Throwing around a term like "classic New York hip-hop" is rarely worth the trouble. You're either going to get mired in a semantic debate about what the word "classic" means or be accused of being an old head. But when it comes to "Shook Ones Pt. II" I don't care about any of that. That song is an absolute New York hip-hop classic, and if you disagree Prodigy would be more than happy to stab your brain with your own nose bone.
I remember when "Shook Ones Pt. II" dropped and to date it's still one of the most menacing records I've ever heard. The beat's mellow, nothing approaching the in your face aggression of trap music, but that relaxed vibe made it even scarier. For Mobb Deep getting closer to God in a tight situation was so ordinary, so unremarkable, that it was barely worth getting worked up over. And so it's incredible to be able to sit down with Havoc and Prodigy and hear the story behind the record, how they were hungry to prove themselves, how they couldn't have predicted the response it would get, but they knew they had something that meant something to them.
As I mentioned previously, it's so easy for old timers like me to wax nostalgic about Mobb Deep at their peak, but it's crucial to realize that P and Havoc themselves very conciously avoid any ideas about there being a "real" New York sound, and they're made sure to stay open to new artists. When you've been around as long as Mobb Deep has, you learn that hip-hop, and NYC hip-hop, is so much bigger than any one rapper or group.
That attitude is why Mobb Deep is still around and making music. Even with the inevitable drama and personal conflicts that may arise, feeling like they're a part of something larger, a part of hip-hop, means continuing to make music until they can't hold a mic or cue up a sample anymore. So all praise due to Mobb Deep for decades of music, for laying down the blueprint for street rap and influenced a generation. For every rhyme they write it's still 25 to life.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]