Prodigy (Albert Johnson) was both as a solo artist and one half of the legendary duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy began his career as a solo emcee and producer at the age of 14, but dropped everything when he met Havoc at the High School of Art and Design in 1989. The two formed the duo Poetical Prophets and their later-known roles within the group (Mobb Deep) were initially juxtaposed. Born into a musical family in 1974—with his grandfather Budd Johnson being a well-known saxophonist, and his mother Fatima (Collins) Johnson a member of The Crystals—the Hempstead, Long Island native (turned Queensbridge rap legend) already had some experience producing. Havoc meanwhile, was the primary emcee in the early years. In 1992, the group signed a deal with 4th & Broadway and released their debut album Juvenile Hell under a new moniker, Mobb Deep.
After poor record sales, Prodigy and Havoc were subsequently dropped from the label and signed with the newly-formed Loud Records and Steve Rifkind, who had previously inked a deal with Wu-Tang Clan. In 1994, the duo began working on their magnum opus, The Infamous, and released the album a year later to critical praise and high chart placements. P and Hav recorded two more well-received efforts, Hell on Earth in 1996 and Murda Muzik in 1999. Their success was fueled by now-classics including “Shook Ones (Part II),” “Survival Of The Fittest,” “Quiet Storm” (with Lil’ Kim on the remix), and many more. In 2000, Prodigy released his debut solo effort, H.N.I.C. The album featured the smash hit “Keep It Thoro” and would eventually become certified Gold. Prodigy was also known for his epic beefs with other rappers. Tupac, Jay-Z, Crooked I and Saigon were just a few.
After releasing two more albums with Havoc, Mobb Deep signed to G-Unit Records and released their seventh studio album Blood Money in 2006. In 2008, Prodigy was incarcerated for a gun-possession charge and served three-and-a-half years in prison, releasing his first memoir My Infamous Life in 2011 with writer Laura Checkoway when he returned home. After a brief group hiatus, Prodigy and Havoc released their final group album, The Infamous Mobb Deep in 2014. While known for his conspiracy theories surrounding the Illuminati, Prodigy was a spokesman for sickle cell anemia awareness, having suffered with the disease since childhood.
He spent his later years as an advocate for finding a cure for sickle cell anemia, as well as publicly discussing prison reform and the importance of maintaining inmate health. In 2016, he released the prison cookbook-slash-memoir Commissary Kitchen with writer Kathy Iandoli. In 2017, P dropped his final solo album with The Hegelian Dialectic. On June 20, 2017, Albert “Prodigy” Johnson passed away due to complications from sickle cell anemia following his final performance in Las Vegas. With close to twenty albums (both as a solo artist and collaborative artist) under his belt, Prodigy will forever remain as one of the most legendary artists in hip-hop history.