Prodigy: The Voice of the New York Streets

To fully understand Prodigy’s place in hip hop history you’re going to need a bit of context.

Take it back to the late 80s and early 90s when New York, hip hop’s mecca, began to lose a bit of its firm and unchallenged grip on hip hop music.

From hip hop’s inception in the late 70’s through Def Jam’s first reign of the 80’s, New York owned hip hop. But for all the stars the east coast blessed the game with at that time, none of their street or gangsta rappers were able to make maintstream breakthroughs.

With N.W.A. and eventually the solo emergence of Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, it was the West Coast that first popularized the streets.

New York came back hard though.

The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, Nas’ Illmatic and Wu-Tang’s Enter The 36 Chambers are all heavily credited with restoring the east coast to prominence following Death Row’s initial push.

But it was Mobb Deep and images from videos like “Shook Ones” came to represent the New York streets.

Biggie represented New York unquestionably but it was clear that with Puff Daddy pulling the strings,conquering the streets of New York was not the highest of his goals.

Mobb Deep kept their focus on the streets of New York with no consideration for pop charts, flashy clothes or even choruses, as P illustrated on his first smash single “Keep It Thoro.”

While Puffy and Bad Boy went for radio friendly samples like “Juicy” and the Isley Brother-assisted “Big Poppa,” the Mobb kept their beats as grimey as a project hallway on the 41st side of Queensbridge.

Think about the game in the late 90’s/ early 2000's. It’s known as the shiny suit/bling era. Prodigy kept bandanas and Timberlands as their uniform throughout.

His was the voice of the New York housing projects. His flow was unorthodox. In you heard the pain of a sickle cell anemic who never hid from it. He didn’t use it for sympathy, but just to let bitch ass niggas know they couldn’t hurt him any worse.

He was a legend before he released his first solo album and continued to build on that legacy over the course of a 20+ year career that saw him enjoying success in the internet era.

As my hip hop fanship began to expand and include a new era of rappers like Curren$y:

Or Domo Genesis:

Prodigy was right there, proving that his voice over an Alchemist beat will forever be in popular demand.

I’m not the one to properly eulogize Bandana P. I’ve interviewed artists in his orbit but never him.

I suggest you check out thoughts from those that were there in the 90s; the OG Jon Carmarnica wrote a great peice for the New York Times or Lupe Fiasco’s brilliant lyrical eulogy.

Premium Pete recently (like last week) completed a Father’s Day podcast with Prodigy that was surely one of his last in depth interviews.

He dropped jewels like he was clumsy. Much like his contemporaries Notorious B.I.G. and 2pac, Proidgy spoke a lot about death in his music.

Perhaps these words reveal his peace with his legacy.

He should be.

Gangstas don’t die we just turn to legends
all we go through is hell what the fuck is a heaven
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