I got you stuck off the realness, we be the infamous/You heard of us, official Queensbridge murderers/The Mobb comes equipped for warfare, beware/Of my crime family who got ‘nough shots to share/For all of those who wanna profile and pose/Rock you in your face, stab your brain with your nose bone
I blogged the Nick Sirianni story earlier this morning, about how he played the end-scene rap battle from 8-Mile for his players yesterday before the Giants game. And since then, I haven'y been able to get the scene, Eminem's freestyle, and mainly, the "Shook Ones II" beat, out of my damn head.
I'm not mad about it.
All time scene, with an all-time scoring, from an all-time 2000s movie.
So for tonight's Sunday Night Sample it was kind of a no-brainer.
MOBB DEEP - SHOOK ONES (PART II)
"Shook Ones (Part II)" is the lead single from Mobb Deep's 1995 album The Infamous….
The song is a sequel to the group's 1994 promotional single "Shook Ones", with similar lyrics, but less profanity. (The original song is featured on the b-side of some releases of "Shook Ones, Part II" and was also included on the international version of the group's album Hell on Earth.)
When Havoc and Prodigy (who were only fucking 19 years old at the time) handed over “Shook Ones Part I” to their new label, Loud, as one of the early songs for The Infamous, Loud had a tepid response that frustrated the group. “The response was lukewarm so we’re like, ‘Here go this bullshit again,’” Havoc said in a 2011 interview with Complex.
So the duo decided to beef up “Shook Ones” with enhanced production. Havoc’s new beat ended up becoming one of the greatest in the history of hip-hop.
The narrative of the song is told from the perspective of inner-city youths engaged in territorial warfare and struggling for financial gains. The phrase "shook one" refers to someone who acts tough and hardcore but when faced with murder and crime, they are scared and run away.
(Fun Fact - When the single was produced, Loud Records didn’t agree to release it unless it was censored. (???) However, it should be noticed that the only curses in the whole song are the few n-words. Bonkers.)
Havoc gave an AWSOME interview to Daily Beast about the work that went into producing the track back in 2020.
How Havoc—along with his late partner-in-rhyme Prodigy—crafted that beat is down to “pure fate.” Havoc had a handful of records scattered around his place, one of which happened to be Herbie Hancock’s “Jessica,” a vinyl he’d lifted from Prodigy’s grandfather Budd Johnson Jr., onetime member of doo-wop group The Chanters. Havoc homed in on a piano melody, slowed it down, and looped it till it resembled a bass sound. “I just had the mind to sample it and rearrange it to what it was,” he explains. “We taught ourselves everything. We was just demons in the studio, watching other producers like Large Professor and Primo—not asking questions, just watching.”
SAMPLE - HERBIE HANCOCK - JESSICA
“You had a lot of other artists at the time trying to make commercial hits, so we took a shot in the dark, going for darker music,” says Havoc. “The stuff coming out of the West Coast was pretty hard—with Dr. Dre, Tupac, Snoop Dogg. They were killin’ shit, so there felt like a little bit of competition there, but we weren’t trying to emulate what they was doing. We were trying to cement a New York sound.”
He pauses. “We were just expressing ourselves, what we were going through, how we felt, and we weren’t holding anything back. We weren’t thinkin’ about gettin’ on the radio, because that would’ve killed the song. When you’re vibin’ on that kind of frequency, it really comes through because people can feel it.”
“You don’t even realize it at the time, and when you look back on it, it’s like, damn. We were 19? It only took a few hours to do the beat but we were messin’ around with the lyrics for a few days, changing things here and there.”
Havoc also added elements from:
Quincy Jones - Kitty With the Bent Frame
Daly-Wilson Big Band - Dirty FeetAgain, it's insane that a teenager with minimal access to studio equipment (analog stuff at the time, at that), produced a song so epic and timeless.
In 1997, the song was sampled by Mariah Carey in her single "The Roof (Back in Time)". For its single remix, Mobb Deep recorded additional raps and also appeared in the music video.
And of course, there was the role the song played as a focal point in 2002's 8-Mile.
Here's a great interview with Prodigy and Havoc about creating the song.
p.s. - The song also made it to Broadway in the hit musical Hamilton. In the song My Shot, Alexander Hamilton raps:
Only nineteen but my mind is older
Here's the rest of the soundtrack from the movie. Enjoy.