Philly hip-hop duo Jedi Mind Tricks are so self-contradictory, it's tough to figure out exactly where they stand. They made a huge underground impact with their 2000 release Violent By Design, an album as vicious as its title suggests. The follow-up, Visions of Gandhi, bemoaned our era's lack of peaceful leadership, and was described by MC Vinnie Paz as "a vision of hope." Well, whatever cursory pacifism informed that record is completely absent on their latest disc, Legacy of Blood.
Although Paz has claimed he's pro-choice and anti-death penalty, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more intolerant polemic than on this disc. The MC spits hyper-violent rhymes over militant rhythms, suggesting spiritual enlightenment is best achieved through superior firepower. Homosexuals, Christians and the government are all targeted. Partner in crime Stoupe keeps the angry beats coming, dropping sinister samples and rifle-crack snare hits wherever he sees fit.
It's pretty odd to hear an obese white rapper spouting an agenda cribbed from the most radical wing of the Nation of Islam. You gotta wonder whether Paz's verbal threats are just a pose -- a way to stand out in an increasingly crowded playing field. "You don't deserve to breathe, your brain's thoughtless," he says in the opening verses of "Sears of the Crucifix," a self-righteous, paranoid attack on Islam's enemies. "I civilize the savages / while you support gay marriages, evil demons and the Jesus of the Nazareth / I keep grenades in my pocket for the pacifists," he continues.
In addition to making Christians and progressives cringe, Jedi Mind Tricks also enjoy world history. "Saviorself" contains sharp-edged raps peppered with references to ancient Egypt, and even mentions the Roman emperor Tiberius. Fellow underground MC Killah Priest drops in for the second verse, delivering laid-back rhymes that nicely complement the track's repetitive acoustic guitar sample. Unfortunately, the six-string motif sounds more flamenco than Middle Eastern.
It's easy to appreciate Jedi Mind Trick's production and microphone skills, but if you've got any liberal leanings, the retrogressive message will get under your skin. Hip-hop has long used violence and indignation as dramatic devices, but the attitudes expressed on Legacy somehow ring false. Hear for yourself Thursday, April 7, at the Higher Ground Ballroom, when they play with Living Legends J-Live & Pigeon John.