(Crocodile) Mobb Deep’s peak moment was in the middle of the ’90s—a time that represented hiphop’s peak, as well. What they brought to the form was an attitude that was at once beautiful, melancholy, and violent. “Hit you in the face so hard that your nosebone goes into your brain,” claimed one line in the classic “Shook Ones Part II.” Also on that track: “When the slugs penetrate you feel a burning sensation/Getting closer to God in a tight situation.” On the album Hell on Earth (1996), Mobb Deep’s most important contribution to the history of hiphop, something like a cathedral of violent imagery, street life, gangster ethos is meticulously presented. You enter the album and hear a world where guns and masculine aggression are the sole means of survival. If you are soft, if you think twice, you are finished. But these violent visions were matched by an aesthetic program that showed great care and intelligence. The beats had lots space, and the piano loops and stabs of orchestral strings were drawn primarily from classical music. Mobb Deep’s work was indeed like a Tommy gun in a violin case.
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