The infamous Mobb Deep member and author talks fatherhood, movies and staying healthy behind bars.
(Photo: Darnell Williams/BET)
Since returning from a three-year sentence on weapons charges, Albert "Prodigy" Johnson has been a very busy man. From recording new music with the likes of Nas and Curren$y to going on a promotional tour in support of his recently released memoir, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy, the 36-year-old hip hop veteran has once again got the streets talking about one of rap music's most storied crews.
This Tuesday Prodigy will appear on The Mo'Nique Show to discuss My Infamous Life and to perform with Havoc as Mobb Deep. TMS content team got a chance to speak with Prodigy right before the broadcast for this exclusive interview. Let's get to know the mind of a Prodigy.
TMS: How was it on The Mo'Nique Show?
P: Yeah everything was all good. It was cool. It was nice meeting her. She's definitely a beautiful person. We had a good talk about certain things in my book that's out there, my autobiography [My Infamous Life]. So she interviewed me about that. It went really well. That was one of the best productions we've ever been involved with. Like, her whole production staff over there was really professional.
TMS: Did Mo'Nique have any special requests?
P: Nah, I think she might've just requested that we do "The Quiet Storm."
TMS: How has the book been doing since the release?
P: The book’s been doing really good. We've been doing a lot of colleges, speaking engagements—talking to the students about the book. Different colleges on the East Coast and I did some events on the West Coast last week. So we’re out there working it, making people know the book is out there.
TMS: I spoke to Big Noyd some years back when you first went in. He said when you come back it's back to work because the whole team looks at work as a fun process. Has it been like that since your return?
P: Yeah, yeah. Like I said, this is what we do. This is just a part of our life—it's just like walking. Like once you learn how to do it, it's just natural. We do this every day, we make songs around the clock. We do this every day.
TMS: What was the greatest lesson you learned in prison?
P: Patience. I learned to have a lot of patience cause I definitely wasn't going anywhere for a little while.
TMS: You've talked a lot about having sickle-cell anemia—both in your music and in your book. How did that affect you in prison and how were you able to deal with it?
P: I mean, you just gotta be real careful. When you're locked up the medical is the worst. You don't want to be sick in there. Especially with sickle cell. You need an outside hospital if you got sickle cell and they not going to give it to you, basically.
When you locked up, you gotta be bleeding to be taken to the outside hospital. They gotta see you on the floor. I recognized that immediately, so I did what I had to do to keep myself healthy. I ate right—a lot of green vegetables, a lot of water, exercise. I just stayed like that for my whole bid. I took care of myself very well so I had no problems in there.
TMS: Given your experiences, what are your thoughts on health care and health care reform in this country?
P: There definitely needs to be better health care for people that can't afford it. There's a lot of people that just can't afford it and it should be available for everybody. You know health care, that sh*t should just be free. If something’s wrong with you, you should be able to go to the hospital and get it fixed. We the people are the ones that keep this world moving. We go to work, we spend our money—so health care should just be free.
TMS: Mobb Deep was one of the first rap groups to have a website in the late ’90s. As I recall you had a website that sold Murda Muzik and Infamous merchandise. Have the changes in technology in the last three years been overwhelming?
P: Nah, not overwhelming. I'm just happy to see a lot of the stuff that's did with technology. Like with phones—I was surprised to see what the phones can do now in that little bit of space of time that I was gone. Technology moves fast; like you get new computers and new sh*t out every year—every six months even. It was just good to see that a lot of sh*t is mad easier now. It's all on your phone now—you got navigations on your phone. You got everything—your phone is like a laptop, you know what I'm saying? So I was just happy to see that because that’s what we need, it makes everything faster and consolidates everything.
TMS: If Mobb Deep had an iPhone app what type of features would it have?
P: Features on the app? I don't know—that's a secret. I can't give that away [laughter]. That’s giving out an idea for somebody to do.
TMS: One of the most compelling parts of the book is when you discuss your family's history and how deeply your family's roots go back. You also discuss how your father stood in contrast to those things and had a lot of dangerous habits. As a father, do you find yourself looking back on it and consider how you could break the cycle?
P: Definitely. I think back to certain sh*t that my father did around me or with me and I say to myself, like, “Damn that n***a was crazy.” Like I would never do that with my kids. But certain things—it was just real loose back in those days, you know what I mean? I ain’t even mad at him for it because it made me who I am today. At the same time, every generation should get better than the last one. We should learn from the ones that come before us and we should get better, do more intelligent things and make better moves than the last ones before us.
TMS: Are you very hands-on in your children's education?
P: Yeah, definitely. With all that I want to make sure that they doing the right thing and they are able to be successful later on in life.
TMS: What keeps you guys inspired?
P: The thing that keeps us inspired is just music period. We fans of hip hop, fans of music, period. So we when hear other people’s music on the radio, mixtapes or certain things, it pushes us like “Damn, that sh*t sounds hot. We gotta keep it coming.” And we love what we do. We love making songs. It's not a job to us. Like Noyd and them was saying, this sh*t is fun. That just keeps us inspired, just from us enjoying it so much, you know what I mean?
TMS: Are there any producers you guys are looking into collaborating with?
P: Ah man, there’s so many producers out it’s crazy. Definitely two guys from Cali called Sid Roams that I been working with a lot. You'll probably see them doing some Mobb Deep things.
TMS: You worked with them on your solo album, right?
P: Yeah man, Sid Roams did most of that [HNIC 2]. They're definitely some up-and-coming dudes that we really got our eyes and our ears on, checking them out. Because they got some sh*t. They got that Cali/New York sound that they blend together.
TMS: Can we expect a part 2 to the Murda Muzik movie?
P: I was thinking about doing some sh*t like that, but for now I think I'ma do just a re-release, because the first one didn’t get much light and marketing and promotion. So I didn't really put that much into it as far as marketing and promotion because I spent so much money actually shooting the movie. I think the first thing you're going to see with that is probably the re-release. I got extra bonus footage and hours an hours of sh*t that we never put into the movie. So I think I'ma add that on there and just do a re-relase like a directors cut type of thing.
TMS: It was definitely one of the first East Coast ’hood flicks.
P: Yeah and I was like Queenbridge needed that cause, you know? [The] Queensbridge [Houses] itself, especially when it comes to hip hop. So I definitely wanted that for the projects and give back like that where it almost immortalizes the ’hood.