The Quiet Storm felt around the world
“Even when shit gets hard I’m going to / make sure that I’m around to hold you, dowwwwn” sang Nina Sky. That sentiment resounds with me now more than ever since Prodigy’s passing. Alchemist dropped “1st Infantry” with ‘Hold You Down’ as the leading single during an incredibly trying time in my life. Funny enough, I was 11 years old and already a huge fan of Mobb Deep. Everything about ‘Hold You Down’ touched my heart: production, vocals, lyrics, arrangement. This song carried me through days I didn’t expect to finish.
Let me recall some moments a bit further back in time. For most people, our strongest sensory memories come from smells. Just a hint of some fragrance can place us back in that exact moment we first encountered it. For me, this experience comes from hip hop. I have the most vivid memories of my initial encounters with artists and their music. I was born in ’93 and my connection with hip hop began around ’97.
Every morning, my mom tuned the radio to Hot 97 to listen to Starr and Buckwild’s shenanigans but also to bop to the latest hits. My dad played all the grittiest artists. We’d speed around town in whatever car he had at the time blasting Wu-Tang, The Lox, DMX and yes, Mobb Deep.
Although “The Infamous” released in ’95, my dad kept that album in heavy rotation and ‘Shook Ones Pt. II’ was a fan favorite, (I was the fan). Prodigy’s voice next to Havoc’s sounded similar yet simultaneously distinct, and they are distinct. I learned his verse first and not solely because he came on the track first. His verses were dark and at times, ominous yet delivered with such ease and this subconsciously appealed to me. I believe that darkness allowed people all over the world to connect with him and Mobb Deep in general. We all carry some form of darkness regardless of its prevalence in our lives. Still as brazen as he was, Prodigy allowed himself to be vulnerable. He shared with us his battle with Sickle Cell Anemia and his ever-present physical pain. His condition never stopped the realness on which we became so stuck.
Prodigy’s solo projects stood alone well showcasing his versatility as a group member and single entity. The relationship he cultivated with Alchemist grew into one of the greatest musical pairings we’ve witnessed aside from Havoc. His solo discography intertwined with his work with Mobb Deep created a decades long soundtrack for us all. In times of struggle and success, Prodigy was there. Mobb Deep was there. He shone a light on the injustices of the police and violence in Queensbridge. Prodigy schooled us on the importance of integrity and being a person of your word in “The Learning (Burn)”. On that same album, ‘Infamy’, he expressed a more loving nature in “Hey Luv (Anything)” when doing so wasn’t the norm for rappers of his caliber. What a loss hip hop faced on this day, one year ago. Prodigy was a ‘real’ rapper by the standards of anybody who considers themselves a hip hop fan. Though he left us physically to bear the burden of his loss, he is eternal in his music that helps to heal our wounds and lift our spirits. Rest in peace, Prodigy.