How Prodigy of Mobb Deep Influenced Me

Posted on October 2, 2017

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Mic-Key Boston grew up heavily on Mobb Deep, Nas, Capone n Noreaga, Tragedy Kadaffi…

On the other hand, I was also getting my dosage of Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Blackstar, Common and in another facet, I was getting injected with El-P, Company Flow, Soundbombing and Cage…but having said all this, this is one is about Prodigy and how Prodigy influenced me and my style.

Growing up on Mobb Deep, Nas, Capone n Noreaga and Tragedy Kadaffi was a heavy regular in my tape deck. In fact, I was listening to them so much, they made me internalize Queensbridge. Ironically growing up, my father took me to Jackson Heights, Queens every summer from Montreal, we would just stay there, but this was in my early youth before Queens emcees were to become locally and globally known.

When Prodigy passed away, I knew it had nothing to do with sickel cell. For some reason, Prodigy and Nas were the ones who stood out to me, but I could never get that Capone n Noreaga tape to stop playing in decks as well. To me, Prodigy just had the whole get up, it was the whole Timberland boot thing, and I was wearing Timberland boots in Montreal and NYC.

Killarmy and Capone n Noreaga had me on the army gear, military fatigues and, guess what, here I am, Mickey Boston, still wearing Timberland boots and military gear.

Prodigy once mentioned that it came to a point that cats out there around the world were dressing like Mobb Deep, talking like Mobb Deep, making their music and style sound like Mobb Deep. The truth was, the influence was infectious and Prodigy was saying that people gotta get their own style and not bite.

mobb-deep-champion_0

Havoc and P. Havoc is rocking the classic Timberland boots, when these guys were wearing Timbs, I was in NYC and everyone was wearing these, I started rocking my own pair of Timbs as well.

Undeniably, in the 90s, everybody was on Timberland boots, I created my own style or touch to it by rocking various types of hats, different camo styled pants and jackets and I was rapping in my own style which to this day, stays original. Every artist gotta be himself or herself. I also rocked my own beads and kufis and the Red Sox or Expos fitted cap with the kufi underneath, this way cats always knew I was proud of my Muslim background and heritage.

The album cover that changed my life was from Mobb Deep, I was in HMV in Montreal as a high school cat only wishing I could afford a compact disc. Instead, back in those days, I had to dish out nickel and dime to get a cassette. All of my cassettes were dubs and bootlegs, my crew and I were too ghetto to even buy a cassette back in those days, we’d just make dubs after dubs, those Maxell tapes off Canal street always came in handy by the box load.

On the backside of the album cover, it was Havoc in a pair of classic Timberland boots, actually he was rocking the Chestnut Borgues and that was the photograph that was to change my life.mobb deep - the infamous cover

 

Mickey Boston Hiphop - When the Sky is Blue

Mickey Boston in the Montreal subway, backside EP art for “When the Sky is Blue”

It’s ever undeniable that the Timberland boot went from heavy duty construction workwear staple to a universal icon of 90s hiphop style. I always credit Mobb Deep for really pushing it on me, it just got me hyped to wear my Timberland boots. I started wearing my Timbs to work at Budget car rentals as I worked the garage, it was just a part of who I was. The only problem with the boots was that I couldn’t run in them or make a quick get away if the police came after me. I learned to be calm in the boots and take things slow.

Timberland’s 6″ Work Boots – Style #10061 to the brand’s employees or by their street monicker “Timbs” – were released on the market back in 1973 and they complimented me as a grown man who once played with Tonka Trucks as a boy. Originally designed as a hard-wearing boot for New England construction workers, the six-inch high waterproof nubuck shoe undoubtedly became synonymous with hiphop style. Everyone wore Timbs, even Biggie.

biggie smalls - timberland boots

Prodigy once said that Mobb Deep was getting bitten by many, he claimed that after Mobb Deep came up with “The Infamous”, Biggie came up with “The Notorious”. I wouldn’t be surprised that even Biggie took that off Mobb Deep.

mickey boston - timberland boots

So, here I was, a young Mickey Boston, who moved from Montreal to Brooklyn when i was just barely into my 20s. Inexperienced and wearing Timberland boots looking for work, the Yemenis on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn hooked me up with jobs to pay my way through, I was obsessed with Ninja bikes, in fact all bikes.

While Havoc and Prodigy were wearing Timberland boots, I was wearing them too and watching New York Undercover episodes. Timberland had no marketing interest in having hiphop artists wear their boots, it wasn’t designed for street fashion in the late 90s. Naturally, every brand that I knew of back then was trying to create massive trenches and distances between themselves and hiphop. I guess nobody liked the “rapper” image, it was an image these companies and brands just didn’t understand. Timberland’s CEO Jeffrey Swartz (and grandson of the company’s founder Nathan Swarz) told The New York Times in the early ’90s that “If you want to buy us and you are not our target customer, we don’t have a point of distribution that speaks to your lifestyle.” That didn’t deter any of the boots’ fans though, as trekking to backwater New England towns to cop Timbs became part of the experience; a pilgrimage of sorts.

The reality was that many brands became popular with hiphop artists, some include Converse, Dr. Martens and Vans. The truth is that the subculture association has become such a big aspect a certain brand’s secondary identity that you cant dissociate the brand from hiphop itself.

In the early ’90s, when Timberland was catering their brand to their customer base of blue-collar workers – who adored the brand’s boots for their hard-as-nails construction and superior waterproofing – the company noticed a spike in sales in New York City. All-so-suddenly, hustlers to rappers, far away from Timberland’s rural heartland had adopted the boot and re-appropriated it overall.

Consumer journalist, Rob Walker, reported in his book Buying In, “the legend goes that the first ‘urban’ buyers of Timberland boots were New York drug dealers – guys who had to stand on the street all night and needed the best possible footwear to keep them warm and dry.”

mickey boston and regimental oneton - youre doomed hiphop

2017. still wearing my Timberland boots for over 20 years from 1995, what Timberland didn’t realize was their boot became something that cats would still wear many years after it was popularized within a greater subculture.

Mobb Deep didn’t come up or innovate the Timberland boot style, they just popularized it for me. I fell in love when Havoc rocked his pair at the back of that 90s album cover, I had to go out and get myself a fresh pair. In order to emulate the urban hustle and grind, rappers were also wearing Timberland boots, the reality was that the the boot was everywhere; on Tupac’s feet, in Biggie’s lyrics, on Wu-Tang’s feet and in Mobb Deep’s artwork. Vibe reported that “everyone from thugs to step teams were stalking, walking in their six-inch construction boot,” as they “stood up beautifully to urban elements like concrete, barbed wire, and broken glass.” and like I said before, the only problem with the boot was that I couldn’t run in them.

Necessity is the mother of all invention. As result, all companies want to up their sales and Timberland later changed its attitude and started to cater to the backpacker culture as well as to the hardbody Timberland boot wearing emcees from NYC. The brand saw a trend that they couldn’t stop, so they joined the movement to make more money by means of having embraced the hip-hop association. The brand hooked up rap artists with boots (like the ones worn by OutKat’s Big Boi on the cover of Speakerboxxx), expanded their collections to include more ‘urban’ oriented product (pink Timbs) and collaborated with urban wear brands; including SupremeBlack ScaleRonnie FiegBillionaire Boys ClubStussy and many more.

Mickey Boston & Regimental Oneton - doombap

Regimental Oneton and Mickey Boston, we actually rock our own clothes. Regimental Oneton started his own Oneton brand and here we are still wearing Timbs.

When Prodigy passed, a big part of my soul crashed, it was my heart too because I knew it was something more. I also knew that P did so much in his life and he was candid about a lot of things even though only some stories were slightly exaggerated in order to make books sales.

shyheim wutang

Shyheim of Wu-Tang holdin it down…

Mobb Deep got me hooked on Rapper Noyd and Ty Knitty. Prodigy, on his solo projects took me places. In college, we rocked nothing but Mobb Deep at house parties and get togethers, we rocked Mobb Deep with the live drums, we rocked Mobb Deep in our cars. I was rocking to Mobb Deep and a lot Ghostface and Raekwon back in my college days.

When an artist dies, a lot of that person dies with you because you internalized so much of that person’s art and life. Sometimes, I wish I met Prodigy to talk to em about life, music, conspiracies, politics and everything else.

In truth, in the wake of the tragic and sudden passing of Prodigy, artists Jeff Henriquez and Eli Lazare—collectively known as Eli-Eos—painted a mural. The world was disappointed when that mural got defaced twice. The tuth is, Prodigy was hood and always close to the hood, he never sold himself or his soul. Prodigy was the streets and kept it street. He was realistic about how the hood wasn’t respecting Talib Kweli and Mos Def in regards to sales. Prodigy’s style was camo, to mix the food with the medicine.

Later on, by 2008, Prodigy somewhat stopped mixing the food with the medicine and started giving it to the people straight on. In my view, he was frustrated and tired of the corruption, tired of speaking in metaphors, tongues and codes. He wanted the world to know what was going on, in other words, what was really going on.

Prodigy lived the music he narrated. His lifestyle was a soundtrack and the music he made was the soundtrack to his life. Though Prodigy wasn’t originally from Queensbridge—he first lived in the nearby LeFrak City complex after moving to Queens from Long Island—his joining forces with the other half of Mobb Deep, Havoc, led to the late rapper spending an immense amount of time in and around the popular Queens residence.

Prodigy did not influence me lyrically, my lyrical style was unique to me, but when it came to those Timberland boots, I could never deny I got that from P.

R.I.P. Prodigy, we love you and miss you. Thank you for all these years.

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