Prodigy, the beloved New York rapper who along with Havoc comprised the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, died Tuesday. He was 42.
“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,” a Mobb Deep representative wrote in a statement to XXL. “Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined.”
The rapper’s East Coast hip-hop compatriot Nas was the first to share the news, writing “RIP King P. Prodigy 4 Ever” on Instagram.
Prodigy was born Albert Johnson in Hempstead, N.Y. on Nov. 2, 1974 to Fatima Johnson, who was a member of R&B group the Crystals. He formed Mobb Deep with Havoc in the early ’90s and the group released their debut, Juvenile Hell, in 1993. They achieved widespread acclaim with their second album, The Infamous, which is regarded as among the most seminal albums to emerge from the ’90s East Coast hip-hop scene.
In fact, Mobb Deep occupied such a prominent space among East Coast hip-hop artists that they became a focal point of the West Coast-East Coast feud that dominated the genre in the ’90s. Tupac Shakur ridiculed Mobb Deep by name on his 1996 track “Hit ‘Em Up” — even referring to one of the members having sickle cell anemia — which Mobb Deep responded to when they released “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” shortly after Shakur’s 1996 death.
Though Mobb Deep released their eighth and final studio album The Infamous Mobb Deep in 2014, they continued to tour. And Prodigy remained musically prolific, releasing multiple solo projects including last year’s Untitled EP. That collection included “Beast With It,” a song recorded as a companion to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther comic series.
See tributes from the music community below.