If the devil were looking for disciples, two men willing to sacrifice their souls in the pursuit of all that is immoral—one a warrior of words and the other a soldier of sound—he need look no further than the unholy duo of MC Vinnie Paz and his producer Stoupe, the Philadelphia-based rap group known as Jedi Mind Tricks.
For several years Jedi Mind Tricks laid low, preferring to hone their craft in the depths of hip-hop’s underground. Which isn’t to say that they’ll emerge from the underground with their fourth album Legacy of Blood, because they’re anything but radio-friendly. They’re unlike the diluted rhythm and gangsta rap that’s been pouring out of the radio for the last 10 years. To tolerate Jedi Mind Tricks you had better have a serious bloodlust and a strong stomach. Even then, it’s Eminem’s homophobia, Alexander the Great’s “conquer the world” mentality, and Tupac’s Machiavellian stage to the nth degree. Regardless of whether or not it’s true, Vinnie Paz rhymes as if he has a lot of corpses in his past. Now let all of that steep in Stoupe’s alluring cinematic orchestration and follow Vinnie’s orders, “Don’t be scared, just be prepared for the worst”.
Legacy of Blood is a horror show. You half-expect each track to begin with the declaration that “God is dead” and on the bloodthirsty “Scars of the Crucifix”, an Islam-worshipping Paz actually vows to destroy the Christian deity. Lines like “my appetite for blood is brutally insatiable” and “I spit a rap to liquefy your guts and lungs / But the devil made me do it”, leave you reeling as Stoupe’s unyielding production threatens to slit your throat.
Strings saturate the tension-riddled, Julio Caesar Chavez mix of “On the Eve of War”, which features GZA/Genius of the Wu-Tang Clan. If Legacy of Blood were an action movie, this song would be the frantic, vertigo-inducing chase flick where Vinnie puts the squeeze on weak MCs as Stoupe’s classical orchestration fuels the chase, surging with a rush of pure adrenaline. At the climax, GZA steps into the ring to spit that unmistakable liquid sword flow with ease.
When Paz’s lyrics take hold, you can feel the cold steel of a 22 caliber Desert Eagle butt up against the side of your face. You don’t ask questions; you just follow along as Jedi Mind Tricks pluck you from your reality for a 19-track exercise in escapism. As for Stoupe, his instrumentals are nothing short of majestic. His grandiose production weaves vivid narratives through your ears, lowering you to the depths of Paz’s tortured psyche. On every track, he creates the soon-to-be blood-splattered backdrop for Vinnie’s sociopath behavior. It’s the perfect partnership; a real murder incorporated. Stoupe’s beats provide just enough light to navigate Paz’s tunnel of hate, but not enough to lead you from the belly of the beast. You begin to realize that not only do you enjoy it, but you feel compelled to participate in the homicidal rampage. Your kidnappers have brainwashed you; you’re suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
Have you ever done something you shouldn’t have? Why’d you do it? Was it for that potent mixture of dishonesty and excitement? Legacy of Blood revisits that recipe, providing a fix that’s hard to kick.
On the album’s closer “Before the Great Collapse”, Vinnie cops to all the ills of his brain by rhyming his suicide letter. If I remember right, there’s a body in the trunk (parallel rap storyline: Eminem’s “Stan”). The beat is strung out on a galaxy of multicolored uppers and downers. The soul sample perks up just as the horns nod off and the beat trickles down the windshield like raindrops. Ultimately, the high can’t be sustained. In the end, the track swerves across four lanes of traffic, over the bridge, careening onto a concrete embankment. You survive. From the back seat, you can hear Vinnie’s breathing slow and finally cease at the end of the ride. Click your heels three times. When you wake up 666 miles away, don’t be surprised when you discover a legacy of blood on your hands.
You may feel the urge to relive the experience again and again. Being an accomplice to lyrical murder gets easy with time.