UGHH’s 10 Best Albums of 2017
El Scribes breaks down some of UGHH's best albums of 2017.
Mobb Deep is a hip-hop duo from Queensbridge, New York, comprised of rappers Prodigy and Havoc. Known for their gritty, New York City sound and unapologetic tales of their reality in the streets, the pair helped shape the scope of the East Coast hip-hop scene in the ‘90s. They are regarded as one of the most successful duos in the genre to date. The pair first met in high school, starting a group together in 1992 known as the Poetical Prophets. A year later, they released their debut album Juvenile Hell as Mobb Deep—though they wouldn’t see commercial success until their sophomore effort The Infamous in 1995. Their next two releases (1996’s Hell On Earth and 1999’s Murda Muzik) were even more commercially successful, solidifying their spot amongst East Coast hip-hop’s elite. Beef also played a major role in the Mobb Deep legacy, with the duo being part of the East vs. West rivalry in the ‘90s after responding to Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” track, eventually sparking a vicious exchange with Tupac Shakur, highlighted on Pac’s nefarious cut “Hit Em Up.” In 2001, Jay Z mocked the duo by placing a childhood photo of Prodigy in front of a stadium crowd at Hot97’s Summer Jam, and debuting his diss track, “Takeover.” They responded on their album Infamy later that year with the cut “The Learning (Burn).” Mobb Deep released two more albums in the years following—including 2006’s Blood Money during their brief run on G-Unit Records. In 2007, Prodigy was sentenced to three and a half years in prison (released in 2011), forcing a hiatus upon the group. The duo had a brief split, where group troubles were detailed in Prodigy’s first memoir My Infamous Life, as well as some public spatting over social media. By 2013, they reunited and continue to tour and record music, both separately and together. To date, Mobb Deep has released eight studio albums together, with record sales totaling over three million. Prodigy has also sustained a successful solo career, as has Havoc, even producing for the likes of Kanye West, 50 Cent, and more.
The Alchemist is a renowned DJ, record producer, and rapper hailing from Beverly Hills, CA. His collaborations have resulted in various projects alongside Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Curren$y, Action Bronson, Fashawn, Domo Genesis, Durag Dynasty, Kempi, Boldy James, and many others. The producer, born on October 25, 1977, as Daniel Alan Maman, teamed up in 1991 with Scott Caan, who at the time went by “Mad Skillz,” to form the Whooliganz. When Tommy Boy Records shelved the group’s debut in 1993, the Alchemist began to focus on producing beats. In the late ‘90s, through a friendship with Evidence, the beat Maker became one of the primary producers for Evidence’s group, Dilated Peoples. During this time, Maman began producing for another prominent hip-hop group, Mobb Deep. For the group’s 1999 album Murda Muzik, The Alchemist produced “Thug Muzik” and “The Realest.” After prominent production work with rappers like Nas, Fat Joe, Ghostface Killah, and Prodigy the producer finally released his rap debut in 2004, 1st Infantry. The album contained the single “Hold You Down” featuring Prodigy, Illa Ghee, and Nina Sky which broke into the Billboard 100 at #95. The album, Chemical Warfare, followed in 2009 featuring collaborations many of raps finest including Snoop Dogg, Prodigy, and Pusha T. Russian Roulette was released in 2012 and featured samples of Soviet music with sparse verses from Action Bronson, Danny Brown, and Schoolboy Q. A year later, Alchemist linked with Prodigy to release Albert Einstein. In 2016, he teamed up with the other half of Mobb Deep, Havoc, for The Silent Partner album. He is also slated to produce the rapper’s upcoming solo effort.
Forming in the early ‘90s in Staten Island, the group fondly known as Wu-Tang Clan, has since solidified their legacy as one of the most influential and best-known groups in contemporary music history. Collectively, the Wu has sold over 40 million albums since their humble beginnings in 1992. Originally comprised of members (using the best-known pseudonyms) GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Rza, Method Man, Raekwon the Chef, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa (and later Cappadonna), the Wu-Tang Clan adapted their name after the Kung-Fu flick Shaolin and Wu-Tang, drawing a major influence from martial arts, Chinese culture, and the streets of New York City alike. The collective's debut album, ‘93’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) has long been critically acclaimed, with many considering the album to be one of the greatest ever recorded in hip-hop history. Following their debut as a group on Loud/RCA, members GZA, RZA, Raekwon, Method Man, and ODB all went on to land solo contracts, with Method Man's 1994 Tical marking the first official solo Wu album. In 1997, the group released their second album Wu-Tang Forever, debuting at No. 1 on the charts and selling over 600,000 copies in its first week alone. With an onslaught of tours, solo albums, collaborations and group releases tied to their coveted and indisputable legacy, Wu-Tang Clan has made history a dozen times over. From honing a menacing and distinctive East Coast sound uniquely their own to selling the Elusive sole copy of 2015's Once Upon a Time in Shaolin for two million dollars, Wu-Tang Clan is indestructibly an iconic pillar of the culture, and—as the reputed saying from the late ODB goes—is for the children.