Any underground hip hop head who knows his stuff should have a deep reverence and appreciation when it comes to Jedi Mind Tricks. The last album released by the trio, Violent By Design, is an underground classic. Stoupe’s dark beats meshed perfectly with the macabre lyrics offered up by lyricists Vinnie Paz and Jus Allah. Unfortunately, feuding between Jus, Stoupe and Vinnie led to Jus leaving the group. I firmly believed that the departure of Jus would not have a huge deal on the quality level of Visions of Gandhi. I was wrong. Whether the dip in quality from their last album was a result of Jus’ departure or for other reasons, this album surely does not meet the standards set by Violent By Design.
Visions of Gandhi is an album of conflict. In one corner, Stoupe’s hard, dark beats are ripped to shreds by Vinnie’s fiery lyrics, and in the other corner, Stoupe’s Spanish salsa beats are graced with tired thuggisms from Paz which sound not only lazy but also badly out of place--both flow and content-wise. The album is split nearly down the middle in this manner. Tracks like ‘Tibetan Black Magicians’ are remnants of the Stoupe and Paz of old, with a fantastic guest spot from Canibus, and a great Tyson quote to lead things off. But then you have to deal with ‘Blood In Blood Out’, a Spanish bouncy type beat where Vinnie spits poorly delivered verses. This is a decent beat by any standards, but it’s just not the type of beat that the typical Jedi Mind Tricks fan wants to hear from Stoupe. Such is the problem with most of the songs on the album. This album has some absolute banging tracks, though. Each song is pretty much hit or miss, it’s either dope Jedi Mind Tricks or its bouncy, happy tracks, i.e. anti-Stoupe. Goretex and Tragedy Khadafi complement Vinnie nicely on the album’s second single, Kublai Khan, while Kool G. Rap delivers a fine verse on ‘Animal Rap’. Myself, I think that the Mickey Ward Animal Rap remix is far superior to the Gatti mix, and that whoever decided to go with the Gatti mix in the middle of the album definitely dropped the ball. ‘The Wolf’, featuring Ill Bill and Sabac Red of Non-Phixion is exactly the reason why Jedi Mind is so popular within their niche market. An eerie sounding Stoupe beat that really bangs, with excellent verses from all involved. Somehow, the now incarcerated Ras Kass managed to drop a guest verse on ‘Rise of the Machines’. Ras’ verse sounds somewhat rushed and not up to his usual standards, but it is dope nonetheless. The ‘Minority Report’ line flip is memorable. He must’ve hit up the recording studio while on the run from the police earlier this year.
Stoupe’s experiment with releasing a Jedi Mind Tricks album with salsa beats should end up being poorly received, and hopefully he can get back to churning out the Stoupe beats we have all come to expect from him. Vinnie Paz in general is disappointing on this album. Maybe Jus’ departure left Vinnie with no one around to push him to that next level. So what went wrong? Stoupe produced two entire LPs released less than a month apart. Maybe he was drained following Rip The Jacker, maybe he gave Canibus all his top beats. Vinnie is lacking the partner that forced him to come correct, but if motivation is a factor, then what about enlisting Canibus to take Jus’ place? The two tracks that these two have appeared on together, ‘Tibetan Black Magicians’, and ‘Liberal Arts’, have been the highlights of ‘Visions of Ghandi’ and ‘Mic Club’, respectively. Also, Canibus’ seemingly perfect chemistry with Stoupe would make this a logical direction for the future of Jedi Mind Tricks. But for now, and in the foreseeable future, Violent By Design will remain the measuring stick for all underground hip hop albums to be measured by.