Havoc Shares His Favorite Prodigy Verses
Havoc remembers his late Mobb Deep partner with a playlist of his favorite Prodigy verses and reminisces on his lyrical magic.
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Does “Shook Ones” ever get harder to hear as time passes?
When he first passed, it was crazy. I was going to do a couple of tribute performances and I found myself [in Connecticut at Ice T’s The Art of Rap Festival performing the song for the first time since he passed, tearing up behind my shades. I was tearing up ‘cause I started realizing that he’s never gonna be on the stage with me again. It felt strange, really.
What do you remember from the first time hearing him spit on “Shook Ones”?
I thought my verse was good but when I heard his verse… [Laughs] It was like a brand new person came out of the booth ‘cause we had did an album prior, and it took me a while to realize how dope he was. I was so close to him that I wasn’t really realizing the magnitude of his skills but as the years went on, I was like, damn, this dude is crazy and I always let him know that. He would say the same thing about me but I’d be like, ‘You’re trying to gas me.’ He was humble like that.
What line from P was most memorable on “Quiet Storm”?
There’s two [versions of] “Quiet Storm” – one with just him on it and the other with me, him and [Lil’] Kim but the most memorable line from him that just popped into my head was “Check out the portrait at the roundtable, my Dunn speaking with his twin ghost.” It’s gangsta ‘cause we had someone in our crew [Twin Scarface] who died and was a twin. We was doing the Hell on Earth album cover photos, and we took a roundtable picture. We had one of the twins there, with his brother right next to him kind of translucent. So that’s one of the lines that sticks out to me most.
Do you remember the first time you ever heard him rap?
Yeah, it was in high school. We was both on the same level at the time, and I was like this kid is dope. He had the look and I definitely was diggin’ him from the first time I heard him spit.
We both loved music and we both wanted to make it in the music industry. We wasn’t gonna stop until we achieved that and we made it happen. At the time, it was hard because there wasn’t no social media. Nobody was telling you how to get on so we just figured it out together.
What was special about P’s contributions to “Hell On Earth”?
We was coming off The Infamous album, and we had huge success with it. We felt a little bit more experienced so we were taking the reins for our career. I think we was certified vets at that time and we was coming into our own. P was definitely solidifying his place as an MC on the Hell on Earth album and the “Hell on Earth” song. His lyrics were solid. I remember sitting there watching him write it and then him going into the booth, spitting it [and thinking] ‘Of course, he would write some dope shit like that.’
What was most memorable about “Survival of the Fittest”?
What’s memorable is actually the video shoot. We did “Shook Ones.” We had success and we were like let’s do “Survival of the Fittest.” P’s verse, it might be the best starting line in hip-hop history, arguably, but I’m biased. “There’s a war goin’ on outside no man is safe from.” Give me some other hip-hop phrases to battle that one. It was dope then, and it’s even doper now. There’s always a war goin’ on outside, inside. It still applies.
With mental health a trending topic in hip-hop, how do you think the younger generation can get a better handle on the challenges they face especially in the age of social media?
I think the way the youth can get a handle on mental issues is to talk about it. You can’t keep that kind of stuff in the dark ‘cause then it’ll fester and eventually somethin’ worse will happen. Just thoughts. The way to handle that is to talk about it, whether it’s your peers, on wax or off. Just get it out. Don’t keep it pent up inside and don’t worry about what others think. You have to get it off your chest for you. That’s like your self-therapy and that’s also reaching out for help when you speak it out.
What sticks out in your mind when you hear P on “Give Up The Goods”?
When I hear P on “Give Up The Goods,” I just think about Queens all day, like how he just repping Queens. That make me proud to be from Queens when you hear the first line, “Queens get the money long time no cash.” Queens is the best borough and he repped it well.
How about “Temperature’s Rising”?
That was a true story about my brother [Killa Black] and what stands out about P’s lyrics is how he nailed the situation. He told the story of what was happening at the time, and he described it to the T. He’s a good storyteller, and it was a true story but when you listen to his lyrics, you can vividly imagine what was going down. You almost could see it.
What can you recall about “The Learning (Burn)”?
That was another dope Prodigy verse. What stands out about that to me other than the lyrics was actually performing it. I used to love performing that song with him. He just didn’t give a fuck on that verse. He was just spittin’ his shit like he usually do. He brought the fire to the track per usual.
What are some of your memories of “Up North Trip”?
How he was telling a story of going to visit another projects besides Queensbridge. And again, you can just vividly imagine going to Brooklyn one day and almost getting into some shit. I almost feel like I did the story with him, like I went to Brooklyn with him. I see it in my head.
What’s special about “It’s Mine”?
[Raps Prodigy line] “I got the style of a still-born child, I’m ill.” Again, I made the beat and just when I thought the beat was crazy, he came with a crazier verse. I’m like, ‘Yo, this beat is ill.’ And he’d be like, ‘Look at this rhyme.’ I was like, goddamn, when are you ever gonna stop? I was happy that he wasn’t stopping. He just kept going and going. He never quit. He was always going in there.
And lastly, what do you remember about “Eye For An Eye”?
What sticks out to me about that song is that Prodigy actually came up with the chorus. I just remember the beat. It was a simple beat, ain’t nothin’ really special about it to me. As soon as he heard the beat, he had the chorus and I was like, damn this is crazy. He killed it.
You also worked with Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Prodigy tribute “Boom Goes The Cannon…” How did that come about?
They used a line from, I believe, “Shook Ones” in the play [Hamilton] so they gave us free tickets to go see the play just while it was blowing up already, like you couldn’t get tickets ’til six months out. So it was in full effect, and I loved the fucking play. They don’t give us enough credit. That’ll make a kid go, ‘Yo, I love history’ because sometimes people say history is fucking boring. One thing had led to another and they were working on the [Hamilton] mixtape and it was only right since they used the line in the play so I guess Lin-Manuel was like let’s do a Mobb Deep track for the mixtape. They got in touch with our peoples. We was overseas, like London or something like that. We recorded the track almost two years ago. I think the song needed a little bit of tweaking. It wasn’t the best that we could do. That happens sometimes. We just kept tweaking the song until we was all like, alright, we got one.
When you first heard about P’s death, you were coming from your 5-year-old’s graduation. What have you told about your now 6-year-old about Prodigy, his memory and what he means to you?
I didn’t speak too much to my son about P’s death and how he passed ‘cause he’s still kind of young but he knows that my best friend passed away. My son is a little sweetheart. I asked him, ‘What do you wanna do when you grow up?’ And he said he wanna be like me so he could perform on stage with me because he knew my friend passed away so that made me melt. And I was like, ‘No. What do you want to be?’ And [my son] goes, ‘Fine, perform by yourself then.’ [Laughs]
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