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“You lookin’ for P well you can find him anywhere, in a project near you, I’ll be right there.”

Tributes from all echelons of the hip hop world and beyond started rolling in Wednesday as news spread that we’d lost Prodigy, one half of Mobb Deep and one of the most vital, hardest, and grim street rap voices ever. When P rapped “I’m only 19 but my mind is older” twenty three years ago on “Shook Ones Part 2,” he did so with a nonchalant weariness of someone who’d grown numb to the wars swirling around him in close proximity. He’d been raised in the violent projects of Queensbridge in NY where anyone could be a perceived threat, any situation could turn violent, and he who claps first claps last and lives another day. His lyrics painted raw scenes over eerie synths with blood-spattered rhymes and body counts higher than most horror flicks. But it didn’t feel over the top. It felt scarily authentic, and this authenticity drew people to Mobb Deep immediately.

As Prodigy grappled with severe sickle cell anemia his whole life, it’d be hard to feign authenticity anyhow – the emotional pain that bled out plenty in P’s rhymes about societal ills ravaging his outside world were probably secondary to the physical fight he fought every day until his death. He served his art dutifully for nearly 25 years, released acclaimed solo work, wrote a book and continued to write and perform up until his final show in Las Vegas on June 17th. Watching the crowd in 110 degree desert heat sing every word of their medley leading up to the “Shook Ones Part 2” finale, you recognize the respect P earned and deserved over the course of his young life.

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