Mobb Deep

Hell on Earth

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Mobb Deep became a street-level sensation with its second album, The Infamous, and the duo saw no reason to tamper with its signature style on the follow-up, Hell on Earth. The first words on the record announce "You know how we did on the Infamous album, right? All right, well, we gon' do it again," and that's exactly what they do. Hell on Earth refines the Mobb Deep formula, amplifying much of what made The Infamous a success. The bleak street narratives are even more violent and extreme, and the production is even grittier and creepier. It's still indebted to -- but more dramatic than -- the RZA's work with the Wu-Tang Clan: eerie strings and bits of piano, underpinned by deep, echoing beats. Although the overall flavor is pretty much the same as before, it's a bit more sophisticated and cinematic. For those reasons, some Mobb fans actually prefer Hell on Earth over The Infamous, although it's missing some of the thematic unity and clearly emphasized details that made the world of The Infamous so cohesive. Hell on Earth also lacks some of the freshness, but even if Mobb Deep is repeating itself, it's doing so very effectively. The album is superbly moody and haunting, with the swirling horror-film atmospherics of "G.O.D., Pt. III" and the hypnotic "Hell on Earth (Front Lines)" standing out in particular. "Drop a Gem on 'Em" is another highlight, an answer song in the 2Pac beef that happened to appear not long before the rapper's murder. Special guests Method Man, Raekwon, and fellow Queensbridge native Nas all put in worthy appearances. Even if it isn't quite the landmark that The Infamous was, Hell on Earth is nearly its equal in many other respects.

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