Albert "Prodigy" Johnson is best known as one half of the Queens hip hop duo Mobb Deep. He's also the author of the memoir "My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy." But now, he's got a new role: fiction writer. He joins us to talk about his new street-lit novella, "H.N.I.C.," about a Brooklyn man who just can’t seem to leave a life of crime behind.
"H.N.I.C." is also the name of a trilogy of his solo albums. Hear the rapper and author discuss writing fiction, his new Albert Einstein project with producer The Alchemist, and basketball player Metta World Peace.
Albert "Prodigy" Johnson, on whether the novella H.N.I.C. is connected to his music projects:
The music that [Mobb Deep and I] make is more like — we call it reality rap. We talk about a lot of real situations in our life. We put our life in the music.... We don’t really do fiction too much in the music. We try to stay away from that. So writing a fiction novella was definitely something new for me. It’s something that I like to do though because it gives me a chance to use my imagination and my creativity more.
On the difficulties of entering the hip hop industry as a teenager:
The hip hop music that we do is very street-related, is very rugged. And we deal with a lot of unsavory characters out there. It’s kind of hard to get away from that, especially at a young age. We were very young when we came into the business. We were like 15, 16 years old. So we were just like young juvenile delinquents trying to do something good, but at the same time caught up in that lifestyle. It took me a while. I had to learn to take myself out of certain situations and put myself in the right circle of people that are doing positive things like I’m trying to do with my life.
On struggling to write music while he was in prison:
You gotta order from a prison catalog. And in a prison catalog, a lot of the music is bootleg, a lot of it is overpriced. A lot of music is just instrumentals that are out there already, like the best of Jay-Z or the best of Kanye West, best of Nas. It’s hard for my creativity to come out when I’m writing on stuff that I’ve heard. Somebody else rapped on it before. I need something original. That was a hard thing for me when I was locked up.