Albert Johnson, better known as “Prodigy,” was a member of the rapping duo ‘Mobb Deep.’ He belonged to a family of musicians and studied art and design in Manhattan, where he met Kejuan Muchita. The duo started performing as the ‘Poetical Prophets’ and later became famous as ‘Mobb Deep.’ His friend adopted the stage name “Havoc.” Their studio album, ‘The Infamous,’ was certified “gold,” which was closely followed by the hit albums ‘Hell on Earth’ and ‘Murda Muzik.’ Their music, which portrayed the dark side of New York’s urban landscape, became popular as hardcore gangsta rap. His first solo album, ‘H.N.I.C.,’ was equally popular. Prodigy faced several criminal charges during his career and served a three-and-a-half-year prison term on charges of illegal gun possession. ‘Mobb Deep’ temporarily split during his prison sentence but reunited when Prodigy was released. He suffered from a blood disorder called sickle-cell anemia since birth, and that caused him extreme bouts of pain that he expressed in his number ‘You Can Never Feel My Pain.’ He married Ikesha Dudley, with whom he lived for a short duration. He was hospitalized while performing in Las Vegas due to complications from sickle-cell anemia and died at the age of 42. In his short-lived career, Prodigy proved to be a legend of rap.
Childhood & Early Life
Prodigy was born Albert Johnson, on November 2, 1974, in Hempstead, Long Island, New York, US, to Albert Budd Johnson Jr. and Fatima Frances Collins. He was of Ethiopian–Jamaican decent. He had an elder brother named Greg Johnson. Albert suffered from sickle-cell anemia since birth, due to which he suffered from frequent bouts of extreme pain.
His grandparents and parents were musicians. His mother was a member of the group ‘The Crystals,’ and his father was a member of the doo-wop music group called ‘The Chanters’. His grandfather was a jazz artist, and his grandmother owned a dance studio.
He was raised in LeFrak City and attended high school in Manhattan, where he studied art and design. He met Kejuan Muchita, who later became famous as “Havoc,” during his high-school days. They began performing as the ‘Poetical Prophets’ and later adopted the name ‘Mobb Deep.’ Their debut album, ‘Juvenile Hell,’ was released in 1993.
In 1991, at the age of 16, he joined ‘Jive Records’ and made a guest appearance in the song ‘Too Young’ by ‘Hi-Five.’ It was part of the ‘Boyz n the Hood’ soundtrack. He played the saxophone for a while but ultimately settled for rapping.
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In 1995, the duo ‘Mobb Deep’ released their studio album ‘The Infamous,’ which was certified “gold.” Their next studio album, ‘Hell on Earth,’ was released in 1996. This was closely followed by ‘Murda Muzik.’ Their music was so popular that it was heavily pirated and leaked on social media. It portrayed the dark side of New York’s urban landscape. He released his first solo album, ‘H.N.I.C.,’ in November 2000. This was followed by his second solo album, ‘H.N.I.C. Part 2,’ in 2008. The album was released through ‘Voxonic Inc,’ in which he was an equity holder. Meanwhile, he had released the studio albums ‘Infamy,’ ‘Amerikaz Nightmare,’ and ‘Blood Money’ with ‘Mobb Deep.’
After serving a prison term for gun possession, he was featured in a documentary called ‘Rhyme and Punishment,’ which was based on the life of hip-hop artists who had been imprisoned. ‘Mobb Deep’ temporarily split while he was in prison and then reunited after his release from prison. He released the EP ‘The Ellsworth Bumpy Johnson’ with ‘Mobb Deep.’ The EP gave an insight into his personal life.
His second collaboration album with Daniel Alan Maman, also known as “The Alchemist,” was released in 2013. The album was called ‘Albert Einstein.’ The following year, ‘Mobb Deep’ came up with their eighth studio album, ‘The Infamous Mobb Deep.’
He released an untitled EP with ‘BitTorrent’ in 2016, followed by his last solo album, ‘Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation)’ in 2017.
His studio albums are ‘H.N.I.C.’ (2000), ‘H.N.I.C. Pt 2’ (2008), ‘H.N.I.C. 3’ (2012), ‘The Bumpy Johnson Album’ (2012), and ‘Hegelian Dialectic (The Book of Revelation)’ (2017).
His collaboration albums are ‘Return of the Mac’ (2007), ‘Product of the 80’s’ (2008), ‘Albert Einstein’ (2013), and ‘Young Rolling Stonerz’ (2014).
He co-authored his autobiography, ‘My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy,’ with Laura Checkoway. It was published by ‘Touchstone Books’ in 2011.
Prodigy appeared in the films ‘Murda Muzik’ (1999), ‘Full Clip’ (2006), ‘Blackout’ (2007), and ‘Rhyme and Punishment’ (2011).
Prodigy faced several criminal charges during his career that include possession of drugs and illegal weapons. He was sentenced to a three-and-a-half-year prison term for gun possession in October 2007, from which he was released in March 2011.
He was disillusioned with rappers while he was serving his sentence and made special reference to rapper Crooked I in a letter, insulting him. His partner, Havoc, wrote derogatory comments about him on social media. However, they settled their differences when Prodigy was released from prison. The duo got back to work with ‘Mobb Deep.’
He suffered from a blood disorder called sickle-cell anemia that affects the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin found in red blood cells. He talked about his condition in his song ‘You Can Never Feel My Pain,’ which was part of his debut studio album, ‘H.N.I.C.’
Prodigy dated and later married Ikesha Dudley, with whom he lived for a short duration. He was ultimately hospitalized in Las Vegas due to complications from sickle-cell anemia and died on June 20, 2017, at the age of 42. The cause of his death was said to be accidental choking.
During the mid 1990s, Prodigy was involved in a “East Coast–West Coast” feud with ‘Tha Dogg Pound’ and rapper 2Pac. During this period, ‘Mobb Deep’ released ‘LA, LA’ in response to ‘Tha Dogg Pound’s ‘New York, New York.’
He was also involved in a feud with ‘Def Squad.’ They “dissed” each other with their respective albums in 2004.
He did not get along with rapper Saigon and once came to blows with him during an impromptu performance at a common venue.
It is believed that Prodigy was associated with the powerful international secret society known as the ‘Illuminati,’ though he often rapped against the organization. He was said to have been working on music about the society at the time of his death.