“Vocally none of y’all are approaching me or come close to me/hopefully you’re aware that you’re only holding my groceries” –No Jesus, No Beast
Hardcore hip-hop heads are rejoicing as Jedi Mind Tricks’ 8th album marks the return of their original lineup of just Vinnie Paz on the mic, and Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind on production. The last time we saw this version of Jedi Mind Tricks was in 2006 for their classic album Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell. Since then, on-and-off member Jus Allah rejoined the group for 2008’s A History of Violence, then Stoupe left the two MCs to work with external producers on 2011’s Violence Begets Violence, and now Jus Allah has left the group again, while Stoupe has returned for The Thief And The Fallen.
My first impression of this album was that it isn’t as diverse or emotionally-grabbing as Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell, but then I had a workout and remembered Jedi Mind Tricks’ main appeal: they’re all about that aggressive, get-punched-in-the-face type of music. After a short instrumental Intro, they get right into their classic combination of Vinnie’s violent battle raps over Stoupe’s hard-hitting production. The first third of the album is like this, with Vinnie simply rapping about violently destroying the competition. After a short sung interlude by Yes Alexander, things get a bit more focused as Vinnie raps about a one-sided friendship on the Eamon-assisted single, “Fraudulent Cloth.” There’s speculation that this song could be about Jus Allah, as it hasn’t been made public why he left the group, but he has been bashing any new Army of the Pharaohs or Jedi Mind Tricks releases on Twitter.
After the single puts us in a depressing mood, they turn it around and get into a celebration with “And God Said To Cain” featuring R.A. The Rugged Man and A-F-R-O. This is an up-tempo track with the classic combo of Vinnie and Rugged Man spitting rapid-fire raps, but it’s especially cool to see new artist A-F-R-O go from winning Rugged Man’s online freestyle contest last year to now actually being featured on a JMT album; he definitely shows that he’s able to hang with the veterans, setting off the track appropriately. This is followed up by “Destiny Forged In Blood,” which has a militaristic type of beat over which Vinnie reflects on Jedi Mind Tricks’ legacy in hip-hop.
There’s another Yes Alexander sung interlude before we dive into the album’s first single, “Deathless Light,” another high-energy pump-up track. Next is a more laid-back beat on “No Jesus, No Beast,” but Vinnie effectively goes on a Big Pun-esque rhyming spree. This is followed up with another posse-cut; a collaboration with Dilated Peoples that has Evidence, Rakaa and Vinnie spitting some dope braggadocios verses. Possibly the album’s most epic-sounding beat comes next on “The God Supreme,” with Vinnie rapping both the verses and the chorus (as opposed to Stoupe’s usual scratching). This may only be topped by the final track, “Lemarchand’s Box,” where Stoupe takes a violin sample and turns it into a trap-like beat, and Vinnie uncharacteristically uses a speedy flow.
Similar to when Army of the Pharaohs reunited last year, the return of Jedi Mind Tricks gives fans much of what they missed about the group, but not a lot of new ideas are found in these songs. Vinnie Paz savagely attacking wack rappers over Stoupe’s epic beats will never get old, but it can get repetitive over the course of an entire album. Vinnie has grown as an MC, continuing to spit high-density rhymes, diversifying the way he flows over beats, and he’s even become a better hook-writer on this album. It’s also great to see Stoupe returning to hip-hop, as his beats are made in a way that can be played with live instruments of all kinds, not just a standard rock band. Overall, after years of separation, Jedi Mind Tricks’ return feels like they haven’t lost a step.