Mobb Deep Murda Muzik

While the shameless biting of the Mobb’s sound on the 1995 album The Infamous has thankfully ebbed, there are an abundance of MCs who are currently treading the same topical ground of Havoc and Prodigy, falling hopelessly short of their lyrical standards. So while the Mobb’s Hell On Earth follow-up was a little too familiar for many ears, Murda Muzik sounds surprisingly good given the abundance of shallow thug content. It’s hard to tell how affected this album has been by Loud’s drawn-out process of changing its distributor, and from several different versions of this album being peddled on the internet and the street corner, but it does show a previously unseen side of Havoc and Prodigy. In contrast to the high energy style and thin substance of many newer arrivals on the scene, the Mobb now seem like elders sitting on a stoop reciting their intricate street life stories to anyone who’ll listen, in their disarmingly matter-of-fact deliveries. Generally, the mood is decidedly mellower than past material with Havoc favouring smoother production methods and dropping in a few R&B vocals. Yet the music continues to simmer dangerously as on their single “Quiet Storm,” threatening to aspire to the head-rush of the group’s classic material. “Allustrious” with Prodigy’s standout performance and Havoc’s familiar organ sounds is the closest they get to that past feeling, but this is no longer their dominant sound. “The Realest” with Queens’ legendary MC Kool G. Rap, produced by New York’s producer du jour the Alchemist and “U.S.A (Aiight Then)” are indicative of the group positively adding to their sound, while thumbing their noses to the legions of imitators. (Loud)