It's not strange that Prodigy of the duo Mobb Deep's second solo release, Return of the Mac,
is a gritty, New York-centric quest to maintain order in an increasingly hip-pop driven world. What is surprising is that, after signing on with 50 Cent's crumbling G-Unit empire and dropping the watered-down 2006 debacle Blood Money
, this disc is easily the best Mobb Deep venture since 1996's Hell on Earth
. Entirely produced by the Alchemist, Return of the Mac
leans on curiously unacknowledged '70s soul samples and blaxploitation loops. While some of the beats seem haphazard ("Legends," "Nickel and a Nail"), the overall result is a uniform sound that is nicely suited to Prodigy's dark, sedated delivery. On "7th Heaven," Prodigy takes the listener on a vivid journey through gun-heavy streets after he boasts of self-medicating with alcohol, purple haze, and OxyContin. With "Mac 10 Handle," he flips the drugged-out psychosis of the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" into a spooky rant that painfully resembles a suicide note. At times, Prodigy's rhymes come off so violent and forced that they seem like an afterthought. Likewise, the lyrics rarely stray from the hardcore criminal sound that has become synonymous with Mobb Deep lots of references to knives, bucks, and bulletproof trucks. Still, for anyone who wants to joyride with a narcissistic MC claiming to be "strung out on gunfire," Return of the Mac
is an entertaining effort that revels in its own paranoia and wildly sensationalized excess.