Masters of Lyricism – An Interview With Jedi Mind Tricks
“As a lyricist, you got to know how to command the crowd and entertain.” Jus Allah’s words speak on one half of a duo who for 15-plus years poured sweat into crafting high-energy, unadulterated music. The other half, Vinnie Paz, adds his ear for production that can span from urban to sample-driven to aggressive. “We influenced a generation of kids and now they are making music.” Together, Allah and Paz form Jedi Mind Tricks, a Philly underground (or “good fucking music” as Jus prefers) act heralded by hardcore rap purists for its intelligent lyrics, complex flows and the atmospheric production of Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind.
For Jedi Mind Tricks, this is something like the old saying: “The show must go on.” HipHopDX has published Paz’s thoughts on the whole matter, which has garnered some mix reactions by fans. They believe new material from Jedi Mind Tricks will not bring the same aggressiveness present in their earlier works. Regardless of Stoupe’s absence from the producer’s chair, the duo’s seventh album, Violence Begets Violence, is set to drop on October 25.
Although this marks the first project with a new crop of producers, Jus and Paz are loyal to a brotherhood dating back to their teenage years, believing in one day a true reunion of Jedi Mind Tricks will come into fruition. At the same time, these upstart producers have connected with them in a way that has embodied a version of their younger selves. You add harder rhymes, wittier punchlines, and a familiar soundscape to the Jedi Mind Tricks formula and many hip-hop heads will be surely reminded of their lyrical prowess. Things change, but eventually do get better with time.
Read the interview after the jump.
Let’s talk about your appeal, which sort of mirrors Wu-Tang Clan by mixing urban beats and intelligent raps. JMT has a history of having some significant titles. What does Violence Begets Violence mean?
Vinnie – Jus came up with it, so he can build on that.
Jus – Violence Begets Violence in relationship to us, it’s more of just we stuck with the violent titles. I’m on all the violent albums. That [is] pretty much how it correlates with us. But Violence Begets Violence it’s like do one to others. It’s like one of those cliché sayings. If you want to get busy, we can get busy too.
Vinnie – Yeah, like Jus said. There was sort of this significance of me and Jus having worked on in the title and the theme of the word violence. It is sort of representative of the music. When he told me I was like this is something natural. We are never over analytical about our process. I was like, “Alright that sounds perfect.”
One of your singles, “Target Practice”, has recently gotten a remix by Shuko.
Vinnie – Yeah, Shuko from Germany.
How does he help your appeal overseas?
Vinnie – Overseas is great to us anyway. They’re so diehard over there.
Jus – We get more love. I wouldn’t say necessary more but if we hit the Midwest here, they may not be receptive. New York, LA, we get mad love. And I would say every city in Europe is like that to us.
And you guys are from Philly. I am sure you get a lot of love there too.
Vinnie – There’s nothing like being home. It’s where we did everything. It’s where we were rhyming cyphers, battling, made all our demos and where we used to hang out when we were kids. That’s our life.
You guys also have an Australian Tour booked. On an international level, who connects with JMT the most?
Vinnie – We never been to Australia yet because I’ve always been petrified by the flight. But Jus loves tours, so Jus twisted my arm on this one, so we are going to do it.
Jus – [laughs] I don’t know what it is. I think its kids overseas, whether its Europe or Australia, they been asking us to go for 10-plus years.
Vinnie – I know someone who was just over there, who’s not in a hip-hop group. Are you familiar with the band Coheed and Cambria?
Yeah, I heard of them. They’re really nice.
Vinnie – Yeah, my man from that band was just over there. And he said everywhere that they toured; they were OD’ing on promo for us to be over there: Flyers, posters, everything. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know if Jus and I have ever talked about it, but there’s something with an oversea market that connects with us more than the watered down, fast food type of music that America puts sort of out there. Maybe they just represent the raw more.
Jus – They’re not brainwashed over there. They’re not bumped in the head with Lil’ Wayne. They really gravitate towards the real.
So we’ve all read the news about Stoupe’s absence from this album. He is one of the founding members of JMT, so how detrimental was he in creating the group’s sound?
Vinnie – We created it together, when we were kids. He was just as important to Jus. He was just as important to me. The sound took shape. It was a thing for a lot of years. 15-plus years, maybe pushing 20. You know, you can lead a horse to water, you can’t make him drink. Me and Jus were tired of pulling teeth. The process was getting longer and longer. We’re sitting around waiting to get creative, waiting for beats, when we do get beats; it’s like one at a time. So what happens when you get one or two beats and you don’t love them? You have to wait another six weeks for another two beats? That’s basically what we were dealing with during this process.
I don’t know how many people know, we were working on this album as me, Jus and Stoupe. We got nine to eleven beats from Stoupe. There were two of them we really like, but they were really somber-type, conceptual-type beats. Even though we liked them, we wanted to get our feet wet with a new record. Give us that hardcore shit. Let’s start doing that Jedi shit and then we can go back and do a couple of concept joints.
Jus – He’s always been a standoffish dude too. He’s on none of the Stell’s records or any of Paz’s solos or the Heavy Metal Kings. He really never tried to be a part of anything outside of just Jedi Mind Tricks.
Vinnie – We came up in the game together. We are loyal guys. We always looked at it as some brotherhood type shit. Three brothers might not always get along at all times. Me and Jus were doing what’s best for what we thought – the fans. In order to for us to of taken this LP that we just recorded on the chin, me and Jus would have gone through a couple more years of torture. We are grown ass man, taking care of ourselves and our families. At some point, you just have to draw a line in the sand.
Vinnie – It’s unfortunate that he is that way. It’s not unfortunate for me and Jus. I want that to be known very clearly. Me and Jus are the easiest guys to work with. Ask anyone who has worked with us. We don’t want to hear it anymore, if anybody else has a problem, go find him somewhere.
Will fans get the same hardcore and rugged sound on this release?
Vinnie – Yeah man! People have told us this is the most aggressive hard shit we’ve done. Go head Jus – I’m sorry – I’m just hyped. [laughs]
Jus – [laughs] Yeah man, like Paz was saying, we kind of dictate the sound anyways. Stoupe was part of the process, but it’s the rhymes that dictate what comes out. We don’t have to cater to the beat; the beat has to cater to what we are saying. The dudes that are capturing in the mood have been fans of the group the same amount of time we have been in a group. They know what to expect. They be giving us the heaters. These kids that are coming up giving us their best beats. And they want to be down. We are going to roll and continue with the process no matter what.
Vinnie – And that shit reinvigorated us. That’s why some people are like, “That’s their best work in 10- plus years.” Because we felt like these young boys were coming with shit and we had to step our shit up because they were stepping their shit up. Its very easy to get in this business … if you are successful – we are a very successful touring act – and its easy to get complacent. And be like, “we can just tour until we are 45 years old and just put out mediocre music to fuel the tours.” Me and Jus were never like that. He came so incredible on this album, Jus, that he put the battery pack on my back. And I can’t have my partner “sonning” me on every song. This guy is incredible.
Jus – Thanks Paz. Maybe the production is caught up, but none of these young boys are fucking with us on the mike.
You guys have an all new cast of producers like C-Lance, Nero and Hypnotist Beats. How did you guys connect with them?
Vinnie – Of every one of our guys, production-wise, C-Lance is the closest thing to being a member of the group. C-Lance, we met him a few years ago, and he is just this talented, hungry kid who makes fucking 100 beats a week. He is sending me and Jus stuff daily.
Yeah, he is grinding for you guys.
It such a worldwide album. One of the producers is from the west coast to Canada, Hypnotist. Nero Knockouts he’s from Italy. C-Lance is from Boston. We influenced a generation of kids and now they are making music. Some of them are terrible and some of them think they are our competition – and that’s laughable – and some of them are not delusional and they’re really talented. They decided to work with the dudes that birthed their style.
What are your thoughts Jus on the new cats on the album?
Jus – I think they’re killing it. C-Lance, he is the homie. We ride for that dude. As far as the vibe of the group, me and Paz we stay on the same page. We chill every week. That’s where the vocal part comes from. As for the music, these cats are in-tune to what we are doing. You can feel it. I’m loving the new cats.
So you guys are embracing these new producers. Is there beef between you guys and Stoupe?
Jus – Nah!
Vinnie – I mean it’s just 20 years of the marriage that slowly dissolves. Some people get divorce and hate each other. Some people stay friends. Maybe it’s a misconception that things are changed now. Me and Jus didn’t even see the dude anyway. Since ’92, he’s probably done like ten things with us socially. What really is changing? But the dude who doesn’t leave his home, who is his own worst enemy, and who believes the world is against him? There’s nothing to beef over.
With this kind of behind you, will fans ever see a reunion of the original JMT?
Jus – I mean, we are down today!
Vinnie – [laughs] Yeah. Find his phone number. Tell him to give us 10-15 beats that we love and it will be the next record. To call it a breakup – Nah! Give us 13 good beats. If not, we are not here dwelling, dissing the guy. We have no intent on that, that’s stupid. We made music together for a long time, we grew up together. We are not like that. We also have an obligation to ourselves and our mothers, this is what we do.
Violence Begets Violence will be released by your independent label Enemy Soil Records. Why do you believe fans have continued supporting your underground movement?
Jus – Its always been like that. And it will continue to be like that. We can’t change at all. We are who we are. If the masses want to wake up and accept us and take note and that’s good. There’s not much I can do to my style to change up to appeal to certain amount of people. I wouldn’t even call our music “underground.” We make good fucking music. Save that underground label for dudes who try to be weird or whatever. You made the Wu-Tang comparison; I could probably see that in the style of beats. But we more like Kool G on Wu-Tang beats. They were more like out there, each one of them is different. Me and Paz keep it straight. I wouldn’t even make that comparison. We Jedi Mind Tricks.
Once Violence Begets Violence drops, both of you have solo albums. Vinnie has a collobo with Ill Bill called Heavy Metal Kings while Jus has the Meanest Man Alive (MMA) coming out, which are a testament to both your work ethics. How do you feel about Jedi Mind Tricks’ longevity in the current state of hip-hop?
Vinnie – I think it’s our ability to adapt. We sort of have this inherit ability to make timeless music. Am I the greatest rapper to have ever live? Of course not. Do I have the ability to pick beats and make timeless shit? Yeah. So that’s what I bring to the group.
What about you Jus? What do you bring to Jedi Mind Tricks?
Jus – I just come with the lyrics. I give my input as far as I can. That’s another thing I came across making my own album. Paz is the dude; he understands how to make good records. For me I consider myself an emcee, a lyricist. Not all emcees have that ability. I’m not the hook dude. I’m not Mr. Cheeks [laughs], or the Lost Boyz dudes. I’m the lyric dude. I give you a hot sixteen. Can I deliver a hot album? Yeah I can because I got Paz with me.