Mobb mentality

Sandy Kim

Prodigy -- one half of iconic New York hip-hop act Mobb Deep -- spit lyrics at the Max Fish wrap party for the Agenda NYC trade show.

1993 was a year that defined a new New York City and continues to impact the world. With so many subcultures commingling, the year marked a time when New York culture put the world on blast. Part of 1993's story -- a year documented recently in the "NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star" show at NYC's New Museum -- is that there wasn't a singular event that crystalized it, but a entire crop of creatives who took rap, skateboarding, film and art to new places. Queens rap act Mobb Deep released their debut album, "Juvenile Hell," that year and were broadcast to the skate world through 411 Video Magazine and instantly embraced.

Almost 20 years have passed since that jump-off, and with the closing of iconic skateboarder bar Max Fish's Lower East Side location at the end of this month, part of the story's ended. It's fitting that Mobb Deep member Prodigy would perform to an over-capacity room of skateboarding luminaries at one of the bar's final events -- a post-Agenda trade show wrap party presented by New Era and Hat Club NYC -- last Thursday.

Since being released from a three-year prison sentence in March 2011, P's been on a 360 grind, working as many angles as possible with the same thirst that brought him success at the start. He's a father and an author, and he's rebooting the Infamous clothing brand this fall as well as continuing to make music; most recently, he released an album with Alchemist titled "Albert Einstein."

P and his entourage broke through the walls of people in Max Fish to speak to right on Ludlow Street, his crew forming a protective semi-circle so we could chop it up and find out what a New York state of mind means to him. What's going on with your line, Infamous?
Prodigy: Infamous is a brand I started back in '99; I put together a design team but never got an opportunity to really do something with it. Recently I met with the people at PLNDR and Karmaloop and had a good conversation, and they were interested in putting the brand in their store -- the exact opportunity I'd been waiting for. We're refocusing on the clothing and also jewelry and accessories. It's going to be launching around September for back to school.

I'm art-directing Infamous and I'm doing the jewelry line with Gabriel Urist, a pretty famous designer; he makes a lot of handmade pieces. I met him through a friend and we've been sitting down together and really making an ill line. We're doing bracelets and chains with lyrics from my rhymes built inside the jewelry. My song lyrics are the inspiration for the clothing and jewelry, but we're doing it in a way it's never been done before.

Sandy Kim

P put his lifetime in between the paper's lines. His second book, "H.N.I.C.," will be released July 16.

You've collabed with several skate brands, like Supra and Selfish; how do you feel about the relationship between skating and rap now?
I got into it early, back in the days when we were on Loud Records -- around '95/'96. We first started poppin' with Wu-Tang and I started to see magazines like Thrasher and certain snowboarding, BMX and skating events being really into our music. We were like, "Wow! This is more than just, like, what we think it is. It's a whole culture." It's more than just hip-hop; it goes into the street sports, like skating and BMX. It's the same style and mentality.

Really a skater is a rebel, you know? Police are always like, 'Don't skate here!' so they have the same rebellious attitude as my music. Now I have a 17-year-old son and he's a skater and that made me really think, "OK, let's do something with the skate world." I hooked up with Supra and designed a sneaker for them [The Infamous x Supra Bandit]. One is a green camo and another old-school black-and-white camo, a throwback to the '90s. We wore those camo suits back then when we was comin' up.

Since you saw the cultures mixing early on, did you immediately realize it was a good direction to move in?
I think it's good because the skate world and the hip-hop world have the same attitude; we can relate to each other and it makes sense. It's not like we're trying to do something just to make money.

What does New York mean to you?
New York is growing up and experiencing all the different cultures -- all the different people mixed together. You're dealing with people from all walks of life out here. That's what's so special about New York to me: You learn how to cooperate with others and understand so many cultures ... it really teaches you how to communicate and relate to people.

Is that the biggest thing it taught you?
That and the aggressiveness of living here; it's so competitive and there's so many people striving for a common goal, looking for success. It teaches you that you have to be serious about it, because somebody will come and take your spot, you know what I mean? It taught me to be passionate and to just go out there and get it.

Your music really defines New York. What do you think it is that keeps it so relevant?
It's the aggressiveness and passion that I put into my lyrics and the beats that we choose. It's that dark, sinister sound. The era I grew up in was worse than what it is now; it's a little bit more safe now. You got cameras everywhere, so many police and undercovers everywhere, it's not like how it used to be -- the wild, wild West back in the days. It was dangerous then; you'd walk around Times Square and you could get mugged, robbed, shot, stabbed ... all that.

Now it looks like Disneyland or Vegas with all the lights and everything. Just me growing up [in] that era really shaped our sound, the real gritty New York. It's still like that, it's just cleaned up a little bit. That's what makes my music stand out: When you listen to it, it just pushes that emotion through and people think, "I can relate to that. I know what that's about."

What's next for Prodigy?
July 16th I have a new book coming out. My first book came out when I came home from jail in 2011. It was an autobiography that did really good and was a bit controversial ... a lot of people were going crazy about it. The next book I wrote is a fiction story; it's actually taken from a movie script I wrote back in '99. I thought it would work better to put out the book first, then shoot the movie later.

I had the idea to link up with a writer from England to give it a different type of feel by using the slang from out there in London mixed with the New York slang. I sent the script to Steven Savile -- a well-known fiction writer with several books. He was feeling it and I told him I needed someone to help me turn this into a book, and he agreed to do it. He did it, sent it back and I thought, "Yo, this is dope. That's what I'm talkin' about." It's called "H.N.I.C.," and I'm also going to be putting out other books with other authors and myself with Infamous Books. It's a way to continue to work with multimedia and build the whole brand.

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