June 1st, 2012
Title: Black Cocaine
Artist: Mobb Deep
Label: Red General Catalog
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: November 21, 2011
Black Cocaine, a five song EP, is Mobb Deep’s first record following Prodigy’s incarceration, and comes as preparation for a future album from one of the East Coast’s most prolific and foundational hardcore rap duos. As an EP, its quick, aggressive pace harkens back to Mobb Deep’s glory days on Infamous (1995) and reminds listeners why the group is still creating music in the second decade of the 21st century, and why they still want you to hear what they have to say. Listeners will find the lyrics harsh, yet coming from familiar territory for Havoc and Prodigy.
“Black Cocaine,” the title track, recounts the trials of a black man from the projects who sells drugs as a way to make ends meet, a man who “has a heart, but no conscience.” The lyrics are cold and set against a backdrop of minimalistic drums and shimmering keyboard, with occasional yelps from a chimpanzee as a reminder that the world of the drug trade in the inner city is seen as the enemy by the culture, but is often the only way to survive, making those working in it feel trapped and hopeless.
The fourth track, “Get It Forever (feat. Nas),” will be instantly appreciated by long-time fans of Mobb Deep for its tight verses from frequent collaborator and friend Nas. The song works as a cold tale of revenge and territorial violence—again, narratives that are familiar but still relevant and welcome, especially after the long absence of Mobb from the music scene and the gradual disappearance of a strong presence of hardcore rap from the East Coast. Covering gun violence, drug abuse, turfs, and more, the song hits on all the themes necessary for a musical depiction of life on the streets.
Following is the official video for another track from the EP, “Dead Man’s Shoes”:
This EP won’t change the way any listener thinks of Mobb Deep—it’s a tight album with hooks that sometimes fall flat (“Dead Man’s Shoes”) and sometimes immerse you into the world of the lyrics (“Black Cocaine”), to be sure. But more importantly, the themes of the songs reflect what’s been known of the duo of Havoc and Prodigy all along—they represent some of the hardest views of the streets, and whether their approach is familiar to you or not will largely determine how this album will be appreciated. Some may view it as a triumphant announcement of the duo’s return to glory; others, a simplistic and overly-violent approach to problems of inner city life.
Reviewed by Tyler Thompson
Review Genre(s): Rap and Hip-Hop