Prodigy X Alchemist: “Albert Einstein” Review
I haven’t kept very good track of Mobb Deep over the years –the duo kind of spiraled into the dumpster in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, despite having at one time created some of the best hard core East Coast hip hop that the genre has seen. After a handful of bad albums I unconsciously began viewing Prodigy and Havoc as “past masters,” products of a bygone age. I knew they were still around – I just didn’t expect all that much from them anymore. That all changed back in 2007 when Prodigy released a solo mixtape with West Coast producer Alchemist called Return of the Mac. The album was a triumph – a true return to form. Despite it though, I generally viewed P’s “comeback” as a welcome but brief pause in a steady decline. When he was jailed for gun possession in 2008 (he served three years) I still all but closed the book on his career. Doing so, however, was a mistake. Prodigy has gone on to deliver some very strong work since Return in his H.N.I.C. series, and not only that, his second official collaboration with Alchemist, Albert Einstein, is consistently great.
With Alchemist at Einstein’s helm, laying down beats that surprisingly skew jazzy adult contemporary, Prodigy delivers some of the best lyrical work he’s produced to date. NYC may have changed but to P it will always be the same mean streets of his youth – a “kill or be killed” jungle of hard edges and cold souls. Prodigy is kind of the living embodiment of Nas’s “NY State of Mind.” And he hasn’t mellowed at all. In a stream of consciousness style P schizophrenically raps about his skills, his authenticity, and his wealth with the dead-eyed demeanor of someone who doesn’t truly get any warmth or pleasure from any of those things. His hardness can be a little frightening at times and he often comes off as just a little bit crazy (particularly in “Confessions” when he tells a story of killing someone “who had it coming” while he is walking his young daughter home from school). At other times P’s tireless me-against-the-world struggle starts to sound just a bit one dimensional. However Alchemist’s dexterity and range with the production work tends to lend diversity to the sound whenever P starts to sound a little one-note. The producer/emcee relationship alchemy that has grown between the two is truly worthy of the producer’s nom de guerre and with Albert Einstein the duo has shown that Prodigy still has plenty of angry talent to share with the world in the 21st century.