Mobb Deep, aka Prodigy and Havoc, have been in the game since 1993. In those 11 years the face of rap has changed. While the debate over violent lyrics and misogyny continue, the only reason the arguments have become more vociferous is because hip-hop is now globally the most popular music genre. Mobb Deep simply continue to make music regardless of what’s happening around them.
Opening with Amerikaz Nightmare the duo immediately “flip the bird” at all the critics – they know fine and well that the hierarchy of society won’t like what they do. You can feel the aggression coming out of the voices of Prodigy and Havoc; it’s an uneasy experience because you can sense the grinding of teeth and biting of tongues as if something is being held back.
This disintegrates in Win or Lose, helped by sampling Jean Plum‘s Here I Go Again. The track itself is an attempt to portray Mobb Deep’s efforts as being simply for the love of making music but the sentiment seems less than genuine with lines like, “Losing ain’t an option, my destination is top of the world.”
Dump features king of the chorus Nate Dogg. The beat is hard-hitting while the vocals are characteristically calm despite the violent lyrically content. The chorus describes a survival-of-the-fittest type situation. The moral is kill before you get killed. White America and Middle England will love this.
Listeners of Tim Westwood’s radio will instantly recognise Got It Twisted as the instrumental that is just a little bit over-used by the most prominent figure in hip-hop in Britain. The lyrical content is also familiar – basically more violence, but without the angry delivery displayed by the likes of Eminem.
When U Hear The, produced by The Alchemist, has a more eerie beat but the track is quite unnerving as there’s something missing – as the title hints towards. But at just under three minutes it’s not long enough to worry you too much. Shorty Wop has a more underground party vibe going on, stemming from a grinding beat, but it’s still all about “death tolls adding up”.
Real Gangstas, featuring and produced by Lil’ Jon, is a more vibrant track but the beat is identical to every other Lil’ Jon produced song. It even comes complete with “yeah” being randomly shouted throughout. I suppose it’s got comedy value, but how long can Lil’ Jon last before people realise they’re paying for the same beat as everyone else?
Throw Your Hands (In The Air) is refreshing thanks to Kanye West‘s contribution but lo and behold it’s just a matter of time before the talk switches to guns and getting murdered. Kanye’s mate Twista guests on Got It Twisted Remix, which is nice. Especially because it signals the end of the Amerikaz Nightmare.
Having said that, insanely I do quite like this album. If you’re a fan of non-mainstream hip-hop then go and get it – but don’t concentrate on the lyrics unless you enjoy watching paint dry. It’s perfect at low volumes as background music, but I can’t see Amerikaz Nightmare moving enough units to do its title justice.