MOBB DEEP with POINT BLANK , DON MILLIONAIRE , CONCRETE MOBB , SHY LUV , SMUGGLER'S , LOLA , TRE NICE , CHAMPAGNE GANG and others at Sin City (99 Peelar, Concord), Saturday (June 17). $40. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Mobb Deep's recent signing to 50 Cent's G-Unit label is weird. It's like Madonna signing to a label started by Britney.
Especially in the egotistical environment of MTV/Billboard rap, there's a twisted seniority flip in the deal that's odd, seeing as the Queensbridge duo of Havoc and Prodigy have been making classic records since before Jay-Z. They're mentioned in the same breath as Biggie, Nas and Wu-Tang (and have appeared on songs with all of them).
But compounding things, 50 Cent had a line on the track Piggy Bank attacking lyrically weaker, less popular rappers (Fat Joe, Jadakiss) to kick up a benign beefstorm as marketing for The Massacre (G-Unit/Interscope, 2005). Directed at Jadakiss, it went: "Jada, don't fuck with me if you wanna eat / cuz I'll do your little ass like Jay did Mobb Deep."
While not an outright explicit dis, that's a pride-hurting reference to an incident involving Jay-Z, who, during his feud with Nas and Mobb Deep a couple of years ago, showed a very un-hardcore photo of a childhood Prodigy dancing at a high-profile festival show, New York's Summer Jam.
The event earned Prodigy the nickname Ballerina P.
While he's on the phone in New York, I have to ask P what's up. Did the lyric ever get discussed, at least to clear the air?
"Nah," says P during an uncomfortable, shortly worded interview. "Never came up."
In interviews about Mobb Deep's signing, 50 Cent has hinted at future job opportunities for Jadakiss at his label.
So Mobb Deep are too mature to get all petty over one little line. Especially seeing that the deal introduces M-O-B-B to a crucial slice of the U.S. hiphop economy -- suburban white youths -- a group, to my surprise, Prodigy says they've never connected with.
For this reason their new album, Blood Money, is put together like a G-Unit album. Several hot beats and clever lines from folks like Sha Money XL, Alchemist and Havoc, a few dope 50 Cent cameos. It's not a classic, but it's a solid album.
But what about Mobb Deep getting swallowed into this heavily branded, Interscope-fuelled G-Unit dynasty? They've always prided themselves on enforcing their own brand. Now the Mobb are on a roster with M.O.P. and Ma$e (whose names, coincidentally, all start with M), as well as the label's own Ashanti, Olivia and the whole G-Unit crew.
What does P think of fans who think this move could water down their image?
"I'd say they're just ignorant. They don't understand the opportunity this connection is providing, and the benefits involved with us joining with G-Unit," he says.
For now, that includes a forthcoming autobiography and some other big things that P is not at liberty to reveal.
"We're thinking long-term."