RIP Prodigy of Mobb Deep, One of the Greatest Rappers of All Time

Prodigy
Prodigy of the rap group Mobb Deep died on June 20th in Las Vegas. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

On June 20, I received a text from a friend asking me if Prodigy was dead. I looked at my phone with disgust, assuming it was baseless gossip. But just to make sure, I searched online. I found nothing. Then I got another text asking the same thing. I thought this was all a tasteless joke until more texts came and someone sent me a screenshot of TMZ saying Prodigy had died. By then I was in my car and felt so terrible I thought I might crash. I pulled over and let my daughter go into a store as a plethora of thoughts went through my mind. To the world, Prodigy, one of the greatest rappers of all time, had passed away at the age of 42. But I lost someone I knew, someone I had shared stages with. He would never say “what up thun” as he did when we saw each other. News of his death left me uneasy, but also made me grateful for the time we spent together and the music we made.

I met Prodigy in the early '90s when he was a teenage rapper eager to make a name for himself. He lived in Long Island but would come to Queensbridge to see Havoc—his eventual partner in the group Mobb Deep. We were all trying to succeed it in the rap game, but they worked harder than I did. They were doing everything they could to ensure their success.

I admired their determination. But I was caught up in the street life that would inevitably send me on an up north trip to Midstate. During my years away, Mobb Deep developed into a formidable ‎duo. One day, while I was in prison and watching television, I caught a video of “Shook One’s,” the hit single of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous LP. I felt proud to know them, proud that the seeds they had planted had blossomed into something wild and exciting. It was also amazing to see so many familiar faces in the video, which was filmed on the same streets we represented. Mobb Deep had made it. They was “on” as we would say when someone succeeds.

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When I came home, Prodigy and Havoc were in their prime and P invited me to one of their shows in Orchard Beach. The crowd was insane. I couldn’t believe the effect they had on people, and soon after I noticed everyone in New York was bumping their music. The Infamous, helped solidify Queensbridge as the epicenter of hip-hop.

Not long after the show, I joined P in the studio while he and Havoc worked on their next album, Hell on EarthTheir first record was a classic, but I could tell they were setting an even higher standard on this project.

The song that stands out most to me as an MC is “Apostle’s Warning.” Prodigy’s lyrics on the track are some of the best I've ever heard. Period. If anyone doubted he could rhyme, they didn’t anymore. His words were punctuated by Havoc’s production, which established him as one of the most talented beat makers in the game. ‎

Over the next few years, the group continued to grow, and I was happy to see Prodigy succeed—not only as a rapper but as a man. Sometimes we care more about what a person can do than who they actually are. Beyond music, P was a dreamer, a dedicated father and an inquisitive mind who always questioned convention. He was prepared for death before any of us—perhaps because of his illness, sickle cell anemia. As a consequence, he knew he might not have long on this earth. And his demeanor and drive reflected the determination of a man who not only valued time, but was also unwilling to take it for granted. His quest for greatness was not a fruitless journey and he was eager to share what he accomplished with his people.

In 1999, when Mobb Deep was working on the album Murda Muzik in Miami, P and Havoc gave me the opportunity to appear on a track. At the time I was disillusioned with the music industry. I gave in to the allure of a life I thought I had sworn off. This was my chance to escape that lifestyle, once and for all. I knew I had to kill it. The song was called "What's Your Poison," and I recorded my verse, hoping the track would eventually make the album.

It did, and I was proud. As artists, we’re often competitive, but we’re also fans of each other and I was honored to appear with Havoc and P. “Murda Muzik” went on to become Mobb Deep’s biggest selling record and I got my first platinum plaque as a result.

Later, Prodigy called me to say he was trying to work with Priority Records. The label said if he could get Cormega signed, they would give him his own imprint, Infamous Records. So P asked me and I said “Let’s do it. Just make sure i get a nice car.” The deal never came to fruition, because Priority went through restructuring, but I was there for Prodigy when he needed me as he was with me.

In 2001, I released my first album, The Realnessindependently, and Prodigy appeared on two tracks, one solo and one with Havoc. The album gained critical acclaim, and from there, my career took off.‎

Over the years, Prodigy and I had valleys and peaks, but I can say this sincerely—with God as my witness—I loved him. And I’ll always feel honored that we made music together and be grateful for the things he did for me.

Born and raised in New York City, Cormega (@iamcormega) is a hip-hop artist who has released five albums, including his latest Mega Philosophy. His first book, Understanding the True Meaning, comes out on July 7.