Review ·

Listening to Amerikaz Nightmare, the sixth LP from the
Queensbridge duo of Prodigy and Havoc, a sample from the latest album
by Prodigy's nemesis, Jay-Z, comes to mind. The sample's from "My First
Song," the last (and best) song on The Black Album (and
allegedly of Jigga's career) wherein the great Notorious B.I.G. is
quoted: "The key to staying on top of things is to treat everything
like it's your first project, like it's your first day when you were an
intern. Just stay hungry."


It's a maxim certainly adopted by Jay-Z, whose alleged "last album" was his best since his first, Reasonable Doubt, or at least since his critically anointed masterpiece The Blueprint,
and the reason why he had Just Blaze cobble the sound bites together
from an interview recorded shortly before Biggie's death.

The opposite can be said for Mobb Deep, who really has yet to improve upon, or come close to matching, 1995's The Infamous. Thought it wasn't their first (the amateurish, but provocative and striking Hell on Earth was released in 1993 while the duo were still in their mid teens), The Infamous
introduced Prodigy and Havoc to the world. It's one of the great
hip-hop albums of the '90s and the beginning, along with albums like
B.I.G.'s Ready To Die, of the East Coast thug aesthetic that has dominated hip-hop for more than a decade now.

Since then, however, the pair has done anything but stay hungry. Amerikaz Nightmare, like its predecessor, Infamy,
epitomizes a creative entity content to rest on the laurels of the past
instead of bringing anything new to the table. Aside from a bevy of
distinctive beats from the Alchemist and a handful of decent ones from
Havoc, Amerikaz Nightmare is typified by empty-minded
thug-isms. There are none of the detail-filled stories of bids up
north, robbery attempts or acts of brotherly loyalty that brought the
grim realism of The Infamous to life for so many receptive
listeners. Instead we get G-Unit-lite from a duo whose voices are just
not as tuneful as those in 50's crew.

Opening with a typically sinister beat from Havoc, the title cut and
first track asks and answers, "Where the hood at? We right here." But,
without details used by emcees to create realistic images, there's
nothing to this music but threats and boasts. And while the G-Unit crew
and Cam'ron's Diplomats might essentially do the same thing, most of
them have more distinctive deliveries than Havoc and Prodigy and, for
the time being, a greater hunger. For Mobb to keep up, they need to
offer something to separate themselves, and on Amerikaz Nightmare,
they don't. Instead of leading the pack that has followed in their
footsteps, they have become the followers. Instead of another "Shook
Ones" we get another by-the-numbers Lil' Jon collaboration in "Real

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