100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #66 Mobb Deep – Shook Ones, Pt. II

Released : 1995

One of the reasons why rap was becoming big business was that it conferred experiences on the listener that other forms couldn’t. Under the tutelage of it’s new generation of global breakout stars you could walk the block but not fear it, hear a pop-pop but not have to scoot down behind the nearest car and go to school and come back with the same number of friends you started the day with.

From New York’s biggest public housing project in Queensbridge, Mobb Deep’s Havoc and Prodigy saw all it’s troubles close up, a life which they confessed in rhyme without gloss or overstatement. Shook Ones at first wasn’t it, but as the pair faced up to the reality of being dropped by their first label, help came from an unlikely source in the shape of Prodigy’s grandmother, who invested in an ASR 10 sampler.

Undaunted by their set back they went to work, using a down tuned Herbie Hancock piano slice to create one of the decade’s most famous and unsettling riffs. As the words flowed the game measured up those who wanted to play and many were found wanting “Cause there ain’t no such things as halfway crooks”, whilst dead-eyed menace and fatalism hung in every line. Later the pair would be caught up in the East Coast-West Coast feud which blighted the movement, whilst later still in 2017 Prodigy died from complications arising from the sickle cell anemia he’d suffered from all his life.