Prodigy, one half of the iconic hardcore New York rap duo Mobb Deep, died after being hospitalized for complications related to sickle cell anemia, a representative confirmed Tuesday. He was 42.
The rapper was hospitalized a few days ago following a Mobb Deep performance in Las Vegas, according to his representative.
“It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep,” the statement reads. “As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.”
The other half of Mobb Deep, Havoc, posted a captionless photo of Prodigy to Instagram as word spread and tributes began pouring in from other hip-hop figures.
“I wouldn’t have rapped the way I did/do and I wouldn’t have loved hip hop the way I did/do without Prodigy existing,” New York rapper Jean Grae tweeted.
“One of Queen’s finest,” Russell Simmons tweeted. “He will be greatly missed.”
Prodigy and Havoc first called themselves Poetical Prophets in the early 1990s before they became Mobb Deep and released 1993’s “Juvenile Hell.”
At a time when California-based gangsta rap blew up in popularity, New York groups such as Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep came to personify the grimiest and roughest of the New York sound. Mobb Deep’s members also got name-dropped in dis tracks and became embroiled in the East Coast-West Coast rivalry of the 1990s, which came to a head with the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.
Mobb Deep’s second album, the classic “The Infamous,” now ranks as among the most important hardcore rap albums. It also contains the group’s most popular tracks, “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” in which the pair describe life in the Queensbridge Houses project and declare: “Ain’t no such things as halfway crooks.” The song still enjoys regular rotation on hip-hop radio stations and at B-boy jams across the country, despite “The Infamous” only peaking at No. 18 on the Billboard charts upon its release.
In all, Mobb Deep released eight full-length albums. Prodigy also went on to release a number of solo albums and tracks, collaborating with well-known producers such as the Alchemist. His last album, “The Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation),” came out in January.
Mobb Deep split for a couple of years, but reunited and released 2014’s “The Infamous Mobb Deep.”
Prodigy released a 2011 autobiography, “My Infamous Life,” and a collaborated on a cookbook containing recipes he came up with while serving a three-and-a-half-year sentence on gun-possession charges from 2007.
His stint in prison made him “realize the gravity, the reality of having everything taken from you. My career, my family, my freedom,” Prodigy, a father of two, told the Associated Press in 2016. “I just tell them, you know, it was horrible. You don’t ever want to be in that position. Learn from my mistakes. Learn from me. You don’t have go through it yourself.”