Prodigy of Mobb Deep Dies at 42

Prodigy, MC of long-running New York rap duo Mobb Deep, died in Las Vegas. At press time the cause of death was unclear.

The group’s publicist sent the following statement to XXL:

“It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.”

Prodigy and his partner Havoc formed Mobb Deep — a leading light of the “hardcore” hip-hop sound of the 1990s, with its raw depictions of inner city life — in their home Queensbridge Houses in New York City and released their debut album, “Juvenile Hell,” in 1993. The following year they released the first version of the song for which they are arguably best known, “Shook Ones Part 1.” The 1995 sophomore effort, “The Infamous,” brought the group to a much larger audience and featured “Shook Ones Part II,” a remix of the original.

The group became key members of the reigning New York hip-hop scene of the era and their third effort, 1996’s “Hell on Earth,” featured guest spots from Method Man and Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan as well as fellow Queensbridge native Nas. The group also found itself caught up in the lethal East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry of the era and were dissed by Tupac on several tracks — including one, “When We Ride on Our Enemies,” which mocked Prodigy’s sickle-cell anemia. Tupac died after being shot by a still-unknown gunman in Las Vegas in Sept. 1996.

In 1999, the group released its most successful album, “Murda Muzik,” which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

After the turn of the millennium, the group’s sound became more commercial and it released a series of albums — on a collaboration with Nas, another as part of 50 Cent’s G-Unit clique — over the following years. In 2012 the group split for several months after a dispute on Twitter, but publicly reunited the following year. Their eighth and most recent album, “The Infamous Mobb Deep,” was released in 2014.

The group continued to tour over the years and performed its last show in Las Vegas on Saturday as part of “The Art of Rap” tour with follow veteran rappers including Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One and Ice-T.