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What's the Demo: Poetical Prophets AKA Mobb Deep

By Alec Banks

Prodigy and Havoc were both 16 when they appeared in one of the most historic pieces of print real estate in Hip-Hop history: Matty C's iconic Unsigned Hype column in The Source. As Mobb Deep, he wrote, "Yes, they’re young and they look even younger, but understand that there is no ABC. Poetical Prophets rhyme from the hardcore perspective of two little street soldiers who like to bug out, puff blunts, and sip forties.”

Wait. Poetical Prophets?

As part of a recurring series that explores the demo tapes that took MC's from unknowns to superstars, we continue with the Poetical Prophets AKA Mobb Deep (revisit Biggie's first demo here).

Age was and continues to be a defining characteristic in Hip-Hop. Interesingly, there's been a slew of younger acts who haven't seen a tough barrier of entry, while older artists struggle with relevancy. For example, Brooklyn’s Special Ed released his first album, Youngest in Charge, in 1989 when he was 16. 

Poetical Prophets' demo came at a time in between Special Ed's project, and others focused on just how young the artists were like Kris Kross, Da Youngsta’s, and Shyheim. Yet, their ascent to superstardom wasn't always assured.

Prodigy was already a rap wunderkind before he linked with Havoc and formed Poetical Prophets. His first appearance on wax can be traced to his uncredited feature on Hi-Five's "Too Young" from the Boyz n the Hood soundtrack. His prowess eventually landed him a deal at Jive.

Havoc was also interested in music at a young age. As the son of a DJ, he started rapping at 12 under his real name, Kejuan, before opting for the more sinister sounding moniker.

He and Prodigy — then called both Pee Wee and the Golden Child — first met in 1989 at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan which produced notable cultural figures like Calvin Klein, Fab Five Freddy, Lee Quiñones, DAZE, Lady Pink, and Pharoahe Monch. They were each respectively 15 and 14 at the time.

Despite being at Jive, Prodigy walked away from the deal to form his own venture with Havoc. Poetical Prophets were born. The name was derived from what Havoc described as a time when "conscious Hip-Hop" was still bubbling up. They embraced the nature of the group and would even write rhymes for each other.

According to Havoc, the group ditched the Poetical Prophets moniker after a meeting with Puff Daddy who recommended that they needed to change their name.)

Mobb Deep eventually signed to 4th & B’way Records and released Juvenile Hell in the spring of 1993.