You cannot mention rap’s most timeless duos without naming Mobb Deep. To celebrate the 25thAnniversary of their monumental debut release Juvenile Hell, Urban Legends/UMe released both a standard black vinyl LP and a limited edition red vinyl pressing of this iconic release. This is the first time that Juvenile Hell has been available on vinyl, and both versions can be ordered at shop.urbanlegends.com.
Originally named Poetical Prophets, Havoc and Prodigy turned heads in 1991 through The Source magazine’s now legendary “Unsigned Hype” column.As a production unit and a rap troupe, the pair displayed know-how and insight well beyond their years, making it easy to forget that both Havoc and Prodigy were in their late teens in 1993 when Juvenile Hell was released. Raw, unrelenting, and overtly-confident, Juvenile Hell was the infant stages of what would be defined as the Queensbridge Sound—grimy street narratives over cold, sonorous production underpinned with bravado and melancholy.
The prodigious pair were keenly aware of their career stage and brought in established producers to help aid the album, namely DJ Premier on the minimal, angst-filled thumper “Peer Pressure” and Large Professor whose remix of said track gave it an extra shot in the arm. The homespun music video was a local TV hit and “Hit It From The Back,” a track produced by Prodigy and Method Max, also charted at No. 18 on the Hot Rap Singles chart in 1993.
Juvenile Hell is an early storyboard depicting two street musicians who worked in tandem to speak their minds and relate their surroundings to the world. Cuts like “Bitch Ass Nigga” is a fearlessly intimidating song aimed at crooked rivals while “Locked In Spofford” is a storytelling track underscored by fleeting violence, isolation, and regret. The project is fleshed out with an intro and three skits containing street noise and chatter that add to its overall atmospheric nature and visceral impact.
Mobb Deep of course went on to release seminal, critically acclaimed projects (Hell On Earth, The Infamous) as well as songs (“Shook Ones. Pt. 2”). Various tracks have since been sampled within hip-hop as well as featured on numerous huge movie soundtracks. Havoc and Prodigy eventually had internal differences and parted ways but the two reconciled around 2013. Prodigy sadly passed away in 2017 from complications from sickle-cell anemia, a disease he lived with and addressed numerous times through his lyrics. Juvenile Hell remains as an enduring Queensbridge debut made by young minds in lockstep that proved influential for decades thereafter.
2. Me & My Crew
3. Locked In Spofford
4. Peer Pressure
5. Skit #1
6. Hold Down The Fort
7. Bitch Ass Nigga
1. Hit It From The Back
2. Skit #2
3. Stomp Em Out
4. Skit #3
5. Peer Pressure (The Large Professor Mix)
6. Project Hallways
7. Flavor For The Non Believes