Black Cocaine is East Coast standard-bearers Mobb Deep’s first release since frontman Prodigy was released from prison and the infamous duo’s departure from 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records (no great loss, considering the label’s less-than-stellar track record with non-50 releases). The sinister reggae styling of “Dead Man Shoes” sets an appropriately grim, ominous, no-nonsense mood on the new five-track EP: Gone are the big, stupid 50-engineered pop hooks that dominated Mobb Deep’s ill-fated stint on G-Unit. The piano-laden title track feels cinematic, albeit in a dingy, second-hand way; think of it as a rain-soaked backdrop to a low-budget direct-to-video movie, probably starring rappers on the decline.
Black Cocaine’s persistent dreariness would be forgivable if it conjured up an anthem a tenth as infectious as classic Mobb joints like “Shook Ones” or “Quiet Storm,” but these songs feel unmistakably like filler, even the long-awaited and wildly disappointing reunion with fellow Queensbridge legend Nas on “Get It Forever.” Some rappers leave prison bursting with ideas and ambition, desperate to make their mark. Judging by this underwhelming return, Prodigy’s stint in the correctional facilities merely constituted time lost.