Following their widely acclaimed 1995 sophomore album, The Infamous, the official Queensbridge duo quickly headed back into the studio to record the follow-up, Hell on Earth.
Recorded during the height of the East Coast-West Coast beef, Hell on Earth featured a much more darker sound, with a nightmarish soundscape that seemed to last throughout the whole album. This was also partly due to Havoc taking full reigns on the production, unlike The Infamous which had Q-Tip’s warm, jazzy touch to it.
One of the songs off the album, “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” was a diss against 2Pac, who had sent shots against Mobb Deep, amongst many other New York rappers, on “Hit ‘Em Up,” dropped in June of that year. The duo dropped “Drop a Gem on ‘Em” as a promotional single, a few months before the album officially came out, but 2Pac was shot and killed in Las Vegas shortly afterwards.
“We recorded that song at Access Studios,” Prodigy recalled in an interview with Complex. “We just went in and made that song after we heard Tupac saying some things about us because of our ‘L.A., L.A.’ song. We heard somebody playing ‘Hit Em Up’ on the block and we were like, ‘Oh word? Niggas wanna make songs about us? Aight, cool.’ As soon as we heard Tupac saying anything about Mobb Deep, we went in and made that shit about him. We were like, ‘Fuck this nigga, we going right at this nigga and whoever the fuck he’s down with.’”
Following Pac’s passing on September 13, 1996, Mobb Deep opted to pull the single off the radio out of respect of the slain rapper. There were also plans to film a music video to go along with the single, but this was also cancelled.
Prodigy: We had actually pulled the song because it was the first single off of Hell On Earth. We submitted it to radio and radio put it in rotation, even in Cali. But when Pac died, we pulled the song off radio and told them to stop playing it out of respect for his family and out of respect for the dead. We were like, “Nah, stop pushing that.” We still put it on the album. We were about to shoot a video for that. We were about to go in on that nigga, but we were like, “Yo, pull it.” We were just going to go in on this nigga in the video. I mean, it was so new when Pac died that I think it was only on the radio for about a week or two. So, we didn’t really have plans for the video, but we were about to shoot a video for it. When Pac died, we switched the single to “Hell On Earth” instead.Prodigy Breaks Down His 25 Most Essential Songs | Complex