Many years ago, I joined this site and frantically searching for things to write about, wrote a short entry on Mobb Deep, a hip-hop group that had been, and has still been, neglected by the intelligentsia. Its still a pretty good writeup, since Mobb Deep has done nothing of note since 2001. Eight years before that, Mobb Deep's first album came out. Years before they were super-powered gangsters involved in international intrigue (and even that was over a decade ago!), they were just two teenagers who were lucky enough to get a chance to work with some great producers, such as DJ Premier and Large Professor. Mostly because that was before DJ Premier charged $30,000 for a track.

One of those songs was "Peer Pressure", one of the few songs that I would point out as fulfilling Chuck D's words as rap as a "black person's CNN". The song deals with the problem of youth and crime in a straightforward manner, neither glorifying or villainizing it. After all, as the song states:

Around my way there's a kid that most don't understand
how he lives isn't negative or positive
He has a grade A average
But when he's on the streets with his friends, he's a savage
Looking back on the song from Mobb Deep's later career, it is good to know that they could admit that criminality wasn't the theatrical spectacle they later made it out to be, but merely a matter of kids being confused.

The song's final verse tells the story of that youth, and how he finally resorts to suicide. I don't know if the story is truth, fiction, or a mixture of the two, but it is presented succintly, and emotionally without being overwrought. But it is in an earlier verse, when the way the pressure is subtly applied is described, that I think the song is strongest:

Like in junior high, I used to wonder why
Certain females went out with certain guys
Then one day, it all dawned on me yo
You gotta be down, and have it going on see
... Buying new gear, nothing but the best
Forget Levis strictly Polo and Guess
But how would I make the cash
It gotta be easy and it gotta be fast
This again is succinct and easy to understand: acts seen as antisocial by outsiders are actually performed under social pressure. If Mobb Deep had continued writing insightful, yet street level songs like this throughout the 1990s, we would be living in a socialist utopia by now. But unfortunately, they made a bunch of garbage, and the misled youth were left to wander in the wilderness.