With the charts decidedly dominated by acts based outside of the Empire State, loyal listeners of New York City gritty Hip Hop this month turn their lonely eyes and ears to Queens as Havoc and Prodigy traffic the goods with the Black Cocaine EP, Mobb Deep’s first studio release in several years. Five tracks might not be enough for rabid Infamous fans who have patiently waited for this event since Prodigy finished his prison term this past spring; but Black Cocaine soundly and efficiently serves its implicit purpose: to whet appetites until Hav and P drop their next long play. Heavy on threats, light on concepts, Cocaine delivers more familiar Mobb music, that which defined an era and provided the soundtrack to crime rhyme life in the Rotten Apple – especially in the outer boroughs.
Does it devalue Mobb Deep's output from the 1990s if I think they could still possibly perform at that level despite over a decade's worth of evidence to the contrary? Let me clarify: I'm not talking so much about The Infamous or Hell on Earth, those would require reopening a window of commercial relevance for that rugged and raw aesthetic as well as Prodigy and Havoc reemerging as the fatalistic old souls of their early 20s, preferably rocking Hennessy football jerseys. That's probably not going to happen, and it's not entirely their fault. But they don't need any of that to aspire to the standards set by the still-awesome Murda Muzik, their 1999 LP which, in retrospect, could be seen as a forerunner to DipSet's synthesis of deadpan, absurdist violence, and a general disregard for actual rhyming.