Prodigy

H.N.I.C. 3

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Kicking off with a statement of no purpose called "Without Rhyme or Reason," Prodigy's third official solo album seems proud to be the sloppiest of the first three H.N.I.C.s, offering "It's not that serious, I remind myself/My creativity flows best when I'm not concerned with making hits," as a piano-fueled Alchemist production spins in that familiar darkness, making this an obvious dispatch from the urban jungle of Mobb Deep. An Al Pacino in Scarface sample on the following "Slept On" keeps that gangster vibe rolling, and when the terminally lifted and mostly lighthearted Wiz Khalifa shows up for "Co-Pilot" the results are still gutter and dirty, with the unlikely duo spitting out lyrics so nasty they will forever ruin the word "splishy" for those who think sex is something tender and special. Later, it's tracks so raw they sound like demos (the S.C.-produced "Life Is What You Make It"), a Mobb Deep reunion that sounds circa-1993 ("Who You Bullshittin" with Sid Roams on the beat), and a ridiculously good "for the ladies" number where Prodigy delivers sweet talk like he was a between-rings boxing coach pumping up his pugilist ("Gangsta Love" as vocalist Esther swoons through at it all). Still, that last one is seated right before the other "romantic" track ("What's Happening"), which blunts its power, even when it comes with a T.I. guest shot. It's also during that T.I.-assisted closer that Prodigy addresses his absence due to a three-year prison sentence on gun charges, and while it's a topic that comes up here and there, this first release since lockup might have the fans thinking "deep story." It's not, since being an author seems his 2012 creative outlet for that, but H.N.I.C. 3 is a back-to-basics return to form with some worthy pop cuts, and it just takes a slight trim and a push of the shuffle button to become worthy of any long-term fan's attention.

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