Prodigy, half of the hard-hitting hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, best known for chart-topping rap albums like “Blood Money” and “Hell on Earth,” was found dead in Las Vegas Tuesday, due to complications from sickle cell anemia, according to his publicist. He was 42.
Born Albert Johnson in Hempstead in 1974, Prodigy was revered for his gritty rhymes and unmistakable flow in Mobb Deep, as well as his long-running feuds with several rappers, including the late 2Pac who taunted him about his sickle cell anemia in 1996’s “Hit Em Up.”
“Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis,” his publicist said in a statement. “As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.”
Prodigy came from a musical family. His mother, Fatima, sang with The Crystals, of “He’s a Rebel” fame, and his father, Budd, was a drummer.
Coping with sickle cell anemia had always been a part of Prodigy’s life and music. “Growing up, I couldn’t always get involved with the activities with all the other kids because if I overworked my body it would trigger my pain,” Prodigy told Maximum Fun in 2011. “There were definitely times growing up, especially in Long Island, Hempstead, where other kids wanted to challenge me; they wanted to see if they could push my buttons and see if I could fight or what have you. Taking my kindness for weakness or taking my quietness and laid-back style for weakness.”
Prodigy was in Las Vegas as part of “The Art of Rap” tour, featuring Mobb Deep along with Ice-T, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. He had just wrapped a residency at the Blue Note in Manhattan earlier this month, where he performed an unplugged version of his “H.N.I.C.” album for four nights.
Mobb Deep’s momentum was stalled in 2006 when Prodigy was arrested for criminal possession of a weapon. After his release from the upstate Mid-State Correctional Facility in 2011, he resumed his music, as well as writing a book about his experiences “My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy,” published by Simon & Schuster in 2012.
Nas was among the first to break the news of Prodigy’s death, posting on Instagram, “R.I.P. King P. Prodigy 4 Ever.”