Nearly a month into his three-and-a-half-year bid on weapons possession, Prodigy, half of the veteran Queens rap duo Mobb Deep, must endure the release of his new album, H.N.I.C. PT. 2, from behind bars. Leading up to his incarceration, Prodigy embarked on a marathon of self-promotion that included a social networking website, a low-budget video for each track, and conspiracy-theory-laced blog entries delivered through the print megaphone of capital letters. H.N.I.C. 2, like Prodigy's previous body of work, features narratives laden with grim imagery of shanks, razors, and ice picks. Surprisingly, this still works — the artist spits compelling East Coast throwback grit-hop more than 15 years after tough-talking his way onto the national scene.
Amid the strength of the album's first six songs, "Young Veterans," "The Life," and "Illuminati" are all serious bangers — each track features sinister beats (produced by the Alchemist) that anchor Prodigy's violent, paranoid rhymes. But early momentum is killed on track seven, "Click Clack," by guest Big Twins, who may very well have the worst voice in all of hip-hop. The album's second half gets dragged down by several suspect collab tracks. Equally questionable is the Spanish remix of "ABC" in which P uses Voxonic translation software for a sound that can best be likened to the banished strep-throat stricken love child of T-Pain and the Taco Bell chihuahua. Although top-heavy and uneven, the album still arrives as an above-average hip-hop release. H.N.I.C. 2 excels largely thanks to Prodigy's delivery; many of his punch lines are perfectly timed WTF-did-he-just-say nugs like "I'm Brillo pad coarse." Point taken. Even from behind bars, Prodigy remains the Brillo pad of the rap game.