Despite being way into Clipse—the group that basically took their coke rap and desperation duo act to more vicious ends—despite knowing that Jay-Z calls them out on “Takeover,” despite hearing that The Infamous was a classic, despite having access to high speed Internet and music sharing platforms, despite catching up on classic hip-hop albums in college, and despite considering their Queensbridge brethren Nas’ Illmatic as one of my favorite albums ever, it took until about 2011 before I heard The Infamous in its entirety. I had heard “Shook Ones Pt. II,” of course, but I hadn’t heard the whole album. I can’t really explain this beyond just not making the commitment.
Somehow this admittance feels like admitting a public failure. But that’s part of being a music listener, and being honest. Because of the Internet, people are less likely to outright admit they have deficiencies in their music listening; if they see some band they’re unfamiliar with, they download the albums and act like they’ve always listened to that band. It makes everyone a fake expert in everything.
So in an effort to not do that, I don’t have much of a frame of reference for this album. I bought it because of “Shook Ones Pt. II” and because I had never seen it on vinyl before. It’s obviously really great; it’s claustrophobic and desperate, and lyrically it’s as journalistic as the great hip-hop albums. So I have no excuse. It’s as good as everyone says it is. I’d like to say that this is so much better than their other material, like everyone else always says, but I’ve never heard any Mobb Deep album other than this. All I know is that it would take a lot to be better than The Infamous.