After 20 years as half of Mobb Deep, Albert “Prodigy” Johnson is starting to make moves away from the mic. After releasing his autobiography My Infamous Life in 2011, Johnson returned to the page this summer and published his first fiction novella along with British writer Steven Sevile.
Last night Johnson sat down with Sacha Jenkins, editorial director for Mass Appeal, at Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO to discuss the evolution of the book, his creative process, and future projects.
Inspired by the “hood movies” that came out as he grew up, he decided to write a New York story. (Johnson is a Queens native).“I felt like people needed to know my story, my friend’s story, and the things that we’ve seen,” he said.
The book originally started off as a movie script and was meant to go along with the release of his album, H.N.I.C. Facing lack of time, he didn’t get around to shooting it. After releasing his autobiography, he began thinking about his next literary project and decided to turn the script into a book.
Johnson pulls a lot of his characters from real life. “As you get older, you start to see things for what they are,” he said. The characters in H.N.I.C. are based on a group of his friends that live in Brooklyn. Pappy, the main character of the book, is interested in leaving Brooklyn to pursue a computer degree in Detroit—a detail that holds personal parallels, as Johnson’s father (“a thugged-out nerd”) was trained and excelled in computer work.
“When I write songs I try to paint a picture so that you’re actually there,“ Johnson said. “But with books, I like to get straight to the point, get to the action.” Although H.N.I.C. reflects his penchant for wordplay and lyrics, he reached out to Laura Checkoway, who helped him edit the book and pushed him to be more descriptive and emotive in his writing. “With books, it kind of bores me sometimes… sitting there talking about the sun and morning dew leaning on the grass, a lot of that shit I don’t want to know.
“I write a lot of my rhymes when I was sick,” Prodigy said of his creative process. “I was sitting there angry, it just makes you think outside of the box.” During the weeks it took him to recover, he spent his time writing songs, scripts, and books. “I pull from my pain… that’s where most of my writing comes from.”
Johnson plans to write a series of ten books in the same line as H.N.I.C. He also wants to expand into non-fiction writing, with possible topics ranging from politics, religion, cultures, and diet. With Mobb Deep currently on their 20th anniversary tour, Johnson is proving to be all about taking care of business.
Photos by Kristen Tauer
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