Jedi Mind Tricks: The Force & The Dark Side

Jedi Mind Tricks is the name – once you hear it you can’t forget it. The subterranean duo began somewhere around early 1996 in Philadelphia. Producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind and Vinnie Paz have dropped acclaimed records like Amber Probe EP in 1996, 1997’s Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro Magnetic Manipulation(which was recently reissued) […]

Jedi Mind Tricks is the name – once you hear it you can’t forget it. The subterranean duo began somewhere around early 1996 in Philadelphia. Producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind and Vinnie Paz have dropped acclaimed records like Amber Probe EP in 1996, 1997’s Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro Magnetic Manipulation(which was recently reissued) and Violent By Nature .

Nowadays, Jedi has finished their latest, and possibly greatest work of art, Visions of Ghandi. The mysterious team speak on their roots, their demonstrate their ability to confound and why when you hear their music you can’t forget it. There’s a lot of people who may have heard the name may not know what you guys are and what you represent. Can you break that down a little bit?

Vinnie: We basically been a group since the early nineties. We grew up on Philly sh*t. We met through a mutual friend back in the day and we’ve been working with each other for about 12 years now. This is our third record and we put out an EP too in like ‘96.

AllHipHop: Cool C Steady B, are Philly legends and they meant a lot in terms of the overall history of rap. I interviewed another act out of Philly and they kind of alluded that those groups were corny – I was like “You gotta be kidding me.”

Vinnie: I think maybe people who refer to it that way – maybe they are younger. To me 3XDope , Hilltop Hustlers , that was everything to us. With New York it was like Philly was the step child of New York and when cats started coming out with that sh*t it was like we felt like we had something of our own. And then Lady B had a show on Power 99 (“Street Beat”) and she was playing all the raw sh*t so I would hear a lot of s### for the first time from her. Even with like Schoolly D and sh*t pretty much made the first gangsta rap. It meant a lot to most of us because that’s what we were coming up listening to.

AllHipHop: What’s the name Jedi Mind Tricks mean?

Vinnie: We were just Star Wars fans and it was just basically a Star Wars term that we thought sounded dope. So we just rolled with it

AllHipHop: Can you speak on this current album?

Vinnie: Its called Visions of Ghandi. We primarily recorded it in New York at Chung King studios with Chris Conway. He won the Grammy for the Marshal Mathers LP so just being there like a lot of classic records were recorded there. A lot of the old Def Jam sh*t . Being in that environment was just a crazy feel just to be in a place where people like that recorded. We got to work with a lot of people either we grew up with or people we consider to be real talented cats. Our first single was with Kool G Rap that’s like my idol. He’s like the dopest of all time and we did joints wit Ras Kass , Canibus….

AllHipHop: How did you guys connect with somebody like G Rap who is a legend in the game? He’s kind of hard to get at.

Vinnie: Well what had happened was the owner of our label (Chuck Wilson) is tight with the people over at Rawkus so he called them and they were feeling the idea and the beat. They gave it to Kool G and he was feeling the beat. He came to the studio with his wife and his son chilled with us and drank some Hennessey and wrote the verse on the spot. It was all lovely. He’s a real cool cat.

AllHipHop: How was your experience at Rock Steady? That’s where I saw you guys for the first time performing. For people that might not of heard you, it was a good introduction and for people who probably already are fans I’m sure it was a good treat.

Vinnie: It was dope man because it was a lot of people singing the words. That was a good feeling.

AllHipHop: You have some odd names to your album like Violent by Design . Obviously there’s something more to you guys that meets the eye a little bit.

Vinnie: Absolutely.

AllHipHop: What’s going on in the background?

Vinnie: Were both kind of heavily into film so film plays a role in a lot of our sh*t. We use a lot of movie samples and sh*t like that and I read a lot so I use a lot of weird references. One of the names of a song is “Rage of Angels” and that was the name of a book. We just try to absorb everything that’s around us rather than fit the stereotypical cliché titles and cliché concepts and album covers. We’re trying to keep the music raw and represent that era from like ‘88 to ‘92 but, at the same time create something different visually and sonically.

AllHipHop: Would you consider your music to make people think a little bit?

Vinnie: Yeah that.s the other thing, today’s music is either like thug sh*t or conscious. Back in the day people mixed s### where it was still hardcore but it still made you think like X-Clan , Public Enemy there was music with a message but that s### was hard . You can make a wrong record and have people like it for its wrongness but they still said something at the same time. I think that’s a lost art right now. We definitely try to slide messages into our music and we don’t wanna compromise like the hardcore aesthetic of hip-hop. We try to still make it raw but let people know that there’s still things going on out there.

AllHipHop: How did you link with Canibus, another dude that’s difficult to find?

Vinnie: When he did his last album Mic Club his manager actually hollered at us to do a song with him so my partner in the group did the beat and me and Canibus did a collabo so from there we had like a working relationship. And then Stoupe produced the entire Rip The Jacker record for Canibus. So it was already a working relationship. It’s just kind of a natural progression that he’d be on our album since we were on his.

AllHipHop: What did you guys think when he went into the military?

Vinnie: For me personally that’s not something that I would do but… I didn’t speak to him about his decision. I guess everyone has their own motivation for what they do. I’m pretty anti-military myself but I can’t speak for him. If he felt like that was the best thing for him at that time, then I support his decision.

AllHipHop: Do you guys have any particular religious beliefs?

Vinnie: Stoupe studies Buddhism and I follow Islam, but the thing is I still drink and sh*t. I’m just trying to be a better person but I cant really commit myself entirely because I still have vices. I still drink and I’m sure you know that’s forbidden in Islam. So its like I’m just trying to work through theses things before I can completely commit myself but I definitely consider myself a follower of Islam.

AllHipHop: How many emcees are in the group is it two or one?

Vinnie: It’s just me.

AllHipHop: Who’s the other guy? I saw another rapper on stage with you at Rock Steady

Vinnie: Yea, that’s my man he’s from a group called “Outer Space” so he was just being my hype man. It’s just me rhyming and Stoupe on the beats.

AllHipHop: Stoupe, can you basically talk about your process when constructing a beat and what you try to bring to the table?

Stoupe: There’s nothing really interesting about it. I just see what sounds match with other sounds and how I can play with the tempo.

AllHipHop: A lot of people compliment your thing, with the way you worked on the Canibus project. How did you match the accapellas he sent with your beats?

Stoupe: I just figure out the timing. It was really hard.

AllHipHop: A lot of people are saying that this probably was his best album

Stoupe: I wish I had more time with it on the real. I only had like 20 days.

AllHipHop: Are you satisfied with the results?

Stoupe: Yeah, I still would like more time

AllHipHop: You did a good job. What are you guys doing now? Are you on tour?

Stoupe: Through the U.S. We’re going through New York then after that, Philly and we start leaving. So now, we just trying to get through the tour.

AllHipHop: How long is the tour Are you touring just the country or overseas

Stoupe: Just the country now and probably overseas later.

AllHipHop: Do you guys have a strong buzz overseas?

Stoupe: We always had it big over there.

AllHipHop: You guys are like shadowy figures in the game. A lot of what I’ve noticed from you is the imagery not necessarily here in the music but the album covers and the 12 inches. Images of war, grizzly bears and religious are always present…damn near anything. Artistically is that just a combination of both you?

Stoupe: Basically it’s me and our artistry

AllHipHop: Are you interview-shy?

Stoupe: Yeah, not to be ignorant, but I am.

AllHipHop: You guys are dealing with the industry and for me it s a catch 22 as an artistry of it and you have to sell records. How do you balance out the sales versus art.

Stoupe: We’re worried more about the art.