P spoke slowly, yet his mind moved rapidly. There’s a certain gift and a curse to that — especially when you’re on the other end as the literary mouthpiece for a hip-hop legend.
Every time a new idea would hit him, he would hit me. “Ay yo Kat,” he would say, voice always sounding like he just woke up. “I think we should do [insert any one of his ideas]. Word.” He closed everything with a “word,” to seal everything he just said. He kept those ideas and lyrics in marble notebooks in a secret compartment in his couch. He had a Tupac poster on his wall. We had several false starts on writing that next book, mainly because we had like 20 in mind. One was going to be titled How to Squash a Beef, where chapter by chapter, he would explain making peace with every rapper he wronged or wronged him. He regretted not having that moment with ‘Pac until his dying day, so naturally I pushed him to get those words out.
When he left prison a few years ago, P called a bunch of rappers he was on the outs with. He didn’t want to carry old negativity into his new life. That’s the kind of person Albert “Prodigy” Johnson was. He slick talked in his rhymes, yet as a man, he cared about the world. He wanted his own version of [JAY-Z’s book] Decoded. We were working on that too — a book on fitness and health, an off-Broadway musical.
As a hip-hop fan, I can point to moments where his solo work or Mobb Deep’s music soundtracked my memories. But as a friend to P, I can point to so many plans we can’t fulfill now. We all have those friends you dream big with, and for me, Prodigy was one of them.
The whole world is hurting today, though. His lyrics became vernacular. Instrumentals to his classics are pop culture soundbeds. There is not a single part of hip-hop that wasn’t touched by this genius. But because I didn’t have enough space in my thank yous for the book, I’ll say these thank yous now:
P, thank you for circling back three years later on a book idea you spoke with me about back in 2012. Thank you for putting my name on the front cover next to yours, and when I said I could have the smaller font you said, “hell naw.” Thank you for telling every radio personality “Don’t forget Kat” during our interviews, when we both know they were only there for you. Thank you for standing in front of me whenever you didn’t like the look on a dude’s face. FYI they were stanning for you, not me. Thank you for the laughs over text, talking about hip-hop, and sending photos of celebrities to each other with “come get your friend” as the caption. Thank you for all of the rap stories you told me in secrecy. I won’t tell any of them, I promise. Thank you for being my friend, when as music journalists we’re told to never befriend the artists. They’re wrong.
Most of all, thank you for sharing your gift with the world. You always said your darkest songs were just you rhyming through the pain. You’re not in pain any longer.
With love, Kat