Before Prodigy and Havoc were official Queensbridge murderers terrorising rival rap crews and representing QB to the fullest, they were teenage rappers going by the name “Poetical Prophets.”
After being featured in The Source’s Unsigned Hype column in 1991, the duo changed their name to Mobb Deep and signed a record deal with signed with 4th & B’way Records. But before they signed to 4th & B’way Records, they were also entertaining offers from other record labels, including Def Jam and Bad Boy Records.
“When we were shopping around our demos and trying to get signed,” Havoc recalled in an interview. “Puff was one of the people that we went to ’cause we were really tight with Puff back in the day — Prodigy more so.”
In the same interview, Havoc also revealed that it was Puffy who pushed them to change their names from Poetical Prophets to something else.
“Puff used to send us limos and we were kind of cool with him,” Havoc said. “I guess that was him warming up to us and trying to sign us. He wanted to sign us bad. He would’ve signed us but one thing he said, I remember, was, ‘I like y’all and everything but y’all got to change your name.’ He didn’t try to come up with a name for us. He left that up to us.”
Side note: Aa much as Puffy is a genius with commercialising street rap, like he did masterfully with Biggie, Mobb Deep wouldn’t have been a great fit on Bad Boy Records. Just think back to The LOX’s situation, can you imagine P and Hav running around the stage with shiny suits on?
Once signed to 4th & B’way Records, Mobb Deep began working on their 1993 debut album, Juvenile Hell. Featuring production from rap luminaries like DJ Premier and Large Professor, the album was a flop and the duo were dropped by the label shortly afterwards.
Around the same time, the newly formed Loud Records, who had just signed the Wu-Tang Clan, were looking for another group to sign and picked up the Queensbridge rappers. The recording sessions for their follow-up album, The Infamous, began in 1994, and once “Shook Ones (Part II)” dropped on February 3, 1995, the rest was history.