Prodigy, one half of Mobb Deep — the Queens rap duo whose mid-nineties discography is part of the bedrock of East Coast hip-hop — has been a busy man since his release from prison in March. After serving three years for criminal possession of a weapon (police found a gun in his car during a traffic stop), the Queens emcee quickly released an autobiography, My Infamous Life. Full of music industry war stories, exposition on his role in the Jay-Z/Nas beef, and a veritable “who’s who” of guest stars ranging from Tupac Shakur to Lindsay Lohan, it is as informative as it is educational. So what can one learn from Prodigy’s inimitable life experiences? Vulture took a dive into the man’s story and unearthed a few nuggets of wisdom.
Lesson 1: Always Look for That Silver Lining
“Besides [Malachi Z.] York’s books, the only books I’d ever read in my life were The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Who Moved My Cheese? I was missing out on a world full of literature and [while in prison I] put it in my mind that I would be like a Tibetan monk locked up in the mountains for three years of study and research. By the time I was released, I would come home a mastermind.”
Lesson 2: Pay Your Traffic Tickets! No, Seriously, Pay Your Traffic Tickets.
“One afternoon I was driving my Porsche through the city talking on the phone. The seat-belt cops hid behind trucks and vans next to traffic lights looking for drivers and passengers without seat belts on. They caught me on the phone. I’d forgotten to pay that ticket, and they issued a bench warrant. But they never came looking for you; they usually waited until you got stopped again, and when they ran your name through the system, they’d see that you had a warrant. The Hip Hop Task Force must have been investigating my criminal history and used the warrant as an excuse to get me… They actually came looking for me like I was America’s Most Wanted for talking on a cell phone while driving!”
Lesson 3: Stay Up to Date With the Fame Levels of Your Former Flames
“Damn, did I bag her back in the day? Then it hit me. Keyshia! From the Beverly Center mall! Oh shit. I bagged Keyshia Cole before she became famous. [Mobb Deep’s] Hav[oc] immediately ruined his opportunity to produce for her. Keyshia hung up on him. ‘You know her, son? She said she knows you,’ he said. ‘Yeah, I bagged her a couple of years ago in the Beverly Center. I didn’t realize it was Keyshia, it was before she blew up,’ I said. ‘Damn son, you just fucked that relationship up. You could’ve sold her some beats.’”
Lesson 4: Know Your Hollywood Starlets
“At the after-party, DJ Whoo Kid was talking to this good-looking white girl who kept checking me out. When she sat back down with her girlfriends, I walked over, we kicked it for about twenty minutes, and I got her phone number. She told me she was from Long Island but lived in Los Angeles. Whoo Kid walked over after she left. ‘Yo, you know who that was?’ he said. ‘No, why? Who is she?’ ‘Lindsay Lohan,’ he said. ‘Lindsay who?’ I asked. ‘She’s an actress, nigga,’ he said, laughing. ‘Did you get her number?’ ‘Yeah, I didn’t know who she was.’ I may have heard her name once or twice, but I really didn’t know who she was.”
Lesson 5: Forgive Even Those That Trespass Against You
“Anybody who went to my grandmother’s dance school had seen that picture of me when I was eight years old dressed like Michael Jackson [which Jay-Z would put on the screen during his 2001 Summer Jam performance]. Jay-Z couldn’t confront the issue that started our whole drama … the debate was about Jay not being active in the rap beef with Snoop and Tupac and how he waited years, until Pac and Biggie got murdered, to start running his lips about ‘New York’s been soft ever since Snoop came and crushed the buildings, I’m tryin’ to restore the feelings.’
“[Eventually] Havoc inspired me to allow forgiveness. Nas inspired me to prove people wrong… [Ultimately] Jay-Z was a huge inspiration in my life as far as how he carried himself and conducted business. The problems we all had were just petty street bravado. We are a special breed of black men: New York rappers with a gift.”
Lesson 6: Prison Is for Losers and Dumb Fucks
“Prison is for losers and dumb fucks.”