Prodigy, one-half of the legendary rap duo Mobb Deep, passed away on Tuesday (June 20) due to complications from sickle cell anemia, a disease he battled with his whole life. Many artists, including Nas, Nicki Minaj and Prodigy’s rap partner Havoc, paid their respects to the Queens legend on social media.
As part of Mobb Deep, Prodigy helped usher in the East Coast hip-hop movement in the ’90s, which resulted in some tension with his contemporaries in the West. With tempers flaring on both coasts, Los Angeles native Ice Cube was on the front lines, watching the rap feud heat up. Then, in 2006, years after the East Coast Vs. West Coast beef subsided, Cube and Mobb Deep teamed up to deliver Howard University an unforgettable homecoming.
A day after Prodigy’s passing, Cube shared his memories of spending time with Prodigy at Howard’s Homecoming with Billboard. “[Mobb Deep] were on a float in front of us and we were on another float,” reflects Cube. “He just seemed like a cool dude who represented to me, hip-hop coming from the street level after New York had took it to its heights.”
Cube continued, “With what we were doing on the West Coast, Mobb Deep was a part of that regaining of the balance in hip-hop, and represented that street element [for New York]. But I think with hip-hop, New York was trying to elevate it above the streets. They were trying to take it off the streets and make it into an industry, which is exactly what happened.”
Between 1995-1996, Mobb Deep was entangled in heated feuds with Snoop Dogg’s Tha Dogg Pound and Tupac Shakur. They launched a series of diss tracks aimed at both parties, including “L.A. L.A.” and “Drop a Gem on Em.” Because of their fearlessness, Mobb Deep earned respect as a forceful duo on the East Coast.
“I think Prodigy and Mobb Deep represented the reclaiming of, ‘It don’t get more hooder than New York,'” Cube says about their legacy. “No matter what borough you were from, everybody had their spots that it goes down. I just think he represented the resurgence of New York claiming the streets back, when it comes to hip-hop.”
Stay tuned for Billboard’s full Ice Cube interview.