Remember Mobb Deep? Remember when, at one point, during the 1990s, they were considered as some of N.Y.’s finest emcees? Mobb Deep was also known as one of the most hardest groups during fine age of hip hop and rap that was the 1990s, dropping their debut album Infamous in 1994 and then releasing another strong (perhaps even better) album in Hell on Earth in 1996. By the late 90s Mobb Deep found itself in a very crowded New York rap scene, which included Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Busta Rhymes, Big L, Big Pun, Ja Rule, the Wu-Tang Clan, Capone-N-Noreaga, and Lil Kim, just to name a few. Around the late 90s also saw rap really go pop (it was the P-Diddy and Master P era), with accusations of selling out everywhere. In 1999, Mobb Deep (with some label issues) dropped Murda Muzik. Compared to a lot of rap albums coming out in the late 90s, Murda Muzik was incredibly hard, yet very honest. No obvious pop-crossovers (with the exception of “It’s Mine” and “Quiet Storm”), no selling out, no unnecessary change of delivery or themes; just pure, beautiful, yet dark Mobb music.
When you first play the album, the first thing off the bat is the intro: it’s an excerpt from a speech Ronald Reagan gave in Homestead, Florida in 1983, with the theme of Crime Inc going on at the same time. It sort of tells you “don’t worry, things are still the same with us”, and prepares you what is to come: where Hell on Earth left off.
Murda Muzik wastes absolutely no time in showing that Mobb Deep were not going to follow the same crossroad as fellow East Coast artists did with obvious pop-chart hits. The first track, “Streets Raised Me” sounds as dark as anything Mobb Deep had done years past, with Havoc producing another strong and dark beat. Havoc follows up with yet another strong self-produced beat in “What’s Ya Poison”, which features a dark piano melody accompanied by a sample of “1000 Rads” by David Axelrod. All in all, the production of the music hasn’t changed much compared to the original Infamous release that proved to be Mobb Deep’s magnum opus.
Mobb Deep has always had very strong guest appearances on their albums, and Murda Muzik is absolutely no different. Mobb Deep presents a very strong supporting cast to its 3rd manuscript. Big Noyd provides a very strong performance on “Streets Raised Me” and underground Queensbridge MC Cormega absolutely kills it on “What’s Ya Poison”. Perhaps the most notable appearance on the album though, is Lil’ Kim, who provides perhaps one of the best lines in hip-hop not only for a female MC, but perhaps of all time, in “Quiet Storm” (albeit a remix of the original). Nonetheless, both versions “Quiet Storm” remain hallmarks of Mobb Deep singles discography.
The content of the album is fairly cohesive, sticking to the original Mobb Deep themes that they’d been doing since their first release as a juvenile group in Juvenile Hell. There are sinister, thuggish, dark tracks such as “What’s Ya Poison” and “It’s Time”, as well as much more conscious and emotional tracks such as “Spread Love” and “Where Your Heart At”. However, even with the conflicting emotions and viewpoints, it all blends fairly well with the tragic, sad, and hopeless, yet very violent and dilapidated scenes of the urban projects. Regardless, it’s pretty clear that Mobb Deep stays real to their background. The emotions range from completely sociopathic and heartless to tragic, mournful, almost remorseful. There’s definitely a mix of emotion. So few hip hop albums can do so without sounding discombobulated, but Mobb Deep accomplishes this. Especially in an era where hip hop artists were shooting for pop chart singles and the same old boring themes that plague hip hop today: money, cars, sex, women, status, etc.
Overall, Murda Muzik may not be as strong as say, Hell on Earth or Infamous, but it definitely is great third album after 2 strong efforts. Often rappers struggle with making a follow-up, yet Mobb Deep hits another home-run with Murda Muzik. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t filler songs, but compared to the watered down and repetitive shtick that was being released during this time, it’s very enjoyable. Final rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars.
What did happen to Mobb Deep afterwards? Sadly, Jay-Z decided to strike a major, major blow towards them during Summer Jam 2001 by exposing Prodigy’s early childhood days as a ballerina dancer, and Mobb Deep followed up with a lackluster release in 2001 with Infamy. Eventually the Mobb did the inevitable in going pop by collaborating with Lil Jon in 2004’s Amerika’z Nightmare (which sort of provoked memories of various early 1990’s albums of using the term AmeriKKKa, especially Ice Cube and Spice 1), but was a drastic change in formula. Mobb Deep would go through another change yet again in 2006 after signing with G-Unit Records and releasing Blood Money, but by this time Mobb had lost their Midas touch they had in the 90s. There is perhaps though a bright future for Mobb fans, seeing the release of The Infamous Mobb Deep in 2014, easily Mobb Deep’s strongest effort since Murda Muzik. Only time will tell.