, Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One and Ice-T. He spoke briefly about his struggles with sickle cell anemia in 2000, in an interview with Vibe Magazine, saying: “Tupac, Ja Rule–a whole bunch of people talk about pain. And Tupac, he even said some shit about my sickle-cell [on his song “Hit ‘Em Up”], so that inspired me to make a real song to show niggas what pain is.”
Sickle cell anemia is the most common ‘sickle cell disorder’ or SCD, inherited from one’s parents. Problems develop with the oxygen-carrying hemoglobin protein, which in turn causes patients to develop other medical complications such as swollen hands/feet, bouts of pain, stroke etc. Patients with such a condition is 40 to 50 years. Prodigy (AKA Albert Johnston) was 42. His nihilistic approach to life, he claimed, was an outcome of his “permanent physical suffering.”
According to reports from just two hours ago, we will have to wait a little longer to know exactly what caused Prodigy’s demise, but we do know that an autopsy has been carried out and that it is unlikely that substance abuse were involved. A full toxicology report is expected to take six weeks, so unfortunately that’s just how long we have to wait to know exactly how shit went down. TMZ broke these details, and we’ll update this story once we know what’s what.
Meanwhile, if you’re still reeling from shock, skin up and tune into this gem from way back when: