The rapper Prodigy, who made up one half of the group Mobb Deep, has died aged 42.
The hip hop star, whose real name is Albert Johnson, was on tour in Las Vegas performing with the "Art of Rap" tour alongside Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One, and Ice-T, amongst others. Mobb Deep performed Saturday.
The artist suffered from health issues throughout his life, however it wasn't immediately clear what the cause of death was. He had long suffered from sickle cell anaemia, a condition in which red blood cells contort into a sickle shape and die early, leaving a shortage of healthy red blood cells. The condition can lead to a painful blockage of blood flow.
"It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep", his publicist said in a statement. "Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anaemia crisis. 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 first broke out onto the music scene with his partner, Havoc, forming Mobb Deep in their hometown New York City in the 1990s. The duo participated in high profile feuds during their early years, and once had "beef" during the media-fueled East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry with Tupac and Biggie Smalls.
Their influential music has been described by Rolling Stone as a "raw, vivid, and vicious distillation of East Coast gangsta rap".
They released their first duo in 1992 with the name Poetical Prophets, and released their first Mobb Deep album a year later with the album Juvenile Hall. The duo reached commercial success together in 1995 with the release of the critically acclaimed album The Infamous, which sold over 500,000 copies within the first two months after release. They released the album Hell on Earth a year and a half later, which also received widespread critical acclaim.
They collaborated frequently with other artists, including with Nas, who helped propel their visibility early in their career. Prodigy was generally regarded has the lyrical lead in the duo, while Havoc was better known as pulling weight producing the beats.
Prodigy launched a solo career in 2000, releasing mix-tapes in collaboration with a range of producers including Un Pacino, Big Twins, and the Alchemist. He released his last album, Hegelian Dialectic, in January.
Nas was among those to pay tribute to Prodigy following the news of his death, posting a photo of him reading on Instagram with the caption, "QB RIP King P. Prodigy 4 Ever".
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The hip-hop icon came from a musical family, and his grandfather and great-uncle were both prominent during the Bebop era of jazz. His mother was a member of 1960s vocal group The Crystals.
Prodigy spent most of a three and a half year sentence in a medium-security dorm at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in New York State after agreeing to a plea deal over weapons charges in 2007.
The father of two said that the hardest part of going to prison was not being around this two children, who were young at the time.
"I just tell them, you know, it was horrible", he said of the experience. "You don't ever want to be in that position. Learn from my mistakes. Learn from me. You don't have to go through it yourslf".
Prodigy later wrote a cookbook of prison recipes based upon his time in jail.
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