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Monday, December 22, 2014

[2014 Review] HAVOC - "Thirteen" / MOBB DEEP - "The Infamous Mobb Deep"

As much as I loved Mobb Deep back in the mid-to-late '90s, especially Havoc's production work and their gritty street rhymes. But then "Infamy" hit, and I was pretty much appaled, something that continued with much of their work on the following Mobb albums; generic rhymes, delivered in a lazy fashion over subpar beats. And their solo albums and guest apperances/productions had the occassional glimpse of greatness. Havoc's solo debut album "The Kush" in 2007 was a rushed affair that really didn't make anything for anyone, while Prodigy's "H.N.I.C. 3" stands as one of the worst albums ever released by a great artist if you ask me. Hav's 2013 album "13" was actually a pretty solid effort though, but I can't say I really have played it too much. However, it turns out the Mobb wasn't ready to be counted out just yet.

Earlier in 2014, Mobb Deep reunited for "The Infamous Mobb Deep" a thirteen track album that by far is the best Mobb album for years. Havoc produced or co-produced about half the joints on it, including stand-outs like "Taking You Off Here", "Murderer" and "Legendary" why peeps like !llmind, Alchemist, Karyanda, and Beat Butcha does a great job on capturing an updated version of that vintage Mobb Deep sound. P and Hav still hasn't recovered fully as the immense lyricists they were one but there's plenty of ill one lines and derpressing QB thug rhymes. It's definitely the duo's illest album since "Murda Muzik" and a pleasant suprise to all of us 41:st side heads that had lost faith in the Mobb as a group. Especially the first half of the first disc is absolutely blazing; the aforementioned "Taking You Off Here" sets the album off lovely with a nice drum and bass combo by Hav underlined by a hypnotic organ grinder provided by !llmind that makes the QB legends murder rhhymes sounds fantastic. "Get Down" features that classic Mobb sound with progressive rhythm and a dusty, sample provided by Havoc that will definitely be a treat to heads who's been following the group for a long time. "Dirt" and "Timeless", produced by !llmind and Beat Butcher, continues the dusty sound slightly reminiscent of "Murda Muzik", and especiallly on the former Havoc comes through with a strong verse. Shame the version with Ghostface wasn't made in time for the album though, because that's on some other shit. Following some more low-key, almost R&B-flavored cuts the hardcore shit returns with "Murdera", "Check The Credits", "Gimme All That" (which with it's hypnotic keyboard sample and pounding drums might be the ultimate standout on the album), and The Alchemist produced "Legendary" which reeds listeners in with the magnificent dark strings and overall grimey sounds, almost reminiscent of a lost "Hell On Earth" cut. All in all Mobb Deep proved in 2014 that they can still put out a pretty damn great album, and for a long time fan that's been dissapointed in most of their recent releases this was nothing short of a revelation. That it cames packed with a bonus CD featuring fourteen tracks from the original "The Infamous..." '94/'95 sessions, before Q-Tip became involved with the album. This is the real treat of the LP, especially the impeccable prevously unreleased version of "Eye For An Eye". While I haven't copped this one yet, it's definitely will find its way into my collection sooner or later.

As a sister album, Havoc's "Thirteen: Reloaded" was perhaps an even more pleasant suprise to me, probably because Havoc's beats between 1994 and 2000 was some of the illest shit I've ever heard. I didn't have much hope for this album, and it even took some time for me to check it out after it was leaked... but man I was blown away by this album! Hav's rhymes on here are not his best, and not anything mindblowing, but he always had a good voice and with beats like this his lyrics doesn't take away from the overall context of the music. While lyrically it's standard thugged out Hav rhymes, the production on "Thirteen Reloaded" is absolutely amazing hardcore QB shit straight through and truly carries the album. I was impressed by the first two singles released "Dirt Calls" and "What I Rep" which showcased a hard hitting yet very simple approach, old school style, that really worked well and had my head nodding like crazy. Turns out that these two joints were far from the strongest joints on the album, as Havoc constantly proves that he's still one of the best producers around and has entered his second coming. Take joints like the hardhitting "Not Yours", and the Mobb Deep collaboration "Uncut Raw", the soulful exercises in "Don't Take it Personal" and "Listen to the Man", the breakbeat funk of "What's Your Problem", and the laid back beauty that is the Cormega collaboration "Fallen Soldiers" which by far is one of the strongest songs on an album filled with strong songs. There's also some tight bonus songs such as "Tear Shit Up" with Mysonne and the majestic yet dark "Champion Winner". In other words Havoc has for the first time in about 15 years released an album that is truly a great front-to-back listen - at least from a production standpoint.

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