I Can't Call It: My Infamous Life and The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP - Prodigy

Posted On Friday, May 13, 2011

“So let me start from the beginning at the top of the list….” – Prodigy

I remember the first time I heard Mobb Deep’s classic “The Infamous.” Me and some of my peoples from Morgan State rode down to Howard in DC for a party and I had an advance copy of it and we were all hype to hear it. Needless to say after riding with it all day, by the time we were on our way back to Baltimore, I couldn’t take it anymore! I couldn’t take any more killings, anymore robberies and if I heard one more person say Queensbridge I was jumping out the car on the BWP! Now, don’t get it twisted, I LOVE The Infamous and it’s one of the greatest albums to come out of what I call the greatest era of hip hop. I just could never take Mobb Deep serious. Mobb Deep is to hip hop what Vin Deisel is to the acting, great entertainment, but not anyone that I could take serious. And truth be told, that’s not a dis either cause I love Mobb Deep’s music and I can’t wait to see Fast and Furious 5…I just don’t take either serious. There are certain rappers who you can just look at and see these dudes are for real. Not that their crew is for real or their borough is for real, but the mc themselves are for real. And Havoc and P just don’t fit that mold for me. And again, that’s not a dis, cause those dudes make some dope music. When The Infamous dropped, I used to look at Prodigy as a red nose pit bull. The type of mc you just take off the lease and let them just rip dudes apart. I mean, from ’94-’97, P was a REAL problem. And not for nuthin, but Havoc’s production skills went from blah on “Juvenile Hell” to off the books for The Infamous! And these two together produced some of the dopest hip hop that I still bang to this day…but I still never took ‘em serious.

Right after the whole Jay Z Summer Jam “you was a ballerina, I got the pictures I seen ya” time, P’s skills seem to be slipping. I REALLY thought Mobb was gonna throw some “Still Shinin” type shots at Jay but at the end of the day, nothing dope outta Queensbridge came Jay’s way (except for Nas’ “Ether”). Around the same time, Hav’s beats seemed to be taking a left turn from the sound Mobb fans came to love and I started looking forward to hearing Mobb over Alchemist tracks more than Hav’s. Next thing you know the Mobb is signing to G Unit, which didn’t help matters and when P got knocked for that gun charge and got sentenced to 3 years, I figured that was the nail in the coffin for Mobb Deep. But now 3 years later, fresh out the box, P’s back in the streets and blessing us with not only some new music with “The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson” EP but also his autobiography “My Infamous Life.”

Let’s dive into the book first since that seems to be what has the streets buzzing. First let me say that I’m an avid reader. I’m one of the few people I know who actually has bookcases (plural) in their house with actual books in it! When I go to other people’s houses, if they have books (which most don’t) I’m diggin’ through their collection the same way I dig through vinyl, to see if they have any gems I don’t already own, and if they do, I’m writing them down and I’m on Amazon the next day to cop them. All of that to say, is that I LOVE reading. So when I found out P was dropping a book, I copped it IMMEDIATELY! But I think my expectations were a little different from a lot of other cats. I thought P would be speaking on the making of The Infamous, Hell On Earth and Murda Muzik on some “Rakim Told Me” or “Check the Technique” (two DOPE books by the way…shouts to Brian Coleman) type stuff which is my bad because the book is called “My Infamous Life…The Autobiography of Prodigy” but I wasn’t paying attention to the title. So, now I’m salty cause to me, P’s life just doesn’t seem that interesting to warrant an autobiography but hey, I already copped it so I might as well read it right?

Well after finishing the book, I came to the conclusion that Prodigy should’ve named it “My Infamous Life…Full of Could’ves, Would’ves and Should’ves.” Because that’s TRULY what the book is about. It’s like P took over 400 pages to explain to the world just how hard he is and that’s he’ll bust his gun at the drop of a dime, but throughout the 400 pages, he never does. You’ve got stories of how he should’ve banged Lil Kim (but he didn’t), how he could’ve banged Mary J. Blige (but he didn’t) and how he would’ve given in to Jay Z, Keith Murray and a dude named Worm from Queensbridge. (but again…you guessed it, he didn’t) To let P tell it, everyone from Nas, Jay Z, Keith Murray all the way down to me and you are only alive because P let us slide. And none of us knew how close we came to P giving it to us til this book dropped. In one of P’s stories, there was a big shoot out in Queens between his team and some other Queens cats and when P went for his gun, it jammed. Damn, he was SO close to finally busting that gat at someone. So, P was ready to assassinate the entire rap industry and causing all kinds of havoc at NYC’s most infamous club, The Tunnel, but when it was the PERFECT time for him to turn into SuperThug because his upstart group Bars and Hooks robbed Havoc’s crib in Long Island and was selling Hav’s stuff in Queensbridge, all P did was cut ties with them….WTF?!?!?!? So, let me get this straight, you was gonna murder Keith Murray, Saigon and Shawn Carter over rap beef but YOUR group robs YOUR partner’s crib and comes back to YOUR hood and sells his stuff and all you do is cut ties with them?!?!?! No gun busting? No knuckle game? No nuthin’? Wow.

Now, I will give P props in that he shared a lot about his bouts with sickle cell anemia to at least let us know that even SuperThugs have kryptonite too but that’s such a small part of the book, it’s hard to even focus on it. It’s funny cause I know a lot of people are calling this book the male version of Karrine Stephan’s book and I see exactly where they’re coming from. This is basically a tell all book (with 80% of the telling being about other folk’s business) which to me has nothing to do with YOUR life. Your autobiography should be about YOU, not telling us stories about some other dude choking out Nas in the studio! Now if YOU choked out Nas, I guess you could bring that up but what’s the point of telling me someone else did it? Let the man who choked Nas tell that story in HIS autobiography! But if you’re into hip hop gossip (and I’m not even doubting that P’s stories aren’t true…they’re just not HIS stories) and wanna hear how P thinks Camron started rocking pink because he saw him wearing a pink polo shirt first or how he fathered the hip hop clothing lines, how more people apologize to him from Nas to Saigon and every borough in between than to God and how he could’ve changed Jay Z’s future and let me quote P on this one, “I could have changed Jay Z’s future that night but I choose not to” than this book is written JUST for you…cause it sure wasn’t written for me. Now with that hoopla outta the way, let’s dive into “The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP” and see if P is back to his red nose pit days or he’s still hung over from those summer jam pictures.

The “Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP” sets off with “The One and Only” produced by Alchemist and has P spitting about how none of these other cats out here in the game compare to the original infamous. “Go Off” has P setting it off with Big’s flow from “Niggaz Bleed” over a laid back jawn supplied by Sid Roams and “Twilight” featuring Havoc gives you a glimpse into what the 2011 Mobb Deep sounds like. “Black Devil” has P dropping some serious jewels about the devil and he lets you know if you’re out here looking for a red dude with a pitchfork, you’ve got it twisted. “For One Night Only” and “Stronger” are both cool and “Told Ya” has P over a synth heavy track that ironically samples Jay Z voice. But at the end of the day I can’t front, this EP doesn’t even come close to the expectations I had for P’s first release after coming home from prison. Even the joints Alchemist laced him with aren’t the bangers I was expecting from the Bumpy Johnson and Dutch Schultz combo. This EP is FAR from wack but it’s also just as FAR from the Prodigy that we’ve all come to know and love. I didn’t think I’d have to give P a season to get his skills together like I had to give my dude Mike Vick in Philly but it’s obvious I have to. But to be honest, for all of the dope hip hop that Prodigy and Mobb Deep has given us…it’s the least I could do.

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