It's not strange that Prodigy's second solo release, Return of the Mac, is a gritty, New York-centric quest to maintain order in an increasingly hip-pop driven world. What is surprising is that, after his group, Mobb Deep, signed on with 50 Cent's crumbling G-Unit empire and dropped the watered-down 2006 debacle Blood Money, this disc is easily the best Mobb Deep venture since Hell on Earth in 1996. Entirely produced by the Alchemist, Return of the Mac leans on curiously unacknowledged Seventies soul samples and blaxploitation loops. While some of the beats seem haphazard ("Legends," "Nickel and a Nail"), the overall result is a uniform sound that is nicely suited to Prodigy's dark, sedated delivery. On "7th Heaven" Prodigy takes the listener on a vivid journey through gun-heavy streets after he boasts of self-medicating with alcohol, purple haze, and OxyContin. With "Mac 10 Handle," he flips the drugged-out psychosis of the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me" into a spooky rant that painfully resembles a suicide note. At times Prodigy's rhymes come off so violent and forced that they seem like an afterthought. Likewise the lyrics rarely stray from the hardcore criminal sound that has become synonymous with Mobb Deep — lots of references to knives, bucks, and bulletproof trucks. Still, for anyone who wants to joyride with a narcissistic MC claiming to be "strung out on gunfire," Return of the Mac is an entertaining effort that revels in its own paranoia and wildly sensationalized excess.