By Eric Tweel
Unlike the fine Italian wine in which he indulges regularly, Vinnie Paz seems to have gotten progressively worse as he’s aged. His newest release and second solo album, God of the Serengeti, is just another blip in his downward trend. Where is the brooding young Verbal Ikon the Hologram from the Psycho Social and Violent by Design? While the shift in his music may have garnered a few new fans, a brief scan online shows that many of his long time listeners are disappointed at Vinnie’s direction. For an underground artist who relies on his relatively small but loyal fan base, it does not bode well that his devotees are beginning to turn their back on Vin Laden – just as he appears to turn his back on both his solo album covers.
We have to start talking about the production, even though this isn’t Vinnie’s concern, necessarily. The tracks done by Vinnie’s new favorite beat maker, C-Lance, are cacophonous auditory vomit, a sad attempt at the raw-and-rugged, begging you to hit the mute button. Somehow Vinnie managed to convince hip-hop legends like DJ Premier to produce some of the album, but even their contributions are weak. The greatest strength of his rap group (Jedi Mind Tricks) was its dedicated producer, Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind – until he left before the release of their last album, Violence Begets Violence (also review on this site). It’s not clear whether Stoupe was willing to produce for this album, but regardless, Vinnie should have picked some better tracks to gift with his previously seraphic vocals.
As for the lyrics themselves, the general formula – Kool-G-Rap-inspired multisyllabic end rhymes – is the same as usual, with a noticeable lack of wordplay. It’s seems at times like he’s not even trying, like when he ends almost every line in an entire verse with the same expletive on “The Oracle.” Beyond the poor lyricism, the content Vinnie focuses on is getting repetitive, to the point that almost every song on album is stuffed with death threats and gun waving.
It’s become easy to poke fun at Vinnie. For one, he’s an obese white Muslim going on forty, and his faces hangs off of his skeleton like pizza cheese. His lyrics are laughably contradictory, and often he complains against prejudice and unjustified hatred in the same verse that he vulgarly slanders Christians and homosexuals. Yet all is not lost for this venerable Philly rapper. He has a worthwhile goal. In an interview with the Philadelphia Weekly earlier this year, he said, “I don’t want what happened to jazz, soul and rock ’n’ roll—subcultures that were whitewashed and destroyed by marketing schemes—to happen to hip-hop.” Vinnie has some redeeming qualities. His delivery is still one of the most grimy in the game, and his leading role in the underground scene has made him good connections.
TBAW’s last review of Vinnie’s music was critical yet hopeful. This time around, it is less hopeful. But even if “O’Drama Vin Laden” continues to abuse the microphone like a rabid bulldog, his previous albums, particularly those from the early days of JMT, are good enough to make his career significant in hip-hop history. But resting on his laurels is useless. If only Vinnie could be more like his wine.