Half of N.Y. rap duo Mobb Deep

AL­BERT JOHNSON, 1974 - 2017

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Ger­rick D. Kennedy ger­rick.kennedy @la­times.com Twit­ter:@Ger­rick­Kennedy

Prodigy, one half of the revered hiphop group Mobb Deep, has died. He was 42. Af­ter per­form­ing in Las Ve­gas over the week­end, the rap­per, born Al­bert Johnson, was hos­pi­tal­ized for com­pli­ca­tions caused by sickle cell dis­ease, his pub­li­cist said. He was found un­con­scious Tues­day morn­ing.

“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 N.Y. rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy was hos­pi­tal­ized a few days ago in Ve­gas af­ter a Mobb Deep per­for­mance for com­pli­ca­tions caused by a sickle cell ane­mia cri­sis,” a state­ment from the group’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive said.

“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.”

News of Prodigy’s pass­ing first broke when col­lab­o­ra­tor Nas posted a trib­ute to the rap­per on In­sta­gram. “QB RIP King P. Prodigy 4 Ever,” he wrote.

Born Nov. 2, 1974, in Hemp­stead, N.Y., Johnson was part of a fam­ily with deep mu­si­cal con­nec­tions. His mother, Fa­tima Johnson, who died late last year, had per­formed with ’60s girl group the Crys­tals. His grand­fa­ther, Budd Johnson, was a re­spected jazz sax­o­phon­ist.

Al­bert Johnson formed Mobb Deep with rap­per-pro­ducer Havoc in the early ’90s. The duo re­leased its first al­bum, “Ju­ve­nile Hell,” in 1993 but broke out with 1995’s “The In­fa­mous,” which was cer­ti­fied gold by the Record­ing In­dus­try Assn. of Amer­ica for ship­ments of more than 500,000 copies.

The Times once de­scribed “The In­fa­mous” as a “daz­zling al­bum” that served as “a sound­track for a lost gen­er­a­tion of wild kids roam­ing the grimy New York streets in search of the next cheap thrill, il­le­gal gain or sui­ci­dal show­down.”

Mobb Deep last re­leased an al­bum in 2014, “The In­fa­mous Mobb Deep.” The group was re­spected for its re­lent­lessly hard-core take on East Coast hip-hop, with The Times de­scrib­ing another one of the act’s al­bums as a “bru­tal batch of bar­baric as­saults with un­com­pro­mis­ing edge.”

Prodigy launched his solo ca­reer in 2000 with “H.N.I.C.” He re­leased his fifth solo al­bum, “Hegelian Dialec­tic (The Book of Rev­e­la­tion),” this year.

Last year he pub­lished “Com­mis­sary Kitchen: My In­fa­mous Prison Cook­book,” a col­lec­tion of recipes in­spired by his three-year jail stint due to crim­i­nal pos­ses­sion of a weapon. He was re­leased in 2011, and the book fea­tures meals cre­ated by in­mates us­ing the few in­gre­di­ents avail­able at the jail com­mis­sary.

Mobb Deep was in Ve­gas per­form­ing as part of the Art of Rap tour — a mega-bill of vet­eran hip-hop acts in­clud­ing Ghost­face Kil­lah, Onyx, KRS-One and Ice-T. The group was sched­uled to per­form June 30 in Ne­wark, N.J.

Mark Lennihan As­so­ci­ated Press

CER­TI­FIED GOLD On Mobb Deep’s break­out 1995 al­bum, Prodigy de­liv­ered “a sound­track for a lost gen­er­a­tion.”

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