It’s been almost four years since Jedi Mind Tricks hit us with the classic Violent by Design. During that time the duo of Vinnie Paz and producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind have gone from shadowy underground figures to becoming the flagship for upstart label babygrande records. Along the way they have redefined themselves as a two-man group by parting ways with former member Jus Allah while expanding their sound with the force of a major label budget behind them. Visions of Gandhi is their latest release and marks their return to the game. I recently caught up with Vinnie Paz at the jump off for the Visions of Gandhi tour. In the midst of the hectic chaos and drunken antics that usually accompany a JMT show we managed to sit down and talk about the evolution of the group as a whole, as well as the progression of Vinnie and Stoupe as artists.
HipHopSite: Visions of Gandhi is a pretty peaceful title for a Jedi Mind Tricks record. Is this the coming of a new, less lyrically violent Vinnie Paz that we are seeing?
VINNIE PAZ: Not really. The title just reflects where I think we need to be socially. As long as there is pain, death, and destruction, that’s what Imma rhyme about. I’m not violent because I have some sort of a gimmick; it’s just what I see on the regular. If what I see changes, then maybe what I rhyme about will change.
HHS: You have been squashing a lot of past beef lately. Can we look forward to any reunions or reconciliation with past partners, perhaps in the vein of some Gandhi-like forgiveness?
PAZ: I don’t know about that, but something FREDDIE FOXXX said got me thinkin’ a lot: “beef wit me hangs around like an unpaid bill.” that shit is mad true. Beef is like a cancer, so if I get the opportunity to dead a beef, I’ll do it. A few years ago I wouldn’t, but I’m a little older and wiser now.
HHS: Where did the title come from?
It basically came from a lack of “leadership”. There isn’t anyone out there today to give the world hope. No Malcolm. No Martin. Nothing. We need someone like Gandhi right now. Don’t you think?
HHS: No doubt. Lyrically speaking, one track on VOG; The Rage of Angels takes a more personal approach in subject matter. What’s the story behind it?
PAZ: That track right there means a lot to me. I’m talking about my homie that’s doin’ a 30 year bid. My man Crypt is speaking about his pops. I just wanted my man to know that even though he’s locked down, I’m still holdin’ him down out here.
HHS: Do you see yourself continuing on with this type of writing?
PAZ: To tell you the truth, I love doing conceptual shit, I’m just not that good at it. It’s something that I want to get deeper into so I have to sharpen up that chamber right there.
HHS: It seems you have found some sort of middle ground, lyrically, between the conceptual songs and the more rugged, street stuff. Was this a conscious decision, or more of a natural progression?
PAZ: It’s just where my head is at right now. You can’t preach to people. You need to hit them in the head with dope music, and try to sneak the message in without being too intellectually aggressive.
HHS: You’ve been blessed, some might say spoiled, to work exclusively with The Enemy of Mankind. He seems to be creating huge amounts of buzz with his production work; it seems a lot of heads are just starting to catch on to his skills. People are always curious as to how you and Stoupe work together. Can you describe your relationship with him?
PAZ: That’s my man. We have a weird relationship, kind of like brothers. We argue A LOT, but that’s because we’re both crazy hardheaded. But when it comes down to it, that’s like my best friend. We’ve been doing this so long, I can’t imagine working with anyone else.
HHS: There is a definite evolution with Stoupe’s beats on VOG, it seems that some are less dark than previous efforts, with more of a Spanish/Latin-influenced flavor, and some of the tracks have even been described as “upbeat” or “happy,” especially when compared to your first two albums. How much do Stoupeâ€™s tracks influence your writing? Do you write specifically to his tracks, or is it the other way around, where he constructs beats to your rhymes?
PAZ: We don’t even have to talk about what is dope or not at this point, we just both know. I usually write to the beats because it helps with creating a certain type of mood within the song. So the tracks definitely play a big part in my writing process. Other times, I’m just drunk and I write the verse in the studio.
HHS: It seems a lot of these new songs are tailor made for a live setting. How important is the live aspect of Jedi Mind Tricks to you and Stoupe?
PAZ: That’s our bread and butter right there. We rip shit down. I’m in the middle of the VOG tour right now and every show we’ve done has been crazy. Promoters have been telling us that we’re the best live hip-hop group that they’ve ever booked.
HHS: What are your thoughts on the phrase “selling out?” Every artist hears this at some point in their career. Some of your detractors would say you’ve given up the “underground” sound and scene in hopes of a more mainstream acceptance. How do you answer those claims? Is there such a thing as selling out, or is it just hating?
PAZ: C’mon man, it’s just hate. I’ve said this before: if you don’t feel our shit, then don’t listen to it. Mufuckas sittin’ around on they computer talkin’ shit about ME? C’mon dog, be a man. Come see me when I pass through your city. If not, talk about the granola bar/love rap that you listen to. Leave me alone.
HHS: What about having a major label behind you now? How does it affect you as an artist?
PAZ: It doesn’t affect me creatively, I just have more money now.
HHS: On Visions of Gandhi you got to work with some true legends in the game. It must have been difficult to not be star-struck.
PAZ: Word, word. The thing is, everyone we worked with was crazy cool, so I didn’t have the opportunity to be star-struck.
HHS: There’s talk of another Army of the Pharaohs project in the works. Who’s on it, when can we expect it?
PAZ: It’s coming. Sometime in early ’04. As far as who will be on it, y’all are just gonna have to wait and see.
HHS: I saw your mom at the show in Philly (a lovely woman by the way, much, much respect and love to moms). What does your mom think when she hears you screaming lines about hanging the Pope with his own Rosary?
PAZ: Look man, she raised me by herself so she knows that I don’t see the world like everyone else. I love her more than life itself and she supported me with this rap shit when everyone else doubted us. She listens to hip-hop and shit. Her favorite MC’s are 50 and Eminem, so she knows the time.
HHS: Last words?
PAZ: Peace to everyone trying to preserve REAL rap music. If you rhyme about incense, daisies, coffee shops and shit like that, go to a poetry gathering and leave this shit alone. Remember EPMD? BIG DADDY KANE? PE? X-CLAN? If not, go write a poem in your pink notebook. Fuck this gay shit. Peace.
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