Prodigy, half of rap duo Mobb Deep, dead at 42

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Mobb Deep continued touring and releasing new albums in the 2000s, though Prodigy and Havoc had a minor feud of their own while Prodigy was serving a prison sentence on firearm charges.

Prodigy's publicist said that "the exact cause of death has not been determined", but that the rapper had "battled the disease (sickle cell) since birth", TMZ reported. No cause of death is known at this time. For now, we send our condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Johnson family and all of Prodigy's friends.

Born in Hempstead, New York, raised in Queens, Prodigy became a member of the street-wise duo Mobb Deep. As a teenager, Prodigy and his schoolmate Havoc fell in with a milieu of up-and-coming musicians centered around the Queensbridge Houses and, after a short-lived stint as Poetical Prophets, formed the hard-boiled Mobb Deep.

The hip hop star, whose real name is Albert Johnson, was on tour in Las Vegas performing with the "Art of Rap" tour alongside Ghostface Killah, Onyx, KRS-One, and Ice-T, amongst others. Two of their albums - The Infamous (1995) and Hell on Earth (1996) - are considered critical and financial successes.

The initial news of the rapper's passing broke when Nas posted a photo of him on Instagram with a caption that read "QB RIP King P". West Coast rivalry of the era and were dissed by Tupac on several tracks - some of which mocked Prodigy's sickle-cell anemia.

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As a solo artist, Prodigy released a slew of albums, starting with 2000's H.N.I.C. and ending with 2012's The Bumpy Johnson Album.

Last year he published "Commissary Kitchen: My Infamous Prison Cookbook", a collection of recipes inspired by his three-year jail stint due to criminal possession of a weapon. He released his last album, Hegelian Dialetic, in January. I ain't really have no life - that was it.

"That's what Mobb Deep music was speaking to - the people living in poverty and (who) got it hard", he said.

Following his release from New York's Mid-State Correctional Facility in 2011 for a gun-possession charge, Prodigy made a decision to explore his other talents besides music.