Jeff Henriquez and Eli Lazare (Eli -Eos) painted a mural of the rapper near the Queensbridge Houses, where Mobb Deep spent much of their time. The mural stands at 13th Street and 40th Avenue on the wall of Urban Upbound, a nonprofit that is “dedicated to breaking cycles of poverty in New York City public housing and other low-income neighborhoods.”
Prodigy, whose real name was Albert Johnson, started Mobb Deep with Queensbridge resident Havoc, or Kejuan Muchita, in the early 90s. Prodigy grew up on Long Island and LeFrak City in Corona and met Havoc when they were both attending High School for Art and Design in Manhattan.
Mobb Deep became one of the most successful rap duos, selling more than three million albums and gaining critical acclaim with “The Infamous,” which was released in 1995.
ONE MORE SESSION! Big shout to my boy @johndomineoriginal for the dope shots! 👊🏼📸🔥#Repost @johndomineoriginal (@get_repost) ・・・ The Man, the Myth, the Legend. @jeffhenriquezart_ working on an amazing tribute wall to the late great Prodigy at 40th Avenue and 13th Street in Long Island City. #ripprodigy #streetart #streetartistry #streetarteverywhere #sprayart #jeffhenriquezart_
The group went on an indefinite hiatus in 2012 but released a new album called “The Infamous Mobb Deep” in 2014.
Henriquez said he was scheduled to do another piece in Queens with Lazare but after hearing about Prodigy’s death, the duo decided to focus their attention on paying homage to the rapper instead.
“If you didn’t listen to Mobb Deep and you grew up in the 90s you weren’t listening to rap music,” Henriquez said. “When these dudes came out, Queens went ape shit because it was one of the first groups in the defining era of the golden age of hip-hop. [Rappers] were sort of finding a genuine identity without gimmicks involved.”
The mural took about six days to complete and Henriquez said the response from the community has been overwhelming. Queensbridge Houses residents have been leaving candles at the site as a tribute to the late rapper. DNAinfo first reported on the mural.
The group came back to the neighborhood in 2014 when they performed at Queensbridge Park as part of SummerStage. Their music frequently referenced the largest housing project in America and the struggles of growing up in the city during the 90s.
Henriquez, who grew up in Lynn, Mass. said he got his “creative bits” from his father, a billboard painter in Santo Domingo. He began drawing and painting in middle school and started making murals in high school.
He enlisted in the Marines after high school because “there was no talk about college” in his neighborhood and his service allowed him to enroll in college for art. After stints as a teacher in Massachusetts and Florida, Henriquez moved to New York in 2013 and began painting murals full-time.
The Bushwick Collective, a group responsible for murals around the city, helped Henriquez make connections, including with Lazare. The duo is also responsible for painting a mural of Long Island City native and rapper, Nas.
The Prodigy mural has received attention from major publications and Henriquez said he is booked until December.
“Everybody’s been showing love,” he said.