• Ike Okwerekwu

The Infamous Life of Prodigy: A Book Review and Tribute to the Legendary Rapper

The Infamous Life of Prodigy

After reading the autobiography of Prodigy’s book, “My Infamous Life”, I felt obligated to honor his life with this article because he accomplished so much in his music career by overcoming adversities that the average man could not handle. I admired how Prodigy kept persisting despite all the difficulties life threw at him. Although this man was far from perfect and committed a lot of unjustified criminal acts I would never condone, I believe his heart and spirit was ultimately in the right place. This book review will highlight the interesting adversities he struggled with and the many blessings he received throughout his career. By noting such prominent moments, I hope we can apply lessons we learned from his life to improve ourselves.

Prodigy was born with sickle cell anemia and battled with the medical condition constantly throughout his life. During his childhood, he was in the hospital four to six times a year for a week or sometimes up to a month. He wrote, “I’d be in the emergency room screaming and squirming on the stretcher like I was going to die. Some evil nurses and doctors would try to shut me up. When they couldn’t, they called security, wheeled me in a back room, and closed the door to muffle my screams.”

He was diagnosed with acute chest syndrome, a life-threatening form of pneumonia. He explains that the constant pain and traumatic experiences is the reason why he rarely smiles. One time he was so depressed that one day after returning from the hospital, he tried to hang himself. In the video below, Prodigy speaks with a therapist and talks about how his experience with sickle cell shaped his mentality.

As Prodigy got older, he learned how to stabilize his condition by embodying a healthy lifestyle. He realized that when he ate healthy and exercised on a consistent basis, he was less prone to suffering from the sickle cell crises. Upon this epiphany, he made a notable effort to spread his knowledge and teach others how to cope with the disease. Unfortunately, despite his knowledge on how to live with the condition, Prodigy loss his life while being hospitalized for sickle cell.

Along with sickle cell, another prominent issue in his life was the violent crimes he committed. It seems like every 10 pages I read, Prodigy was telling a story of a violent fight he had with another person. Prodigy grew up in an unstable divorced household with negative influences from his father. His father was addicted to heroin at the age of 14 and robbed many people for a living. Growing up in the hood of Queensbridge, NY Prodigy was a product of his environment: “Everybody sold drugs. It made me stop caring about school and start caring about how I looked. I started acting up even more after school to prove to my friends in the hood that I was still cool. I was a crazy little kid. I blame sickle- cell and my father.”

Unlike many rappers who falsely portray the lifestyle of a gangster rapper, Prodigy lived the gangster life he rapped about. During his adolescent years, he stole cars, sold drugs, robbed people, and got into many shootouts with his enemies. He admits that he was not proud of these acts and believes many of the issues he came across in his career was a result of bad karma. As a result of these negative acts, Prodigy has been arrested multiple times and sentenced to jail many times for months to years.

One time the police pulled Prodigy and his producer, Alchemist over for making an illegal U-turn. After searching the car, a cop found a gun and bought them to the investigation room. The NY cops could care less about the gun’s possession and were more interested in Prodigy’s relationship with 50 Cent in order to bust a big time celebrity for financial gains. They tried making a deal with him that would allow him to avoid a jail sentence, but Prodigy provided no information. After several unsuccessful attempts to get Prodigy to talk about any wrongdoings 50 may have done, the cops became desperate. One of the officers asked, “Between us, maybe you can drop a gun in 50’s car and help us get him.” Prodigy speaks about his moment with the crooked cops in an interview with DJ Vlad.

Despite all the negative encounters, Prodigy experienced many positive moments throughout his journey. One of the biggest blessings is his relationship with his best friend, Havoc who formed the other half of his famous rap group, Mob Deep. In a jail cell, Prodigy reflects on the priceless moments he shared with Havoc: “I sat on my paper-thin mattress thinking about how far Havoc and I had come, all the songs we wrote and recorded, all those beats, tours, parties, after-parties, groupies, videos, interviews, contracts, labels, lawyers, and offices. All the money we’d made spent, shared, wasted and given away to so-called friends.” Through the up and downs, all those memorable moments shared with Havoc made life for prodigy much more enjoyable.

Along with the strong friendship, Mob Deep experienced great commercial success in the music industry. Their most popular album, “The Infamous” sold 500,000 copies in two months and put them in the mainstream scene for a few years. Afterwards their music career plateaued for a bit until 50 cent signed the group to G unit, providing Mobb deep with a lucrative contract deal and the opportunity to tour with 50 and Eminem.

To be honest until this year, I was pretty ignorant of all Mobb Deep’s accomplishments and music. Whenever Mobb Deep was mentioned, the first thought that would come to mind is a bunch of gangster rappers which never interested me because I could not relate to the lifestyle of a gangster. However, when I noticed how people were celebrating the recent 25th anniversary album and how the hit singles, “Shook Ones” and “Quiet Storm” still hold weight even in today’s era, I decided to give their music another try and read their book.

“My Infamous Life” is a great read for anyone interested in Prodigy’s battles with sickle cell disease, gangster hood stories, the business of the music industry, or the history of Mobb Deep. Prodigy was a special breed of black men who represented the hardcore spirit of New York beautifully. May he forever rest in peace!

“Life is a gamble we scramble for money. I might crack a smile, but aint a damn thing funny. I’m caught up in the dirt where your hands get muddy, plus the outcome turns out to be lovely” – Prodigy (Eye for an Eye, Your Beef is Mines)