Prodigy has had a storied musical career as one-had of the celebrated hip-hop duo, Mobb Deep. After emerging from a three-year prison stint in 2011, the New York emcee refocused his talent for storytelling with books as his new medium. With the release of his second book, “H.N.I.C.”, his first work of fiction, Albert “Prodigy” Johnson sets out to cement his literary career.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, “H.N.I.C.”. Where did the idea for the book come from?
Basically, the book was first a movie script that I wrote back in like 1999. When I had come home from jail in 2011 I put out an autobiography, which was my first book I put out. It did real good and was real controversial; a lot of people were asking when the next book was coming. I didn’t really have anything written out yet for the next book, then I remembered I had that movie script sitting there, so I was like you know what, I’m going to turn this into a book right here and put it out.
Which book did you enjoy writing more, your first book which is an autobiography, or this book, which is fiction? What were the major differences with writing these two types of books?
I definitely enjoyed writing the autobiography but I had more fun writing fiction because I could use my imagination more and come up with scenarios, and create characters, so this one was more fun.
Are any of the characters in H.N.I.C. based on actual people and real life situations?
Fiction is all fiction, so no.
What was it like to come up with these characters? Where did you draw your inspiration from?
It was pretty easy because I wrote the story about me and my friends in Brooklyn. So, that’s who I based the characters on, us, cause I wrote the movie for us. It’s hard to break into Hollywood as far as like, you know, young black people from the hood trying to break into Hollywood with their little movie stories or whatever, so I just took it upon myself to start shooting movies ourselves, and just fund the movies cause we have an interesting story to tell. The first one [movie] I did was “Murda Muzik” back in 2002, it came out straight to DVD. That was like the same thing, loosely based around Mobb Deep but it was fiction. With the H.N.I.C. script, I wrote that right after Murda Muzik, and I wrote that one for me and my friends out in Brooklyn so we could just shoot it ourselves and do it, so I definitely picked people that it wouldn’t be hard for them to fit that character…they personalities was a little bit the same or whatever. I kinda wrote the characters around us, and then I just created a fictional story, so it’s not like it’s based on real life, it’s fiction, I just used real people, you know what I’m saying?
Is writing books always something that you’ve wanted to do since you were a child, or was it something that you fell into after realizing how much you like to write music?
I just love writing. A lot of people tell me “your story raps is ill, you need to write more story raps” and shit like that so I just started writing a lot, you know what I mean…started writing a lot of scripts, a lot of synopses, you know getting a lot of ideas down and it just took off from there.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Are there any books or authors that you looked to for inspiration when you started your journey with writing books?
I would say my favorite author as far as fiction is Donald Goines, he was real dope. Sister Souljah. That’s about it really. I don’t really read too much fiction; I like to read more like autobiography stuff, like classical stuff, about health or politics, government, all types of shit like that.
What was the last non-fiction book you read?
One of them Malcolm Gladwell books.
I’ve been hearing a lot about him.
Yeah, I read all his books, Outliers and Tipping Point. I forgot which one I read last, but it was one of those.
How do you feel about the way that your books are being received? A lot of people are starting to realize and celebrate the talent that you have as a writer. How does that feel to get praised for writing books?
It definitely feels good man. It just inspires me to keep going, don’t stop, to just keep going. Because it’s endless, the stories we can tell is endless, there’s so much out in this world. Everything is not based around the hood either. I don’t like it when people try to put you in a box, “oh they just do hood books.” I can make a story about anything and relate it to life; I’ve experienced a lot in my life so I can tell a lot of crazy stories that would surprise people.
That brings me to my next question; a lot of people are putting books that are similar to yours in different categories like Urban Fiction, Crime Fiction, and Street Literature. Do you define your book in that way? Do you think that it’s a good or bad idea to categorize books in this way?
I mean, for me it’s just if I write fiction, its fiction. If the fiction is written by an urban person, which is me, but that doesn’t mean that the story is urban, know what I mean?
That’s what people are going to start to realize about my books, you know what I mean, just because an urban person wrote it doesn’t mean that the story is urban.
Top Image | Josh Sisk