Jedi Mind Tricks is:
Vinnie Paz aka Ikon the Verbal Hologram (MC)
Jus Allah (MC)
Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind (Production)
Release Date: 2000
When you hear the name Jedi Mind Tricks, a rap duo (once a trio but Jus Allah has since left) is most likely the last thing that comes to your mind. One thing this rap group has in common with the movie from which it received its name is their immaculate production. But unlike Star Wars, Jedi Mind Tricks is rarely heard or seen by the masses. They are what many fans of rap refer to as “Underground".
If I could describe Violent By Design, Jedi Mind Tricks’s second full-length release, in a few adjectives they would be classic, raw, and visionary. Violent By Design sounds like it came straight off the streets and dwells in a constant darkness not typically heard in hip-hop. To me, this album certainly has the three qualities that make up a great album, amazing production, thought-provoking lyrics, and a continuous flow. Production-wise, this album contains some of the most hardcore beats I’ve heard since Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers, this could be the reason Jedi Mind Tricks has garnered so many comparisons to the Clan. Along with excellent beats, Stoupe adds some cool scratching and some very eccentric and sinister-sounding samples. Stoupe’s work on this album really solidifies his place with the big boys of production such as RZA, DJ Premier, etc. Jedi Mind Trick are original, focused, intellectual but still extremely lethal with their music.
Initially, when I hear the Intro track, I was very vexed. I had definitely never heard an intro like that in any album I’d ever heard. But now I realize that this is a great intro that goes with the dark theme of Violent By Design. Retaliation starts off the album with some hard beats and features some cool scratching, then a sample saying, “I need the blood spilling in the streets." The first time I heard this I remember thinking something like, “What have I gotten myself into?" I quickly realized my purchase had been justified when I heard the first verse by Vinnie Paz. His flow here is sick and he offers up some great dark lyrics, that are a staple for this record. Jus Allah spits well on his verse, but it is nowhere near Vinnie. I also love the classical string samples here. The next track, Contra, has a cool beat and deep bass line. This song contains some of my favorite JMT lyrics such as, “You a pagan tryin’ to battle someone who’s Christ-like." Killa Sha is featured on this track, and although I’m not too familiar with his work, he adds some depth to the track. Jus Allah’s verse contains some homophobic lyrics, from which JMT receives a lot of criticism for in their songs. Contra also has some faint vocal samples in the background that add an extra layer to this track. Speech Cobras begins with a real creepy sample of a guy talking about staring into the sun, then leads into a great bassline and some good guitar samples. Some may be familiar with Mr. Lif, who adds a solid performance on this one. One of the many solid tracks that keep the flow of this album going. Once again, Death March starts off with a creepy vocal sample featuring what sounds like professional wrestler, The Undertaker prophesizing. This is one of the songs on the album that I tend to skip over. The beat is not up to Stoupe’s typical standards, and Esoteric and Virtuoso drop in and give somewhat forgettable performances here. Definitely one of the weaker songs off the album. This leads to one my favorite moments of Violent By Design, I Against I. This track features a down-tempo piano sample that you would typically not hear being rapped over, then again JMT is not your typical rap group. JMT collaborates with Planetary here, which in essence makes this track so great. The chorus is very catchy, and also is a very good description of JMT. Also, this is not a cover of Bad Brains’ song, but although I’m a BB fan I prefer this song over theirs.
The remix of Exertions starts off with a good verse by Vinnie P and some cool string samples. Esoteric & Virtuoso make a return here alongside Bahamadia, and this time they sound much better. Exertions features the typical random spoken and sung voice samples from Stoupe. Overall a solid track that is just missing the right touch to make it stand out. The title of the next track, Heavenly Divine, also describes its sound. Heavenly Divine proves itself one of the strongest tracks on the album through its cool violin samples, some extremely graphic lyrics, and a catchy chorus. Vinnie’s lyrics here contain many anti-Catholic references and pro-Islamic references that could be considered extremely offensive to those who believe in organized religion, but I find them intriguing. Even though the lyrics are pretty militant on this track, this is one of the only up-beat songs on the album. Sacrafice starts off with Jedi Mind’s patented creepy vocal sampling with a laid-back beat and piano backing a woman singing, “You’ve watched so many people die now." If you think that is random, directly after that sample they cut in to a Gene Hackman monologue. The song itself features an awesome sampling of a piano, which really makes this song stand out to me. Jus Allah’s verse overshadows Vinnie’s here which is a rarity, and the scratching during the chorus is very cool. Sacrifice is another JMT track with a great beat that could have been made spectacular with better vocal performances. Ahhh yes, The Deer Hunter. This song is easily one of my favorites on VBD. Stoupe adds in an amazing harp sample that flows extremely well with the beat. There is also a very obscure sample of a woman singing that adds to the depth of this song. Chief Kamachi comes in here and flows well with the music. Vinnie Paz flows well here and Jus Allah flows even better. The last minute of this song is all instrumental with some interesting sampling and beats also. A Spanish sounding guitar leads into another song in the top tier of this album, Blood Reign. Vinnie Paz comes in backed by another hard beat and more guitar samples. Three’s company here as Diamondback, Louis Logic, and B.A. Barakus (a little too much A-Team?) all spit on this track. The chorus on Blood Reign has the traditional Stoupe scratching of a vocal sample, which are never a let down. The guitar sample makes this one of the better cuts on the album.
Ghengis Khan goes against the grain of this album, by once again featuring a fast paced up-tempo beat. Tragedy Khadafi’s performance on this track is definitely my favorite JMT collaboration on the album. Vinnie P and Jus both rap very aggressively here and are almost yelling their lines. The chorus of Ghengis Khan is very catchy and is similar to Heavenly Divine’s chorus. This is absolutely one of the best moments of Violent By Design. Trinity starts off with more aurally pleasing orchestral samples, which I’m fairly sure I’ve heard somewhere before. This track is fairly up-beat and the chorus is once again infectious and has some cool scratches. L-Fudge and Louis Logic make their first and second guest spots here, respectively. All the MC’s featured on the track have some interesting lyrics. Another solid track. The Executioner’s Dream starts off with a very laid back feel that continues throughout the song. The vocal sample of a woman singing “La la la" in the background is very relaxing and surprisingly makes this song great IMO. J-Treds delivers some nifty lyrics here, but Vinnie’s lyrics are what really stand out. This is another great song which shows Stoupe’s versatility as a producer. Muerte is my sleeper pick for this album, I love this song. It starts off with a sample of a singing Spaniard and some cool piano and guitar playing in the background. Vinnie P throws out some great lyrics once again here such as, “Rappers just battle me for the glory, it gets gory; They ***ty like suppositories, end of story." Jus Allah also sounds at the top of his game on this one. The song ends with some dark voice samples and a cool beat.
The upcoming track is the remix of Heavenly Divine (remix). I am pretty confused at to why they felt the need to put this song on the album. I would consider this song along with the interludes the only filler tracks on the album. The beat here is pretty boring, something uncharacteristic from coming from Stoupe. Stick with the original version of this one. That leads to another one of the weaker tracks, Army of the Pharoahs. Once again this starts out with a gloomy spoken sample and enters into a hard beat with a piano played in the background. Esoteric and Virtuoso make their third and final appearance here, ending with some decent verses that seem to drag on for a little too long. This song is a little too repetitive. Untitled starts out with a Spanish guitar that sounds amazing played over a hard beat. The main theme of this song seems to be religion, as the chorus is the same as Ghengis Khan’s but instead of saying “We fast 40 days, and pray for 40 nights," they say “And laugh as we cast the first stones at Christ." I smell controversy. At the end of the song Vinnie and Jus take turns rhyming for a moment and sound very good as they do it. Unlike the remix of Heavenly Divine, the Retaliation (remix) is a great change of pace from JMT. This version features a slowly played Spanish guitar over a laid-back beat. There is also a faint sample of a woman with a sultry voice singing in the back. Once again this shows the Stoupe’s uncanny abilities as a producer. The final song of the album, Blood Runs Cold, starts out like most of the songs on this album, with some cool samples of a piano and some obscure singing. There are two additions that add to the track that make this track great, a deep bass line with a laid-back beat and a Sean Price appearance. Sean P throws down some great lyrics, followed by a solid verse from Jus Allah, and a great verse by Vinnie. Overall a very good way to end the album.
While I believe this is one of the most consistent hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard from start to finish, it is not free from error. As I mentioned previously, there are a couple filler track and too many interludes (even though some are amusing). This being said this is a 20 plus song LP that manages to keep your attention and stay completely original nearly the whole time. Violent By Design is a journey through Stoupe’s shadowed musical landscape, a complete hip-hop experience, and a necessity for any fan of the genre.
-Some of the best production hip-hop has ever seen
-Socially conscious and thought provoking lyrics
-Possibly too many spoken samples
-Some controversial lyrics
-Like all hip-hop albums it can get repetitive for some