As confirmed by Pitchfork, rap icon Prodigy from hip-hop duo Mobb Deep has died. He was reportedly hospitalized after a recent Mobb Deep show in Las Vegas due to complications from sickle cell anemia, a disease he battled since birth. However, the exact cause of death has not been revealed. The news of Prodigy’s death first came from rapper Nas, who posted a memorial for Prodigy on Instagram. He was 42.
Born Albert Johnson in 1974, Prodigy came from a long line of musicians. His grandfather was a jazz musician, his mother was a member of ’60s pop group The Crystals, and he launched his own music career in the ‘90s by partnering with his fellow MC Havoc, a.k.a. Kejuan Muchita. Under the name Mobb Deep, Prodigy and Havoc released their debut album, Juvenile Hell, in 1993, but they didn’t really find mainstream popularity until the release of The Infamous in 1995. The duo released two more albums in the ‘90s, sticking with the dark, straightforward lyrics about life in Queens that made tracks like “Shook Ones Part II” a hit.
Later, Prodigy and Havoc found themselves swept into the East Coast/West Coast rap feud after they appeared on Capone-N-Noreaga’s pro-East Coast song “L.A., L.A.” As the story goes, Tupac Shakur’s Outlawz attended a Mobb Deep show and reported back that Prodigy and Havoc were talking trash about him, prompting him to slam the two of them in songs like “When We Ride On Our Enemies” (which features a reference to Prodigy’s battle with sickle cell anemia). Mobb Deep took it in stride, though, figuring that it was an honor, in its way, to get dissed in a Tupac track.
Mobb Deep continued touring and releasing new albums in the 2000s, though Prodigy and Havoc had a minor feud of their own while Prodigy was serving a prison sentence on firearm charges. They reconciled in 2013 and went back to touring, releasing The Infamous Mobb Deep—their most recent album—in 2014.