Havoc of Mobb Deep: "Donald Trump is Like a Biggie to Me!"


Editor's note: In "Tweets Is Watching," Phillip Mlynar asks local artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.

Havoc dropped his new 13 album earlier this week, a project he calls "an ode to hip-hop." He'll soon be hitting the tour circuit in the name of promotional duties, so before then we called up the Mobb Deep man to talk his favorite rap stars, being stingy with Lloyd Banks' birthday present, and the time he met the recently departed Chris Kelly of Kriss Kross.

See also:R.A. the Rugged Man: The Music Industry is Made of "Crooked Fake Phonies"

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The Top Five Queens Rap Anthems (As Chosen By Hip-Hop Artists)

Nas, representing Queens' own.
Talk of patriotism might be all up in the BBQ-scented air at this time of year, but rap artists are equally as proud of their local roots, not least when it comes to the great masses who hail from Queens. With the Q-Boro having provided perhaps more great rappers than any other section of New York City, we got in touch with some of Queens' most estimable hip-hop stars—Prodigy from Mobb Deep, Psycho Les from the Beatnuts, Das Racist's pal Big Baby Gandhi and DJ Rob Swift—and asked them to pick their all-time favorite Queens hip-hop anthems.

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Six Great '90s NYC Rap Demos

"Please listen to my demo!" That particular plea may no longer be heard coming from plucky upcoming rappers, what with the Internet age and all, but there's an undeniable pull about getting to hear the industry-ears-only dusty tapes that begat some of hip-hop's finest album moments. This week sees the release of a collection of Queen Latifah's Flavor Unit associate Latee's previously demo-only tracks; each is produced by future Jay-Z collaborator Mark The 45 King and hails from the early '90s, and the whole shebang is released as a premium-priced vinyl-only offering from the Diggers With Gratitude stable.

The Flavor Unit prospered from over the river in New Jersey, so here's a run-down of six great '90s New York City rap demo tapes that are now just a Mediafire muddle away. (Note: The Internet is filled with a lot of alleged and actually unreleased material; we've plumped for the perceived demos that come closet to offering up a stand-alone listening session, as opposed to one-off tracks. Curate this lot together as a playlist and you won't be disappointed.)

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Live: Rick Ross Lives Out His Dreams At Summer Jam

Hot 97 Summer Jam
New Meadowlands Stadium
Sunday, June 5

Better than: Sitting at home and moping like 50 Cent.

Rick Ross closed out Summer Jam.

Just so there's no revisionist history here, let's remember how incredible that statement is. Three years ago, Ross was the punching bag of hip-hop, the laughingstock of the streets. After recording countless verses that fetishized Tony Montana fantasies, someone pinched him—Ross' cartoonish thought bubble vanished into thin air, and he was rudely snapped back to reality. He wasn't a druglord superhero; he was William Roberts, a grown man playing dress-up, a former correctional officer who wanted to be a rapper so badly that he rewrote his personal history. Two years ago, he wasn't being played on New York radio.

And here, onstage at Giants Stadium, was Rick Ross—his chest puffed out, his black-and-yellow Hawaiian shirt open wide but still somehow stretching tight—cheered on by fifty thousand strong. They welcomed his street anthem, "B.M.F.," chanting a chorus and cadence that, in various incarnations, has blasted out of car windows on 125th ever since it came out last summer: "I think I'm Big Meech, Larry Hoover." Rick Ross can make up a lot of things, but even he couldn't make this up.

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Rock-Critic Pop Quiz: How Deep Is Your Mobb Deep Knowledge?

Queens rap legend Prodigy of Mobb Deep is officially out of jail after three long years, and we have a pretty authoritative feature about his last days in the bing. Our own Laura Checkoway (who co-wrote his autobiography My Infamous Life, due this month via Touchstone Books) gets closer than anyone, finding out about his in-jail germophobia, his first meal as a free man and his beef-squashing with Nas. All of this got us thinking--how much do us rock critics really know about this dude? I mean, every rock critic will tell you they love Mobb Deep (and will probably use words like "austere" when they do it) but do they really know these Queensbridge lyrical murderers? So we asked 15 rock critics:

Can you name the two members of Mobb Deep, and one of their songs that isn't "Shook Ones Pt. 2"?

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Top 10 New Hardcore-Rap Classics Brought To You By Siccness.net

I first noticed Siccness.net in 2009, when they released Beanie Sigel's street album, The Broad Street Bully. The label name struck me as profoundly dubious, like one of those shell companies that distribute illegal mixtapes to online retail stores only to magically dissolve the minute rights-holders come poking around. The album also prominently featured a sample of Queen's "I Want It All" that I suspected the imprint's legal team might have been less than rigorous in clearing. There's a hilarious moment on the intro to the extremely solemn song "Tear Drops" where Beanie mutters, "Turn my vocals up a little bit . . . yeah, that thing right right there, Brandon." Immediately, Brandon's appearance and identity became a matter of hot debate among my friends, and Siccness.net became a minor fascination.

It turns out these guys put out a lot of great gangsta-rap albums, all by mostly over-the-hill rappers, legacy artists with cult followings but tapped-out commercial potential: Pastor Troy, A.Z., Keith Murray, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Beanie, in the aftermath of his commercially disappointing The Solution and the onset of his self-annihilating, pitifully one-sided feud with Jay-Z, fits right into this wheelhouse. Moreover, Siccness.net is distributed digitally through E1 Entertainment, the new name for Koch Records, the New York label that was once infamous for collecting rappers smarting from failed major-label deals and promising them $8 for every album sold. (Fat Joe was, and in many ways remains, their mascot.) Now Koch has gone upscale, having slightly shed their reputation as a hip-hop "graveyard," as 50 Cent once pointedly put it. Now that their property value has increased, a handy little rap niche has re-opened.

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