Despite being born with sickle cell anemia, legendary rapper Prodigy never seemed to live his life like he was on borrowed time. His passing shocked the hip-hop world back in 2017, and to this day he’s still revered as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Three years after his heartbreaking departure, his protégé Flee Lord has assembled an all-star cast to pay tribute to the late rapper to cap off 2020.
In the Name of Prodigy is Flee Lord’s 12th release for 2020, having dropped a new release every month, but this conclusion is somewhat special that any fan of Mobb Deep or other East Coast rap would appreciate. The line-up is stacked, with names across the board that show their love and adoration for Prodigy: Busta Rhymes, Ransom, Conway the Machine, Raekwon, Santana Fox (Prodigy’s daughter) and of course Havoc, the other half of Mobb Deep. The lean 28-minute collection runs smoothly from one track to the next thanks to the rugged production by Havoc, who keeps things gritty but never raises the volume.
After an intro that sets up the narrative for the record, Ransom and Lord exchange bars on “Torch Carriers” paying homage to their beloved friend and mentor. Lord especially feels heavily invested; even if some of his word choices are a little outdated, his delivery is passionate and concise. He’s not here to impress, he’s here to honor his mentor and he does just that. Ransom matches him well too, much better than the gruff Big Twins who comes off a little too Randy Savage for the style on the following “Infamous Bop”, which is a send up of the classic album by Mobb Deep.
On “Major Distribution”, Busta Rhymes flips between three vocal approaches to much fanfare; his jagged rapping, harmonizing, and near-scat in the background about cocaine makes for a lively inclusion. Busta easily outshines Flee Lord here, something that this tribute album suffers from more often than it should; Conway the Machine steals the show on “All for the Goat”, leaving Lord as an afterthought on his own project. This isn’t much of a problem though, Lord’s clearly giving the stage over to his brethren graciously, and In the Name of Prodigy isn’t without highlights by the main star; “1 A.M. Music” finds our lead giving one of the more straightforward moments of the release.
Santana Fox’s presence on “Raise the Bar” is the least aggressive feature, as she and Havoc make for a quieter collaboration that would make Earl Sweathshirt swoon. Raekwon’s verse on “Wu-Lords” is marred by dull story telling and homosexual slurs, so it disappoints more than it impresses, despite him being one of the bigger stars on the project. This all leads up to the finale with Havoc vocally joining Lord on “Bound to Take Losses”, which mostly succeeds as a fitting conclusion – until Lord starts reading off his ‘thank you’s like an Oscar acceptance speech.
While all of this does make for a thoughtful gesture, it feels just a little bit lackluster in the fact that only some of it is really about Prodigy. There’s a lot of “R.I.P. Prodigy”, some stories and memories, but also standard bravado from those present, which makes this less about the deceased rapper. While the intent is there, it falls short by focusing less on the tribute aspect and more on the fact of it being the conclusion piece of Flee Lord’s 2020 output. In the Name of Prodigy is a valiant effort that misses the mark a little too much, and while Prodigy would no doubt feel honored, this crop of talent could do better.