Sat Nov 15
Jedi Mind Tricks is a dumb name. The underground hiphop group, comprised mainly of rapper Vinnie Paz and producer Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind, may pepper their songs with geeky references to Star Wars, but the juvenility is misleading. Based in Philadelphia, they're touring in support of their third album, Visions Of Gandhi, which is perhaps their weightiest collection of dark, violent rap to date.
Although Paz's slightly lispy, rapid fire delivery is solidly thuggish, the subject matter of his lyrics is increasingly spiritual and political. Their newer work is anti-war, and protests discrimination against Muslims since September 11th. Which is not to say that it's PC or "faggot"-free. On "Nada Cambia," Paz lets loose a string of threats and insults that sound almost careless, like, "Then I'll whap you with razors, guns, knives, and what have you." The simplicity of the lyrics, and Paz's natural, casual cadence makes many of the songs' violent images more clever than intimidating, like verbal martial-arts choreography. Much of it is gleefully immature, and as is stated on "Blood In Blood Out," they "like anything that's related to death."
Another recent evolution is the overall diversification of their sound. They've always leaned towards the macabre, with heavy, lurking beats that seem to drag slightly behind the lyrics, but the newer material is more danceable. There is also an infusion of Latin influence that's coming into their sound, incorporating guitar finger-picking, brass, and Spanish lyrics.
Jedi Mind Tricks has taken some flack recently for slicking up their sound, a development that's partially the result of their collaboration with hotshot engineer Chris Conway, who's also worked with Eminem. Jedi Mind Tricks' alpha, childishly violent posturing is in fact pretty ridiculous, but they don't seem as though they honestly expect or desire to be taken too seriously. Rather than betraying any underground authenticity for a cleaner, smoother sound, the Tricks appear to be growing increasingly comfortable in their own skin. Their recent experimentation may be easier to nail down on record, but the tight backbone of their sound bodes well for the live version, too.