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Return of the Mac

Rating: 7/10 ?

April 23, 2007
And the NRA Mixtape of the Year Award goes to... Prodigy!

This is a mixtape about guns, plain and simple. And the louder half of Mobb Deep (producer Havoc being the other part of the duo) doesn't waste any time letting you know that. "I've got eleven Mac-11s, thirty-eight .38s, nine 9s, ten Mac-10s, the shit don't end," he says on the title track, an ode to New York gun talk. And so it goes for eleven songs and four skits.

To cover all the bases, there's some stuff you gotsta know about Prodigy, Mobb Deep and Return of the Mac. So, in honor of the CZ P-01, which is what every shooter should have tucked in his waistline and holds fourteen in the clip, here are just as many bullets that are fired all over the place:

.: This is a mixtape. You can't judge a mixtape by the same standards as an album.

.: By mixtape standards, this is pretty damn good. The (Geto Boys) "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me"-inspired "Mac 10 Handle" could be a single off a gold album and "Bang On 'Em" could shake up any club.

.: Released in an effort to get the public amped about the follow-up to Prodigy's gold-certified H.N.I.C., this mixtape is an appetizer before main course H.N.I.C. 2, which is set to drop later this year.

.: Everyone aside from rappers and producers knows that skits are over. As a rule, with the exception of maybe Prince Paul, producers should stay away from skits. But that doesn't stop Prodigy and Alchemist from trying - four times. The skits here aren't so much bad as they are worthless. Skits, in general, make albums appear longer than they are, and in a culture obsessed with quantity rather than quality, the lists of songs on most rap albums have become metaphorical McDonald's menus. ("Legends," which pays homage to the pioneers of hip hop even inexplicably ends with the lyrics to the old Big Mac song.)

.: Return of the Mac is produced by Alchemist, who is one of a handful of producers who effortlessly rides the line between underground and mainstream. He's made beats for Nas, Snoop, and Fat Joe, but also a bunch of artists you've never heard of. And he spreads the wealth equally, never stashing away his best beats for the boss with the biggest stack of cash.

.: Alchemist's first tracks with Mobb Deep were off of 1999's Murda Muzik, the group's best - and highest selling - album.

.: Go to iTunes now, look up Murda Muzik and download the Alchemist-produced "The Realest," on which Prodigy holds his own with Kool G Rap, who is arguably the best rapper ever.

.: Mixtapes can be sloppy and scattered, but every Alchemist beat on Return of the Mac works - so well, in fact, that with a little more effort, this could have been an actual album worthy of heavy promotion and radio edits.

.: There's a reason this isn't an official album. Mobb Deep is now a part of 50 Cent's G-Unit, with Interscope Records. Their first album under the tutelage of Curtis Jackson, Blood Money, blasted out of the gate, but then tripped over all the obstacles in its way (the growing pains of going from underground bosses to mainstream foot soldiers; having to share the limelight with all-star label mates Lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo and Young Buck; inheriting the G-Unit beef with Game; and way too damn much hype), none of which had to do with the music, which was actually pretty good.

.: The Game left G-Unit after 50 Cent tried to pull him into his various beefs with other East Coast artists. Now, it appears that Prodigy is becoming a henchman for 50, attacking Game on "300 Shots," a response to Game's G-Unit diss track "300 Bars," which was recorded before Prodigy was a part of the crew.

.: Following the lackluster success of Blood Money, Prodigy and Havoc both decided to put out solo projects. Havoc's Kush is slated to come out in May on Interscope, but Prodigy left the reservation for Koch Entertainment.

.: Koch has been dragged into multiple beefs with 50 Cent since 50 claimed he was so powerful he could have Styles P's album for Interscope pushed back. Apparently 50 wasn't playing, and Styles' album, aptly-titled Time is Money, was pushed back several times. Styles has since signed with Koch. (video)

.: After the Styles P incident, Mr. Jackson went and got himself into an argument with Camron on the Angie Martinez Show, during which he called Koch a graveyard for hip-hop artists. (video)

.: Food for thought: Mobb Deep, thanks to Prodigy's lyrics and terrifyingly solemn delivery and Havoc's steady beats, have spent 15 years developing a rep that's untouchable. Why make a mixtape now? And why do it in the "graveyard"?

Reviewed by Taylor Loyal
The last we heard, Taylor was living in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the guitar-shaped swimming pool.

See other reviews by Taylor Loyal



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