411 Music Interview: Jedi Mind Tricks
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For more than fifteen years, the name Jedi Mind Tricks has become synonymous with raw, gritty underground hip-hop. From their debut album, The Psycho-social, in 1996 to their seminal sophomore release, Violent By Design, the group has held a firm position in the hip hop underground. They have been able to form their own subculture of rap, releasing albums independently selling over 400,000 total albums. While preparing for the release of their latest album Violence Begets Violence we had the chance to catch up with Vinnie Paz and discusses the new album, the loss of Stoupe, his upcoming solo album, what he thinks of the internet, as well as his dream BET Cypher:
Your latest album, Violence Begets Violence was released October 25, 2011, tell us a little bit about the album?
Vinnie Paz: In terms of , I dunno, it’s kind of a simple answer, it’s more of what we have been doing for 15 plus years. We don’t really tamper a bunch with our formula much. We know what we do best and we know what the kids want. It’s just a continuation of what we have been doing throughout our career. Working with a lot of younger, hungrier producers, sort of put a battery pack in our back, I can tell you that, it’s a really aggressive record and that’s saying a lot from us, because are shit is always aggressive. It’s definitively a 10.
How is this release different from your past albums?
Vinnie Paz: We are reenergized. It’s easy to get complacent and sort of stuck in a rut when you are dealing with the same process; tour, write, record, tour, write, record. It’s become some Groundhog Day shit. You have to throw a monkey wrench in your own game or in your own life to prevent that from happening. Like I said, we felt rejuvenated, this is the most fun we have had making a record in 10 plus years, it’s like we were kids again, that was a huge factor for us.
When you first announced Stoupe was not going to be part of the record, how did the initial fan response make you feel? A lot of fans were upset and thought the album would be a let down.
Vinnie Paz: Ya. It made me feel like they are stupid fuckin morons. The fact that we live in a day and age where the internet has given a voice to the voiceless and to any wannabe critic or wannabe person who can critique my shit is sort of obnoxious to me. I would never critique someone’s music without hearing it. That’s pretty much how I live. I would never critique anything, what I am going to write a movie review and I only saw the trailer? Like yo, give me some credit here. I made a solo album, three Army of the Pharaohs records, Heavy Metal Kings, all without a drop of Stoupes creative input.
People don’t think that I know how to pick beats? I mean that’s an insult. Do I understand concern? There is a difference between concern and criticism and just being an asshole about it. Of course I understand people being like ‘ahh damn that sucks’, but ironically the questions come to me, when I wasn’t the one responsible for what had happened, that’s another thing. So when you ask me how it affected me personally, personally I was just aggravated because I wasn’t the one that led to… My actions didn’t lead to what happened, his did, his lack of productivity, his lack of passion, waiting months and years for beats and at times when I did get beats it was one of two at a time. That shit gets old after 20 years, trust me.
If Stoupe came to you next week and said he would be down to produce the next album, would you take him back?
Vinnie Paz: Absolutely, I would be down tomorrow to start working again. I mean this record started with me Jus and Stoupe he gave us beats, he gave us like 9 beats, 10 beats, 11 beats, I can’t remember what it was. I didn’t like most of them, the ones I did like they were like real somber, emotional style beats, so I didn’t want to get my feet wet with a new record with 2 concept songs. I was like these are dope, let’s put them in the tuck, I will tackle these later conceptually towards the end of the record. I don’t remember the exact order of events, either I had some beats that I didn’t like or he gave me a couple more that I didn’t like. I told him and I told my business partner, manager/ co-owner of Enemy Soil with me, who’s been helping me run this show for 20 years , ‘I don’t like these, tell him to give me more’ and it was like 2 month, 3 months, 4 months, and we had heard nothing. So there comes a time in every man’s life, when you come to the fork in the road, which way do you go? I’m like, I’m not waiting another 18months, just to get beats, then I have to write to them, then I have to record them, then I have to mix them down. Its October 2011 and our records coming out. These kids wouldn’t even be hearing the record for another 2 years. I’ve been working with kids who are incredible and had to make the very difficult decision to be like fuck it we are going to keep it moving.
Has that been the reason for the length of time between Jedi Mind Tricks releases?
Vinnie Paz: Ya, Its typically around 2 or 3 years. I wouldn’t call it a crazy delay, I mean it definitely delayed it probably about a year because it took a while to make that decision and really say, how we are going to deal with this, how are the fans going to react and some of the fans showed me that they’re as smart as I thought they were and some of the fans disappointed me in their reaction. And again it’s not because I’m mad that they are upset about the Stoupe situation. I am mad by how they approached it and crying like bitches without even hearing anything. Listen to the entire album 5-10 times and then complain if you don’t like it, but give me the credit of having a 15 year career of making good music before you critique my moves or my decision.
Over the last year and a half, you seemed to have had an increase in your productivity, you released the Army of the Pharaohs album, your solo album, Heavy Metal Kings and now JMT. Why have you been so active recently?
Vinnie Paz: I mean the Pharaohs stuff was just long overdue, I executive produced them, but I love listening to beats, picking good beats, but in terms of productivity with them, it is much less pressure on me as an emcee, because I have so many talents and people in the group, so it made those very easy and fun.
I honestly owe a lot of rejuvenation and you know putting a battery pack back in my back to Ill Bill and DJ Eclipse, working with them on Heavy Metal Kings, they just brought something out of me and upped my creativity that I haven’t felt since I was a teenager. Working with them, and being excited about the record and the fan reaction to the record, a lot of people saying it was the best record of the year and things like that. Sometimes an artist needs that to not feel stagnant or feel like it’s the same old same old. I feel like I did the Pharaohs, the Heavy Metal Kings, my solo record, it has been the most productive 24-30 months of my life. Now the new Jedi record is out too. I just feel good, I feel like, I actually feel like I am getting better as I get older, which is a rarity, so I am just happy about that.
Have you started work on your next solo album?
Vinnie Paz: I am already 6 songs deep brother, no rest for the wicked, I am working with DJ Premier, the Beatminerz, Psycho Les from the Beatnuts, it’s going to be crazy. I am already 6 songs deep, and I will get back to work after this album drops and the touring process and all that, because that’s about to hit. That’s going to be crazy.
As an independent group you have managed to sell over 400,000 albums
Vinnie Paz: I think we have done like half a million units by now, you know what I mean.
How do you think you have been able to be so successful in an age before the internet?
Vinnie Paz: I just think its tenacity man, I think it’s like, the way I was raised, and don’t take no for an answer and that’s how my mother raised me. Don’t allow people to control what you want or how you feel or the type of shit you want and I feel it’s like the fact that we never really made any attempt to cross over and make a pop record I think people respect that. We have been able to sustain a career because of that. I am proud of that.
How do you feel about the internet? When you first came out you really had to fight and struggle to put an album out. Now anybody can record a track and release it on iTunes.
Vinnie Paz: Absolutely man. It’s literally the dictionary definition of a double edged sword, I mean the things it allows you to do are mind boggling. But it’s a gift and a curse. You just said it perfect. Any kid can go and buy a laptop and a $300 microphone and all of a sudden he is a rapper. So it’s given a voice to a generation of terrible musicians, but it has also helped independent artists have a direct line to the fans. Easy communication to the fans. Easy communication with the fans, now I can record a song, mix it down on the same night and have it up on my website. That was unthinkable when I was coming up.
Will you always release a physical copy of your albums? I think you still release all your records on vinyl, will you always continue to do that?
Vinnie Paz: Always, I don’t care. I’m a collector myself you know, hip hop records, rock records, punk records, so its something that I could never not do.
Tell us a little about your tour.
Vinnie Paz: We are touring the US through all of November, you can check the dates our on jmthiphop.com, then we are going to Australia in December, then home for the holidays, then back on the road. I guess January we are going to hit all the cities we didn’t hit in the US in November, so its already a busy year.
We recently had the BET awards with the Cyphers. If you could pick any 5 other rappers to join you in a cipher who would you chose?
Vinnie Paz:Other 5 rappers… do they have to be alive?
They can be dead or alive
Vinnie Paz: Kool G Rap, Big Pun, Big L, Ransom….and…..Jay Z.
That’s all the questions I had, thank you for your time
Vinnie Paz: Thanks. Take care.
For more information on Vinnie Paz or Jedi Mind Tricks, or to purchase their new album, head to JMThiphop.com!