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Prodigy: 10 Essential Tracks From the Mobb Deep MC

Albert "Prodigy" Johnson, one of the great voices from New York's thug-rap renaissance in the Nineties, died on June 20th at the age of 42. The rapper had a tumultuous upbringing – plagued by sickle cell anemia, depression and a broken family – but, as his lyrics show, he was the type to turn setbacks into triumph. Forming Mobb Deep with Kejuan "Havoc" Muchita as a teenager, the duo recorded one of the most important albums in hip-hop history, 1995's The Infamous, an album of effortless, cold-blooded raps about street life that replaced gangsta glamor with a flickering black-and-white grit. The group's influence hit its apotheosis when Mobb Deep-influenced Queens MC 50 Cent sold millions and ultimately signed the group to his G-Unit Records. Though never achieving a Top 40 pop hit on their own, Mobb Deep remained well-respected as they weathered career ups and downs. Prodigy went to prison for 3½ years for gun possession, but upon his release in 2011, he spent his final years as a hip-hop Renaissance Man, writing one of the best rapper autobiographies (My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy), penning a cookbook (Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook) and recording with everyone from Childish Gambino to Curren$y to Alchemist's revolving crew of indie spitters. Here's 10 essential tracks from a wild and storied career.