Mobb Deep Free Agents

There are a lot of people running around calling themselves thugs and because it seems to be fashionable, there are inevitably some frauds among them. But Mobb Deep can’t be accused of faking it. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, evidence of the Mobb’s nihilistic influence, via their 1995 tour de force The Infamous still resonates and traces can be detected in pre-eminent rapper 50 Cent’s matter-of-fact attitude toward violence. However, Infamy their last studio project was an unintentionally appropriate title — its transparent attempts to crossover rank it as Havoc’s and Prodigy’s least satisfying set. As the title suggests, though, the duo are now free of the pressure to make hits and tracks like "Solidified” and "It’s Over” certainly demonstrate that it’s way too early to count these veterans out. But it seems like they think many have and they take their attempts to reaffirm their relevance too far by needlessly free-styling over classic instrumentals from their own past. When they focus on their well-established formula the results are solid, but Prodigy’s once unassailable presence is again lacking, casting doubt whether he’ll recover from the character assassination Jay-Z handed him on "Takeover.” The slack is picked up admirably by Havoc, who serves up his patented cold-blooded beats and rhymes and de facto Mobb member the Alchemist who delivers some ridiculously dope beats, especially on the bonus disc. With over 40 tracks on offer on the two discs from the Mobb and their cronies, there’s predictably patchy and monotonous topical fare, but there’s also evidence the duo can still deliver. (Landspeed)