Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts on Prodigy's 'Infamous Life'

So I finally got around to finishing up My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy (Simon & Schuster). I enjoyed the read. First and foremost, this book is nothing like Jay-Z's biographical Decoded, which featured lyrical interpretations from Jay, as well as scattered tales from his youth, and his opinions on various topics. The main focus of Decoded, however, was the package: the artwork, mostly, rendering it a "coffee table book." Prodigy's book has got photos as well - with family and friends and, possibly my favorite, a very neat fake ID - but the bulk of the material focuses on Prodigy's life and the lives of the people around him. It really goes in-depth from a more personal standpoint. It feels like the transcription of a very long, very detailed interview/speech/conversation given by Prodigy himself. The Thun language is liberally strewn across the text, of course, and as the reader, you really get a sense that Prodigy is talking directly through the words on the page.

As a big jazz fan, I was fascinated to learn a little bit about Prodigy's grandfather, the great saxophonist Budd Johnson. Stories of how his parents and grandparents met and hooked up, as well as recounts of P's own relationships, were charmingly personal, which I appreciate in an author: honesty. My Infamous Life is brutally honest and open and covers a wide array of terrain. For instance, I'm fascinated by any and all things 2Pac, as you may have guessed by now. Prodigy describes digging through some of 'Pac's notes and poems. He also asserts that the 2Pac/Biggie "beef" was fabricated to sell records. For years, I've considered this to be true. P provides further evidence for this theory (if you want to call it a "theory"). Of course, Prodigy goes in on his spat with Jay-Z, which also involved friction with other Roc-a-Fella affiliated artists. This was news to me. Additionally, there are plenty of other folks you'd expect to read about who land on the pages of My Infamous Life, like QB artists N.O.R.E., Tragedy, and Nas. Ron "Say Queensbridge" Artest pops into the equation as well. You'll have to read the book to find out why...

My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy is really unlike any other hip hop-themed memoir I've read before. Prodigy's eye-opening narrative delivers a balance of tales from the streets and disputes behind closed doors of board rooms - and the instances when these two worlds collide. If you're a fan of Mobb Deep, you probably have this book by now. If not, I recommend My Infamous Life to anyone who is fascinated by New York City (at its grittiest) and the bridged eras of pre- to post-golden era hip hop.