The Austin Chronicle

Memoir Suite

Rock & roll books from Austin to Beijing

Reviewed by Chase Hoffberger, December 16, 2011, Music

My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep's Prodigy

by Prodigy, with Laura Checkoway
Touchstone, 320 pp., $24.99

Shortly before getting out of prison on a three-and-a-half-year sentence for gun possession, Queens, N.Y., rapper Prodigy explained the newfound perspective he achieved while writing his autobiography: "Cause my whole life I've been rippin' and runnin'," he told Village Voice contributor Laura Checkoway, who helped pen My Life. "So now I had a chance to really sit down and look from the outside in." Prison was the first time Prodigy (born Lance Albert Johnson Banks) sat down. Born with sickle-cell anemia – "Pain and I got real close in those early years" – and raised in Queensbridge, one of the most notorious projects in New York, Prodigy went to middle school with a rap sheet stacked taller than Mobb Deep's RCA advance. The diminutive P got caught up in his first jewelry heist and cop chase by 8 – with his father, no less. By the time he'd reached 13, he was working drug corners. And considering how many times he flashed heat in a Manhattan office building, it's a wonder he made it to his mid-30s before getting locked up for it. In between: infamy involving Mobb Deep-approved sex, drugs, and rap. Prodigy recounts with the laid-back precision he's always had. A little long-winded, but hey, dude did three-and-a-half in the clink.

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