Prodigy (rapper)

Last updated

Prodigy in Amsterdam, 2014
Albert Johnson

(1974-11-02)November 2, 1974 [1]
DiedJune 20, 2017(2017-06-20) (aged 42)
Cause of deathAccidental choking [2]
  • Rapper
  • songwriter
  • entrepreneur
  • author
Years active1991–2017 [3]
Spouse(s)Kiki Johnson (?-2017; his death)
  • Albert Budd Johnson Sr
  • Fatima Frances Collins
Musical career
Genres Hip hop
Instruments Vocals
Associated acts

Albert Johnson (November 2, 1974 – June 20, 2017), better known by his stage name Prodigy, was an American rapper, author, and entrepreneur. With Havoc, he was one half of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep.


Early life

Prodigy was born on November 2, 1974, in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island. He was raised in Queens, New York. [5] He had one elder brother, Greg Johnson. [5] He came from a musical family. [5] His grandfather Budd Johnson was a saxophonist, [5] and his grand-uncle, Keg Johnson, was a trombonist. [6] Both of them are remembered for their contributions to the bebop era of jazz. [7] His mother, Fatima Frances (Collins) Johnson, [8] was a member of The Crystals. [5] [9] His father, Budd Johnson Jr., was a member of a doo-wop music group called The Chanters. [7] [10] His great-great-great-grandfather, William Jefferson White, founded Georgia's Morehouse College. [11] [4]

Prodigy grew up in LeFrak. While attending the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan, he met his future music partner, Havoc. [12] The duo became Poetical Prophets before choosing the name Mobb Deep. [8] [13] Under the alias Lord-T (The Golden Child), the then-16-year-old Johnson landed an uncredited guest appearance on the Boyz n the Hood soundtrack, for his collaborative efforts on the song "Too Young" by Hi-Five in 1991. [8] In 1993, Mobb Deep released its debut album Juvenile Hell on 4th & B'way/Island/PolyGram Records.

Music career

1995–1999: The Infamous,Hell on Earth and Murda Muzik

Initially compared to fellow rapper Nas, who took a similar approach lyrically on his Illmatic album from 1994, [14] Mobb Deep released The Infamous in 1995, which was certified Gold by the RIAA within the first two months of its release. [15] 1995 was also the year that Prodigy began to raise his solo profile, by providing a guest appearance on LL Cool J's controversial "I Shot Ya (remix)". [16] [17] [18] The song became a minor part of the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry, due to Tupac Shakur believing the song to be a diss referring to his robbery/shooting in Manhattan, New York at Quad Recording Studios - singling out the song's title (which many assumed was connected to Biggie's "Who Shot Ya?"), certain lyrics, and the timing of its release - the year after the shooting incident. [19]

Although the track was stated by Keith Murray to not have any lyrical shots aimed at Tupac, Mobb Deep responded in the following year to Tupac's "Hit Em Up" with "Drop a Gem on 'Em," a promotional single from their 1996 album Hell On Earth . Ironically, "I Shot Ya" does feature a subliminal aim in Prodigy's verse to Murray, which continued friction that started sometime prior with an interlude from Mobb Deep's 1995 The Infamous album. [20] The rivalry continued until sometime in 2012, when the two ended it by taking a picture together. [21]

A year and a half later, at the end of 1996, Prodigy and Havoc released Hell on Earth , which debuted at number six on SoundScan. [22] Their next release, Murda Muzik , was heavily bootlegged while still in its demo stage, leaking, onto the streets and over the internet, rough versions of the nearly 30 songs the duo had recorded. [23]

2000–2006: H.N.I.C.

In November 2000, Prodigy released his debut solo album H.N.I.C. [24] His followup solo album would be released in 2008.

During the next six years, between the releases of his first two solo albums, Prodigy continued to work with Mobb Deep, releasing Infamy in 2001, Amerikaz Nightmare in 2004, and Blood Money in 2006.

2007–2011: Collaborations and H.N.I.C. Part 2

During this time, Prodigy had started work on his second solo album, H.N.I.C. Part 2, which was first previewed on his official mixtape The Return of the Mac, and was later released on the independent label Koch Records. [25] The mixtape single, together with the mixtape video, was called "Mac 10 Handle". Prodigy then released H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 through Voxonic Inc., a company in which he was an equity holder. [26] In late 2009, Mobb Deep was released from their contract with 50 Cent's G-Unit label. [27] [28]

During this time, Prodigy was served with a three-year sentence in Mid-State medium-security prison, following a plea agreement stemming from a gun-possession charge. [29] He was officially released on March 7, 2011. [29]

Prodigy was featured in the 2009 documentary Rhyme and Punishment, which documented hip-hop artists who had been incarcerated. [30]

In 2011, Prodigy released a free EP called The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP , his first project after being released from prison. [31]

On April 21, a song titled "The Type", with Curren$y, was released on Curren$y's free album Covert Coup. [32]

In 2011, Prodigy released his autobiography, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy. [33]

2013–2014: The Infamous Mobb Deep

In 2013, Prodigy released his second collaboration album with the Alchemist, titled Albert Einstein . [34] On April 1, 2014, Mobb Deep released The Infamous Mobb Deep , their eighth studio album. [35] [36] In August 2016, he released an untitled EP of five tracks, in partnership with BitTorrent, an association that Prodigy had been working up for a while. [37]


In 2011, Prodigy released his autobiography, My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy. It was co-written with Laura Checkoway and published by Touchstone Books. [33]

In 2013 Prodigy co-wrote the urban crime novel H.N.I.C. with British author Steven Savile. It was published by Akashic / Infamous Books. [38] They also co-wrote a second novel, Ritual, that was released in 2015 by Akashic. [39]

Prodigy co-wrote a cookbook with Kathy Iandoli titled Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook. It features a foreword by chef and food personality Eddie Huang and was published in 2016 by Infamous Books. [40]

The following is a brief timeline and chronology of some of the legal issues that Prodigy faced during his life:


West Coast

From 1995 to 1997, the media-fueled "East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry" was occurring. This started when Tha Dogg Pound released "New York, New York," to which Mobb Deep took offense, as, in addition to the lyrics, the song's music video portrayed New York buildings being stomped on by Dogg Pound members. In response, Mobb Deep with Capone-N-Noreaga and Tragedy Khadafi released "LA, LA". [47] 2Pac "dissed" Mobb Deep (along with The Notorious B.I.G.) in "Hit 'Em Up" where, in the outro of the song, he made a remark in clear reference to Prodigy's ailment in having sickle cell anemia. [48] Mobb Deep responded in a track called "Drop A Gem On 'Em" which was released as a single 2 weeks before 2Pac was murdered. [49] 2Pac also dissed Mobb Deep on the song "Against All Odds" [50] and "Bomb First (My Second Reply)" which were released after his death. But Prodigy later sampled 2Pac's voice from a freestyle for the chorus on the song "Return of the Mac" (a.k.a. "New York Shit") on his album with the same name. [51]

Def Squad

On The Infamous track "The Infamous Prelude", Prodigy made remarks about rappers who rap about "smoking weed" and talk about "space shit". [52] Def Squad took offense from this, but the feud was settled when Prodigy and Keith Murray met at a video shoot. [52] The feud was rekindled when Prodigy again referenced "space shit" in his appearance on LL Cool J's "I Shot Ya" which also featured Murray. Murray saw Prodigy at a club one night and punched him. [52] Prodigy recalled the altercation and threatened Murray in the song "In the Long Run" on Hell on Earth. Murray released a song "Call My Name" on his Enigma album dissing Mobb Deep. The feud seemed to die down until Prodigy dissed Murray again in his 2004 song "Bad Blood." Murray has responded with numerous songs since. [52] The feud has since died down, with the two sharing a photograph together with Busta Rhymes on social media. [53] On Twitter, The reconciliation was confirmed by Prodigy in response to the photo not long after. [54]


During an interview, Prodigy stated that he did not like Saigon and Tru-Life (along with many other rappers). [55]

On the night of September 19, 2007, after an impromptu performance by Saigon during a Mobb Deep show, words were exchanged between Saigon and Prodigy. [56] This escalated into an argument, which resulted in a physical altercation when Saigon punched Prodigy twice before he (Saigon) left the club. [57] Two video versions of the events have since emerged. One version, in slow motion footage, showed Saigon hiding under a table. Another released version of the video, showed Saigon running away from the club. [58] The feud, however, apparently died down, since (in an interview two months before Prodigy's release from prison) Saigon expressed happiness that Prodigy was coming home. [59]

Crooked I

While in prison, Prodigy wrote a letter about his disillusionment with hip hop and rappers. He directly referenced Crooked I's name in the letter, commenting,

Vibe says 920,000 people voted for it. I would personally b*tch slap all 920,000 of these voters if given the opportunity. Who in the f*ck picked Crooked I, Flo Rida and Rich Boy? How did Vibe approve this?

Crooked I responded in a blog entry, and challenged Prodigy to a one-on-one fight upon the rapper's release. [60] Following Prodigy's death, Crooked I paid tribute in honor of him by posting an image of him on Instagram. [61]


In July 2012, Prodigy's musical partner, Havoc, wrote a series of derogatory comments about Prodigy on Twitter, including accusing Prodigy of engaging in homosexual relationships in prison. [62] At first, Havoc claimed that his Twitter account was hacked. [63] However, he later confirmed that he wrote the tweets and expressed his frustrations with Prodigy in an interview with AllHipHop. [64] He stated that Mobb Deep was on an "indefinite hiatus" until the duo worked out their differences. Havoc later released a diss track aimed at Prodigy, which was titled "Separated (Real from the Fake)". [65] Prodigy did not respond to Havoc's song and, even stated publicly, that Mobb Deep would eventually reconcile. [66] In March 2013, the duo announced that they had reconciled and were going on tour. [67]

Illuminati theory

Some rap music has been inspired by the theory that a powerful international secret society exists. Often it is referred to as the Illuminati, after the Bavarian secret society founded in 1776. Complex magazine has claimed it was Prodigy who started the interest in the theory. [68] Prodigy had often spoken publicly against the alleged international secret society during his life. [69] [70]

Prodigy rapped about a secret society in his collaboration with LL Cool J in the song "I Shot Ya (Remix)", from the 1995 album Mr. Smith. [16] From prison in 2007, not long before the release of H.N.I.C. Part 2, Prodigy wrote and published an "open letter" to Jay-Z in which he made some cryptic allegations alluding to the theory. [68] In 2008, Prodigy titled a song "Illuminati", from H.N.I.C. Part 2. [71] In his final solo album released during his life, The Hegelian Dialectic (2017), Prodigy also referred to the theory. [71] It was reported that Prodigy was working on a musical about his Illuminati theory at the time of his death. [71]

Illness and death

In an interview with Vibe in November 2000, Prodigy spoke about what inspired him to directly address his battle with sickle-cell anemia in his song "You Can Never Feel My Pain", from his debut studio album H.N.I.C. He attributed his nihilism to the "permanent physical suffering" caused by his lifelong battle with the condition. [72]

On June 20, 2017, it was reported that Prodigy had died at the Spring Valley Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, while hospitalized for complications related to his sickle-cell anemia. He was performing in the Art of Rap Tour in Las Vegas with Havoc, Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One, and Ice-T when he was hospitalized. [73]

According to a coroner's report, Prodigy was admitted to Spring Valley Medical Center after suffering a significant medical episode arising from his life-long battle with sickle-cell anemia. Days later, on the morning of June 20, he was found unresponsive by hospital staff. It was reported at the time that Prodigy died from accidental choking. The complaint, which was filed on behalf of the family by the Gage Law Firm, alleges that the Spring Valley hospital breached their duty of care for Prodigy by "failing to maintain a working IV access," and by "failing to continuously monitor oxygen levels" as ordered by physicians in the hospital, and that those failures led to Prodigy's death. [74]


Studio albums

Collaboration albums


Related Research Articles

<i>The Infamous Mobb Deep</i> 2014 studio album by Mobb Deep

The Infamous Mobb Deep is the eighth and final studio album by American hip hop duo Mobb Deep, which is composed of Havoc and Prodigy. The album was released on April 1, 2014, by Prodigy's Infamous Records and Sony's RED Distribution. The Infamous Mobb Deep is a double album that consists of one disc of new original music and another of unreleased tracks from the recording sessions from their second studio album The Infamous (1995). The album has been in development since 2011, but was delayed by a feud that occurred between Havoc and Prodigy during 2012. However, they shortly reconciled.

The Alchemist (musician)

Daniel Alan Maman, professionally known as The Alchemist, is an American musician, record producer, DJ, rapper and songwriter. He began his music career in 1991 in the hip hop duo The Whooliganz under the moniker Mudfoot, along with now-actor Scott Caan. After rising to prominence in the late 1990s, as a close associate of Dilated Peoples and Mobb Deep, he went on to produce for many of hip hop's leading artists in the 2000s, and has been hailed as one of the genre's leading producers. He produces for many artists, most of his recent production is for a close group of frequent collaborative rappers. He focuses on producing entire albums for rappers and instrumental projects of his own. He is currently Eminem's official DJ.

Havoc (musician) American rapper and record producer from New York

Kejuan Waliek Muchita, better known by his stage name Havoc, is an American rapper and record producer. He was one half of the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep with Prodigy.

<i>The Infamous</i> 1995 studio album by Mobb Deep

The Infamous is the second studio album by the American hip hop duo Mobb Deep. It was released on April 25, 1995, by Loud Records. The album features guest appearances by Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Q-Tip, who also contributed to its production and mixing. Most of the leftover songs from the album became bonus tracks for Mobb Deep's The Infamous Mobb Deep album (2014).

Saigon (rapper) American rapper

Brian Daniel Carenard, better known by his stage name Saigon, is an American rapper and actor. After years of delay due to former record label interference, his album The Greatest Story Never Told was released on Suburban Noize Records. He is also known for his appearances on the HBO television series Entourage.

Mobb Deep

Mobb Deep was an American hip hop duo from Queensbridge, Queens, New York. The duo consisted of rappers Havoc and Prodigy. They are considered to be among the main progenitors of hardcore East Coast hip hop and hip hop in the mid 1990s. Mobb Deep became one of the most successful rap duos in history, having sold over three million records. Three of their most notable albums were The Infamous (1995), Hell on Earth (1996) and Murda Muzik (1999), and their top hits include "Shook Ones ", "Survival of the Fittest" and "Hell On Earth ". They were known for their dark and hardcore delivery.

<i>Infamy</i> (album) 2001 studio album by Mobb Deep

Infamy is the fifth studio album by the American hip hop duo Mobb Deep. Infamy was released after Jay-Z dissed Prodigy and Nas on his song "Takeover," from Jay-Z's 2001 album, The Blueprint, which caused Prodigy to strike back on the Track "Crawlin". Infamy has been certified Gold by the RIAA, selling over 800,000 copies in the United States of America. It has been successful critically as well as commercially, getting good scores from The Source and HipHopDX, as well as Allmusic and Rolling Stone magazine.

<i>H.N.I.C.</i> (Prodigy album) 2000 studio album by Prodigy

H.N.I.C. is the debut solo album by American rapper Prodigy. The album was scheduled for a September release but ultimately released November 14, 2000.

Survival of the Fittest (song)

"Survival of the Fittest" is a song by American hip hop duo Mobb Deep from their second studio album, The Infamous (1995). It was released as the second single from the aforementioned album on May 29, 1995 by Loud Records. The song was produced by Havoc, using a sample of the 1976 song "Skylark" by The Barry Harris Trio and Al Cohn.

Episodes of a Hustla is the debut album by American rapper Big Noyd, released on December 10, 1996, by Tommy Boy Records. He recorded the album after making his name as a rapper on Mobb Deep's The Infamous and Hell on Earth albums. Most of the album was produced by Mobb Deep's Havoc and features guest appearances by Prodigy. Big Noyd's lyrics use violent, disturbing imagery to boast his rapping skills. Episodes of a Hustla charted at number 59 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.The album is now out of print.

Infamous Mobb, also known as IM3, is a hip hop group from Queensbridge, Long Island City, Queens, New York, United States, composed of members Ty Nitty, Twin Gambino, Godfather Pt.III, and Ron Gotti. They are an integral part of the Queensbridge Hip Hop scene, which includes rappers like Nas, and Mobb Deep, and began with the Juice Crew.

"I Shot Ya / I Shot Ya (remix)" is a song by American rapper LL Cool J featuring Keith Murray, from his sixth album Mr. Smith. The remix version of the song was released as a B-side to "Hey Lover", but received a video directed by Hype Williams, leading some to believe the track was an actual single from the album. Produced by Trackmasters, the remix was released in 1995 for Def Jam Recordings, and peaked at number 55 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for the Billboard charts.

<i>H.N.I.C. Pt. 2</i> 2008 studio album by Prodigy

H.N.I.C. Pt. 2 is the second solo album by American rapper Prodigy of Mobb Deep. The album was released on April 22, 2008. It is a sequel to H.N.I.C., released in 2000. The album features production by The Alchemist, Sid Roams, Havoc and Apex. The album features guest appearances from artists that frequently work with Prodigy, including Havoc, Un Pacino, Nyce, Big Noyd, Twin Gambino and Cormega.

The discography of Prodigy, an American rapper and one half of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep, consists of 5 studio albums, 3 collaborative albums, 1 EP, 5 mixtapes and 17 singles.

<i>Black Cocaine</i> 2011 EP by Mobb Deep

Black Cocaine is an EP by hip hop duo Mobb Deep, and the duo's first release following Prodigy's release from prison. The project was announced by producer The Alchemist through his Twitter account. The songs "Conquer", "Get It Forever" and "Waterboarding" were later featured as bonus tracks on their 2014 album The Infamous Mobb Deep.

Crystal Jeanell Johnson is an American singer, songwriter, producer, and actress from Brooklyn, New York. She has performed in a variety of stage productions and has collaborated with a wide array of well-known artists including Anthony Hamilton, Dr. Dre, Heavy D, Mobb Deep, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Angie Stone, Usher and many others.

<i>H.N.I.C. 3</i> 2012 studio album by Prodigy

H.N.I.C. 3 is the third studio album by American hip hop recording artist Prodigy of gangsta rap duo Mobb Deep. The album was released on July 3, 2012 under Infamous Records. The album is the third and final installment of Prodigy's H.N.I.C. series. The album features guest appearances from Wiz Khalifa, T.I., Willie Taylor of Day26 and his Mobb Deep cohort Havoc. The album's production was handled by Sid Roams, Beat Butcha, Young L, S.C., Ty Fyffe and T.I., as well as Prodigy's frequent collaborator The Alchemist. H.N.I.C. 3 debuted at #105 on the Billboard 200 chart.

<i>The Bumpy Johnson Album</i> 2012 studio album by Prodigy

The Bumpy Johnson Album is an album by American rapper Prodigy of Mobb Deep. The mixtape was released on October 2, 2012. The album was released exclusively to digital download retailers. The album is his second release in 2012 following H.N.I.C. Part 3 that was released two months earlier. Half of the songs on the album were previously released on The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson EP which was released in 2011. The song "Twilight" had a verse by Havoc.

<i>Albert Einstein</i> (album) 2013 studio album by Prodigy and The Alchemist

Albert Einstein is the second collaborative studio album by American hip hop recording artist Prodigy of Mobb Deep and American record producer The Alchemist. The album was released on June 11, 2013, by Infamous Records. The album features guest appearances from Roc Marciano, Domo Genesis, The Alchemist, Havoc, Raekwon and Action Bronson.

<i>13</i> (Havoc album) 2013 studio album by Havoc

13 is the third solo studio album by American rapper Havoc, one-half of the hip hop duo Mobb Deep. The album was released on May 7, 2013 by Nature Sounds. The singles "Tell Me to My Face", "Gone" and "Life We Chose" have been released. The album features guest appearances from Styles P, Raekwon, Lloyd Banks, Masspike Miles, Royce da 5'9" and Twista.


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