His publicist says he was hospitalized "a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis"

By Jordan Runtagh and Eric Renner Brown
June 21, 2017 01:00 AM
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The rapper Prodigy, half of the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, has died in Las Vegas, multiple sources confirm. He was 42 years old.

“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 N.Y. rap duo Mobb Deep,” a Mobb Deep representative wrote in a statement to XXL.

“Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined.”

He had been in Las Vegas last week to perform as part of the Art of Rap tour, which included fellow hip hop mainstays Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One and Ice-T. His last performance was on Saturday, TMZ reports.

Together with his partner Havoc, the pair emerged from the Queensbridge Houses to score hits in the ’90s with tracks including “Shook Ones” and “Quiet Storm.”

Prodigy was born Albert Johnson in Hempstead, N.Y. on Nov. 2, 1974 to Fatima Johnson, who was a member of R&B group the Crystals. He formed Mobb Deep with Havoc in the early ’90s and the group released their debut, Juvenile Hell, in 1993. They achieved widespread acclaim with their second album, The Infamous, which is regarded as among the most seminal albums to emerge from the ’90s East Coast hip-hop scene.

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In fact, Mobb Deep occupied such a prominent space among East Coast hip-hop artists that they became a focal point of the West Coast-East Coast feud that dominated the genre in the ’90s. Tupac Shakur ridiculed Mobb Deep by name on his 1996 track “Hit ‘Em Up” — even referring to one of the members having sickle cell anemia — which Mobb Deep responded to when they released “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” shortly after Shakur’s 1996 death.

Though Mobb Deep released their eighth and final studio album The Infamous Mobb Deep in 2014, they continued to tour. And Prodigy remained musically prolific, releasing multiple solo projects including last year’s Untitled EP. That collection included “Beast With It,” a song recorded as a companion to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther comic series.

Tributes to the late rapper began to flood social media as news broke Tuesday. “Oh my God…..! I just got the news that Prodigy passed away. I’m speechless.. I was just with him. Devastated,” Ice-T, who performed with Prodigy over the weekend, wrote. Nas shared a photo captioned with “QB RIP King P. Prodigy 4 Ever,” while Method Man simply wrote, “P!” “Rest in peace,” Ciara shared, while Lil’ Wayne wrote, “Damn. RiP to the great one Prodigy. Rap game lost a legend the world lost a G.” “Love and light to the family and friends of Prodigy. One of Queen’s finest. He will be greatly missed,” Russell Simmons said. Music producer Just Blaze had a simpler message, tweeting one word: “Heartbroken.”