(AllHipHop Features) Havoc of Mobb Deep has been through it all. From beefs, wars and the eventual loss of his rap partner, he endures. The veteran rapper/producer talks to Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur about how he and Prodigy created a timeless classic that is now 25 years old. “The Infamous…” is an opus that rings bells whenever you mention East Coast rap and albums that take listeners on a journey through the hood. To this day, the album stands firm. Havoc talks about the loss of Prodigy, the impact the group had on Hip-Hop, and how the whole thing came to be with Q-Tip, Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface, and others.
AllHipHop: First things, man, obviously you just mentioned it, social distancing and everything. How are you maintaining in the whole coronavirus, COVID-19 world?
Havoc: For me, it’s like a blessing in disguise. The family’s staying safe, everybody’s healthy, thank God, but it’s given me a time to reflect. I’m just really more just focused on my craft a little bit more, and just reflecting things I might want to change, of how I’m doing things. I’m dealing with it pretty cool. I’m not complaining that I can’t go to no malls and none of this. It’s helping me from not spending too much money, so it’s all good.
AllHipHop: Yeah, no doubt. Now, let’s talk about The Infamous Mobb Deep, the album, really just one of the most perfect albums ever, honestly. One of the most perfect albums I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s definitely in my top five albums of all times. Can you first talk about reflecting on it turning 25? Most albums, especially from the ’90s era, they don’t make it out of the ’90s. And you can see remnants of it now even … but we’ll get into that later. But, first talk about actually how it feels for such an album to turn 25.
Havoc: For a lack of better words, it feels really great, man. I’m humbled by it. It lets you know that it’s survived this long, that your work is validated, what you did. It’s an experience that is hard to describe, man. I’m thankful.
AllHipHop: Dope. Now, the one thing, with this album in particular, I always think about the creative process and the conditions around what made it such a dope album. You guys had Juvenile Hell before this in 1993, and it didn’t really hit the same way. What changed with you guys in the creative process, the circumstances, maybe, that you were in at that time with Prodigy. What was different, and the whole Mobb Deep crew, the whole clique?
Havoc: Well, a lot of times with people, when they go through failure, they let it weigh them down or stop them from doing they dream. It actually embolstered us to make better music. So, we used it as a tool. So, what really changed was our mindset of, “All right, we’ve messed up this first time,” and the second time it’s like, you don’t really get second chances. And so, we knew it was do or die. We just poured our heart out into the next project that we was going to do, and that was The Infamous album.
AllHipHop: Yeah. Now, Q-tip had his hands pretty heavy in the album. Can you talk about his impact and maybe others that were involved that had a fingerprint?
Havoc: His impact was really … it was inspiring. It set a tone, it gave confidence to me to have somebody of his stature at that time, taking the time out to help us. Two young brothers trying to come up. So, he had a big, huge impact, because his energy that he brought to the table. He was so gangster with it. He came in and he wasn’t trying to be a person like he was acting like he was all that. He was just there being himself, and adding his expertise to the table.
AllHipHop: And you have … the album is so brofic…You got Nas, you got Rae, Ghost, Big Noyd, so many heavy hitters. How did some of those collabs … were they organic? I know you were label making [crosstalk 00:06:08], but you ain’t have everybody from there. It just almost seemed like perfect collaborations.
Havoc: Oh well, naturally, of course, Rae and Ghost was our label mates, but we really bonded with them early on. For whatever reason, I can’t even call it, but, we bonded to Rae and Ghost, and we was like, “Yo, we want to get them on the album.” And Nas, of course, being from Queensbridge, we already was familiar with him, and we was already had a natural relationship with him. So, those choices for features on the album pretty much came natural.
AllHipHop: Okay. Now, did you realize … Okay, I’ll give you a perfect example. Public Enemy, when they did It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, they knew they were creating a classic album. Did you know that Infamous was going to be a classic album?
Havoc: Nah, I definitely didn’t have no idea. I’m not going to lie to you. When you got albums like Illmatic out and [crosstalk 00:07:20] Sabers, it’ll humble somebody, you know what I mean?
AllHipHop: Yeah. That was a super competitive. How did Loud Records factor in … they were … you admitted you kind of had a failure.
AllHipHop: Signing to Loud, though, it was such a bold, big step with a label that was already just popping, hitting off. How did that part of it come into play?
Havoc: Well, you know, Matty C? He had his hands in a lot of things, and he had a few connections, and he knew Steve Rifkind, him and Mattie C and Scott Free. And they still believed in us even though the project prior to the one we was about to embark on didn’t do so good, but they still believed in us. And they brought it to Steve Rifkind, and Steve Rifkind was with it. He was with it.
So, they set up a meeting, back when Steve just had one cubicle, and he was like, “Yo guys, I’m loving what I’m hearing. I would like to sign you all.” And, we was just happy to get another deal at that point, and the rest was history.
AllHipHop: Dope. Now, fortunately, we’ve been blessed to really hear a chemistry. You and Prodigy had a chemistry. When you first started, honestly I couldn’t really even tell one from the other. You guys were almost perfect, just like Run-DMC, EPMD, you all had that chemistry, but you all’s chemistry was special in a almost … Yeah, it was very unique. Can you speak on that? The chemistry you all had?
Havoc: Yeah. The chemistry that we had was like, we … First off, we was close, we was tight. Early on we spent mad time with each other, just with our dreams. And that was just one aspect of it. And personally we was tight, so that led into the creative end. And, we both had two different personalities, we wasn’t the same. Personality-wise, Prodigy was more of an outgoing person, I’m more introverted.
So, those two together, those opposites creates a monster. So, I think that that really made the group when … From the outside looking in, when somebody looks at it, it’s like, yo man, the way just like you described it, the way that they two rock together, and the chemistry that they had, it just was perfect, because sometimes, some things that P would do, I’d be like, “Yo, what you doing?” But then, I’d just shut the F up and let him rock. And then I’m questioning myself, “Why did I even question him?” So, early I knew that just let P be P, and Prodigy did the same thing. He just let me be me, and we really never questioned each other when it came to the music.
AllHipHop: Dope. From a production standpoint, you are known as the producer side, but early on how … it was more collaborative, how was that? Prodigy, I guess, had initially taught you how to sample or something like that?
AllHipHop: What’s the story behind that?
Havoc: The story behind that goes, that Prodigy had this beautiful grandmother of a person, and she’s seen us striving to become artists and rappers. And she bought him some equipment, pretty expensive too. At the time in 1993, she brought him studio equipment. Prodigy called me, I went to his house immediately in Long Island, and I just wanted to know how to work it. He was already in there, doing this thing. But me, being as ambitious as I was, and him not being selfish, he showed me how to work the equipment. And once he showed me how to work the equipment, I never got off it. So, I got selfish at the time.
AllHipHop: Is it true now? A lot of us, we all used to rap and do beats. Now, you started out on the EPS, the Ensoniq?
Havoc: Yes, because that’s what his grandmother bought for him. That’s what I made “Shook Ones” on.
AllHipHop: That’s crazy. That’s dope. Man, that’s great. So, talk about your favorite song. You might have just said it, but what’s your favorite song on The Infamous?
Havoc: My most favorite song on The Infamous … And people ask me that a lot, and it’s probably the corny answer, but I have to say Shook Ones, straight up, off top. I know it’s an obvious choice, but sometimes not too obvious. Sometimes people pick tracks that are, like, asleep on the album. But I say Shook Ones because Shook Ones set the tone for the whole Mobb Deep career and beyond.