I love H.N.I.C. because it sounds how New York City sounds to me. In my world, New York City is a land full of Steinways whose keys get struck ominously by darting rats. And on the corners of New York City stand string sections re-creating Ma$e’s “24 Hours To Live.” And the third of the sounds common in the place that’s anti-narcoleptic are the threats that echo from conversations that have taken too many wrong turns. And this album has all three of these elements in spades.
Prodigy is the man who said he’d stab your brain with your nose bone. And on “Keep It Thoro” he utters one of the most perfect threats of violence ever put to record: “I’ll throw a TV at you, crazy.” You can picture the RCA connector taking a chunk of flesh off of somebody’s face as an episode of Teletubbies or Sonic the Hedgehog 2 plays on the screen. Prodigy and the “crazy” person animated, like Itchy & Scratchy.
A lot of bases get touched on the album. On “Three,” Prodigy and Cormega set the scene and the scene looks like a group of guys in the projects at 3 am eating fast food out of a brown bag darkened by grease and washing it down with E&J. There’s also the great acronym, New York Pricks And Dicks.
On “Trials of Love” we get a tale of two lovers that find out they’re both knocking Timberland’s behind each other’s backs. There’s empty condom wrappers, hidden compartments to hide phone numbers and the woman of the equation taking a little money here and there from the stacks Prodigy makes by speaking the thun language for a living.
On “Wanna Be Thugs” you have the visual of dried blood on a victim’s face. On “You Can Never Feel My Pain” P talks about his struggles with sickle cell that 2Pac infamously made fun of. On it, Prodigy launches IV poles at hospital employees and abuses substances to numb himself.
With “Can’t Complain” Prodigy does a convincing audio acting job playing the role of a rapper awakened by a phone call at 3 pm. It features a car ride, an encounter with the police and a guest appearance by Queens basketball legend, Rafer Alston.
Prodigy here is simply operating. He’s not toying with some new style he hopes will give him some commercial elevation, he’s just rapping. And he’s rapping about his life and emptying out the contents of his mind. H.N.I.C. is what a lot of great albums are: a musical journal, with phone numbers in the margin, and stains from whatever was being eaten.
This is Prodigy at his peak. He spins tales that smell like blunt ashes and look like fatigues topped with iced out medallions. It’s one of the quintessential transportation records for me. And a “transportation record” means it takes me to a specific place. That place is the largest housing projects in the country circa 2000. Where nearby the World Trade Center is still intact and Chandra Levy is still alive on the other side of the country. Nostalgia, my guy. It always makes things sound so much sweeter.