prodigy

The Mobb Deep rapper had recently performed in Las Vegas before falling ill.

Prodigy, the Queensbridge rapper who was known as one-half of Mobb Deep and remains one of the more influential East Coast rap acts of the 1990s died early Tuesday morning. He was 42. The news was first reported by Nas and later confirmed by P’s publicist in a statement released to XXL.

“It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.”

Where do you begin with Prodigy and his impact on hip-hop? From 1993’s Juvenile Hell, you knew Mobb Deep, that rugged, street-wise partnership he had with Havoc was going to do something. You knew by the time 1995’s The Infamous released that they had touched off an atom bomb in regards to edgy, street hip-hop in New York.

There’s a time period in New York rap history in the mid-1990s where the best group and arguably best rapped both hailed from Queensbridge. Nas’ Illmatic arrived in 1994. Five months later, The Notorious B.I.G. released Ready To Die. Nearly a year to the day of Illmatic, The Infamous arrived with the menacing train screech of a synth and drum pattern that was “Shook Ones, Pt. II.”

Prodigy’s biggest gift was being a wordsmith and at times being ahead of the curve with everything. Luring people in with a massive first verse was one of his prized traits. At 19, “Shook Ones” became he and Mobb Deep’s manifesto. At 22, he managed to be slicker with the wordplay and more. Mobb Deep had elevated themselves to prized New York possessions by 1999’s Murda Muzik. Even if the genre was slowly moving further away from hardened emcees, Mobb continued to hold on. “Quiet Storm Pt. II” held a showcase Lil Kim verse and Prodigy’s voice dribbling on the beat like Rod Strickland in his prime.

Where do you begin with Prodigy and his impact on hip-hop?

He rapped about his battle with sickle cell anemia, addiction and depression. He found near perfection on “Keep It Thoro” from his 2000 solo debut, HNIC. He continued to string together releases long after the world had relegated Mobb Deep to being relics of those ’90s glory days. Through it all, they were still street cats and Prodigy one of the few who would openly discuss the Illuminati and more on records. “Secret society, trying to keep their eye on me,” he rapped on 1995’s “I Shot Ya (Remix)” from LL Cool J. Years later on “Illuminati” from H.N.I.C. 2, he continued to speak on the issue.

Original rap blogger, official Queensbridge murder. Infamous P.