Back when rappers either wore discrete chains or six- figure Cuban links, there was actually a middle class in the rap jewellery category. The late 1980s and early 1990s were all about your weight in gold. How fat is your rope chain? How many rope chains do you have?
The Native Tongues-led movement of the early 1990s acted as the transition and the switch from gaudiness to consciousness happened faster than you could say ‘wooden beaded Nefertiti necklace’. With rap music slowly crossing over, there was no longer the need to flaunt your worth; rappers were on Saturday Night Live, Billboard covers and movie screens. But what about that small period after the conscious shit but before the Hollywood shit? That dark, brief period of the golden era that never lost its ties to the streets. That era between solid- mahogany Africa pendants and platinum. It didn’t last long, but if there was one group that perfectly embodied it, it was Mobb Deep.
Well before you could walk into Supreme and buy a 14k-gold Uzi pendant and before ‘rapper’ Lil Uzi Vert was even a thought, there was a not-so-lil Uzi carrying, rap slinging fellow from Queensbridge by the name of Prodigy. You may also know him as one half of that Queensbridge duo I just mentioned in my opening paragraph: Mobb Deep. They aren’t considered so relevant nowadays. Why? Some may say because their aggressive and blatantly violent style became outdated. My hot take is, their G-Unit signing is to blame and the evil power of the spinning G-Unit chain cursed them eternally (shrug).
Mobb Deep led the third wave of rappers to come out of Queensbridge (after Shan and Nas) and provided a much more villainous soundtrack to hip hop during the mid-1990s. The Mobb was a fresh intermission from the smooth poetic styles of Nas, the articulated mafioso flows of B.I.G. and JAY Z, and the philosophical gangsta rap of Wu Tang. Havoc and Prodigy made straight up murder music and, like most pendants in the rap game, P’s Uzi piece exemplified his music.
This is an extract from Issue 7, The Barely Legal Issue of Viper Magazine. Read more from the magazine here. Buy physical and digital copies here.
Illustration by Adefe
Words by Chris Mendez