By Eric Tweel
“I have been to hell before,” says Jus Allah on Violence Begets Violence, Jedi Mind Tricks’ new album. This veteran hip-hop duo has made it clear in the past that they have visited the abyss on more than one occasion. For more than a decade, Jedi Mind Tricks have been underground mainstays thanks to vitriolic wordplay and a niche all their own. While their new album isn’t going to bring in many new fans, it is sure to satisfy longtime supporters.
After a hiatus to focus on his first solo album, Season of the Assassin, Vinnie Paz has returned with Jus Allah in a whirlwind of gritty beats and hard-hitting lyrics. Even with longtime producer Stoupe a no-show this time around, the Philadelphia rap collective manages to elicit a sinister consistency, as well as explore some new territory. Tracks like the reggae-infused Chalice and the wasteland of distorted circus sounds in Carnival of Souls give unfamiliar flavor to Paz’s malign fervour.
While the instrumentals bring a solid balance, the lyrics offer little variety. Paz and Allah fail to be the same socially conscious provocateurs they were in past records like Servants in Heaven and Kings in Hell. Lines about Charles Manson and Mel Gibson fall flat of any intelligent offerings. While Paz still asserts that “Me and Jus Allah controversial,” being offensive is no replacement for actual substance. Allah tells us that “[He] knows what violence begets,” but never gets around to telling us, unless you count the album title.
That said, both emcees are technically impeccable, delivering multisyllabic rhyme schemes on every cut as usual. On the earth-scorching stomp Design in Malice, Paz tells us, “My music’s strong enough to stop a bomb/I’m putting pressure on you kids like I’m a soccer mom.” Strength is something that both him and Allah certainly still have, and the force of their lyrical mastery is hard to ignore. Violence Begets Violence, however, isn’t their best work. It’s probably just them adjusting. After eighteen years in the game, Paz boasts that “Jedi Mind [is still] grindin’ out here.” He’s right, and from the potential this album shows, they can only get better.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars