Taking in the hardcore hip hop of Mobb Deep…in Lawrence

From left to right, Prodigy, Nadia Imafidon (me), Havoc, and Alma Bahman (digital editor). That smile is pure "dreams do come true!"

From left to right, Prodigy, Nadia Imafidon (me), Havoc, and Alma Bahman (digital editor). That smile is pure "dreams do come true!" by Nadia Imafidon

As much as it pains me to say, Lawrence doesn’t exactly lend itself to the hip hop scene.

I know, I know. This is coming off as completely new information. But for someone who was raised on Tupac, Biggie, Nas, NWA, Wu-Tang Clan, among other incredible hip hop gods—I’m not going to entertain East Coast vs. West Coast feud discussions, don’t make me —moving to Kansas when I was 11 was bound to change my music taste.

It’s funny, but I didn’t realize how dramatic the change had been until last night’s Mobb Deep show, as the bass dropped and I remembered how much my body craves swaying along to the blaring speakers, gritty lyricism, and the harsh, competitive nature of such a scrappy genre. After all, it’s survival of the fittest, and damn, these two Queensborough-born artists aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

“You’re not going to hear our songs on the radio,” Havoc yelled out at the crowd, after thanking those who showed up to the hardly packed Granada.

Used to the underdog status, it didn’t seem to bother them that the crowd was thin, as they paced the stage continuously, and leaned out to grab the hands of devoted fans rapping in unison below them. In the 20 years Mobb Deep has been in the game, the dark New York rap of Havoc and Prodigy never made it to Top 40s status. This is no reflection of their career, however, having sold over three million records as the most successful rap duo.

But like I said, Lawrence doesn’t exactly scream hip hop.

And I forgot that while in the past couple months (or so) I’ve taken in St. Vincent, Dr. Dog, Mates of State, Shakey Graves, Real Estate, Local Natives, Arcade Fire, and countless local bands of all rock persuasions, those particular audiences wouldn’t also be present to watch the duo dish out hardcore “reality rap.”

Or watch their raw aggression escalate, gunshot sounds bellowing from the monitors between old favorites and new tracks off recently released “The Infamous Mobb Deep,” featuring a disc of original music and another bonus disc filled with unreleased tracks from their 1995 album, “Infamous.”

As the night came to a close, Prodigy and Havoc left the stage without making any clear indication they wouldn’t actually return (pomp and circumstance isn’t exactly in keeping with their overall brand). I felt the disappointment set in, knowing very well it would be a bit before hip hop greatness came through LFK, and suffering from missing something I had no idea I had missed so much.

That was until one of the handlers came up to me and Alma Bahman (digital editor at LJWorld) and said Mobb Deep had sent him out to bring us backstage. I believe the exact words were, “Come with me, Mobb Deep wants to meet you,” but I was too busy trying to figure out why this guy was playing games with my heart. Get real dude, I’m not falling for it.

Following him regardless, I was soon standing right next to Havoc and giving him a hard time about the fact that his publicist didn’t come through on an interview request (I’m such a journalist, it hurts), in which he responded with an apology and asked what I wanted to know.

“Uh...what do you think of Lawrence?” I asked shyly, because fangirling happens to the best of us.

“It’s different from New York, but we love it every time we’re in Kansas,” he responded coolly.

He spent even more time after learning where both of us were from, which is when I diffused a coast feud conversation between Havoc and Alma, as she grew up in L.A. Then he grabbed Prodigy for a photo with us before we made a euphoric exit back to the real world without our new best friends of Mobb Deep.

I’ve got to say, Lawrence may not be the hip hop capital of the world (or even close). But I hardly think I would have been able to have a casual conversation with Mobb Deep in a packed venue of New York.


frank mcguinness 3 years, 11 months ago

Welcome to Lawrence, you must be new here so let me bring you up to speed. I completely disagree with your statement "Lawrence doesn’t exactly lend itself to the hip hop scene". Lawrence has always hosted Hip Hop acts as long as I can remember. In fact some of my first concerts as a youth were Public Enemy at the Kansas Union in 1993 and Digable Planets at liberty hall in 1994. Since then everyone from the Sugar Hill Gang to Wu Tang Clan has graced Lawrence, (many of them multiple times like Wu Tang Clan and Jurassic 5). Honestly, this may be a stretch but I cannot think of a major hip hop group that hasn't played in Lawrence. Mos Def, Dilated Peoples, Ol Dirty Bastard, Ghostface, Raekwon, Black Starr,Talib Kweli and the list goes on forever. Heck, lawrence even hosted the Midwest DMC DJ regional in the late 90's. Now some of the artists you referenced have not visited, notably Tupac and Biggie but then again their lives were cut short but even NAS played at the Uptown in the early 2000's. (I know thats not Lawrence but its pretty close by). Sorry you are late to the party but before you belittle Lawrence remember that there are countless towns across America who have never hosted a fraction of the Hip Hop artists Lawrence has, not even cities with 20x the population of Lawrence can claim Eminem played for them. (Eminem at Liberty Hall 2000) And one more for good measure, Ice-T at the Outhouse with Body Count. Again, research before you make nonsense claims.

frank mcguinness 3 years, 11 months ago

Oh and how can I forget The Fugees at that Granada.

frank mcguinness 3 years, 11 months ago

Too $hort was here just a couple of months ago... But nah, Lawrence doesn't lend itself to Hip Hop. lol

Rob Dz 3 years, 11 months ago

Well, hopefully this gives you some hope in midwest hip hop. Have mic, will travel to Lawrence!!!

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