One half of the influential hip hop duo Mobb Deep, Prodigy, has died at age 42.
Although no cause of death has been released, it was reported that the rapper had been hospitalized for complications caused by sickle cell anemia prior to his death.
Born Albert Johnson, the rapper’s family had a storied history. His great-great-great-grandfather, William Jefferson White, founded Georgia’s Morehouse College in the basement of his Baptist church.
His grandfather, Albert “Budd” Johnson, was a saxophonist and clarinetist for Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Benny Goodman.
Johnson met fellow Queens, New York native Kejuan Muchita when they were both freshman at Manhattan’s High School of Art and Design.
The pair bonded over their shared love of hip hop and formed Mobb Deep. Johnson took the moniker Prodigy, while Muchita chose the performance name Havoc.
They scored a record deal as teens and released the album “Juvenile Hell” in 1993. The project didn’t generate much buzz, but the duo found more success with their sophomore album “The Infamous.” With its gritty rhymes and contributions by the artists Nas and Raekwon, the album helped launch Mobb Deep to the top of the hardcore, hip hop ladder.
Their 1996 follow-up, “Hell on Earth,” included the single “Drop a Gem on ‘Em,” which was a response to a Tupac diss track, “Hit ‘Em Up.” Two of their biggest hits were “Quiet Storm” and “Shook Ones.”
Being a part of Mobb Deep didn’t keep Johnson from solo projects like his album “H.N.I.C.” He also appeared on collaborative projects such as 2007’s “Return of the Mac” and 2013’s “Albert Einstein.”
Johnson was mourned on social media Tuesday by many fellow artists, including rapper Nas, who was the first to post about Johnson’s death.