The rap section at any given record store is full of albums that seem to go virtually unnoticed. While some of these releases simply lack in quality, many possess a level of rawness and anti-commercialism that venues like MTV and radio shy away from. This results in low record sales, but a high level of underground respect and appreciation.
The latest release to fall into this category is the debut album from Queensbridge natives Infamous Mobb, titled “Special Edition.” The Mobb is made up of Gambino, Ty Nitty and G.O.D., all familiar names to fans of Mobb Deep. All of the members have blessed Mobb Deep’s last three albums with their hardcore street tales. With “Special Edition,” Infamous Mobb has captured the hunger and grimy atmosphere of such Queesbridge classics as Mobb Deep’s “The Infamous” and Screwball’s “Y2K.” In a time when rap music is associated with butter soft acts like Ja Rule, Nelly and Lil’ Bow Wow, a release like this is a much-needed kick in the face to commercial hip-hop.
The lyrical content delivered by these Queensbridge representatives covers familiar ground, dealing with street stories, vivid accounts and confident braggadocio. What separates Infamous Mobb from the rest of the reality rap pack is the passion heard in their voices. Whether it be in Gambino’s raspy delivery, Ty Nitty’s conversational flow or G.O.D.’s baritone pitch, each member spits their rhymes with a refreshing sense of love for what they are doing, a trait missing from the dollar bill driven minds of most popular rappers.
Another factor this album has going for it is some of the most impressive production heard in recent memory. The Alchemist, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Vic and Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs provide Infamous Mobb with beats full of just as much emotion and life as their lyrics. The Alchemist, who has provided beats for such artists as Jadakiss and the Ghostface Killa, contributes to seven out of the album’s 16 tracks, all mind-blowing and further proof that he is hip-hop’s new production king.
After a brief intro, “Special Edition” jumps into “IM3,” a look into the Mobb’s musical agenda over frantic violin strings and a pounding bass line. The thick acoustic guitar sounds heard on Ty Nitty’s solo track “I Rep” fill it with a sense of gloom, while the Havoc-produced “We Don’t Give A…” instantly hypnotizes the listener with its ominous feel.
The second Havoc-produced cut, “War,” uses a chilling piano sample and faint drumroll loop to deliver no holds barred hardcore music. The Mobb gets introspective on “Back in the Days,” in which The Alchemist provides the MCs with a soulful backdrop to reminisce about their childhood. The album’s most emotional moments come courtesy of “We Strive,” another Alchemist creation that successfully conveys pain through the speakers.
“Special Edition” features two flawless tracks worth singling out, the title track “Special Edition” and the Gambino solo offering “Big T.W.I.N.S.” The Alchemist, matching his amazing musical soundscapes with the Mobb’s concrete hard rhymes, produces both tracks. The title track has all three members passing the mic back and forth over a rapid piano melody, while “Big T.W.I.N.S.” pairs Gambino’s raspy-voiced delivery with a vibrant blues guitar riff, resulting in one of the hottest songs to come out in a long time. Anyone who needs proof that The Alchemist is the best new producer in hip-hop should give “Big T.W.I.N.S.”one listen.
While the majority of this album is all Infamous Mobb, they reach out to their Queensbridge brethren for assistance on a few tracks. “Reality Rap” is a fierce verbal assault featuring newcomers Uno Dos, Blitz and Kaos, the song is congested at times, but works in the end.
Mobb Deep’s Prodigy and longtime Mobb affiliate Noyd drop standout verses on the menacing “Killa Queens,” while Prodigy returns for the chorus of neck-breaking “The Sequel.” Hostyle, of fellow Queensbridge group Screwball, provides the chorus for the dream-like “Born Again,” and new female vocalist Chinky appears on three songs, including her joint chorus with V-12 on the energetic “Make A Livin.”
“Special Edition” continues the Queensbridge tradition of consistently dropping hard and impressive releases. Like Cormega’s “The Realness,” Infamous Mobb has gone the independent route to deliver their music without compromising their vision. Some may argue that the album’s lyrical content is too one-dimensional or that even Roy Jones Jr. could sound hot over the beats heard here. What makes this album a success for Gambino, Ty Nitty and G.O.D. is their love for the music and their chemistry together, which makes the stories they are telling all the more entertaining. Give this album a listen and you will feel the type of hardcore New York hip-hop that the commercial community has overlooked for too long.