By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
That's interesting, because a lot of rappers downplay their work in the studio.
I think I have a different mentality. A lot of rappers who say they prefer the stage over the studio, their shows still suck.
Why was the album twice delayed?
The first time I had a hand in pushing it back because I wanted to tweak some things and I wanted to shoot a video for "When the Gun Draws." The second time we pushed it back again to create more marketing funds. The record was prereleased earlier in the UK, and the response over there was so overwhelming that [Universal's UK division] actually funded the video.
Clipse became a critical darling — even playing at the Pitchfork festival — and had a hard time selling records. Do you worry about connecting with the public?
If the public really likes what's on the radio right now, then I don't have a problem with not connecting with them. If the public were exposed to my record, many of them would probably like it. Clipse's album was one of the best albums of last year, but their marketing wasn't up to par [to show] why that group is unique. When they talk the drug talk, they do it in a very entertaining way, in a very good way, a vivid way. You can't compare them to anybody else who does that, to Young Jeezy or Jay-Z.
How do you feel about playing shows in front of a bunch of white kids?
I mean, white kids have always supported hip-hop since the beginning. To me that's like a no-brainer. If you're influenced by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, a great deal of your audience is not just going to be urban kids from the hood.
Any chance of an Organized Konfusion reunion?
Who knows what the future holds?
Jedi Mind Tricks
Just minutes after a recent Democratic presidential debate, Vinnie Paz is nonplussed. As frontman of the rugged Philadelphia trio Jedi Mind Tricks, he has always been incendiary. On the 2006 track "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story," he spit verses from the point of view of an American G.I. scared shitless in a foxhole. On "Silence & I," a track for his side project, Army of the Pharaohs, Paz got more direct: "I got a bomb in hand, and it's for George Walker/Meet your maker, motherfucker, meet your lost father."
Still, he doesn't relate to all of that mainstream political noise, he says by phone from a Philly recording studio, where he's wrapping up another AOTP disc. "I'm not really as motivated by a lot of the issues brought up by the average candidate," Paz says. "I'm more concerned with things like Mumia Abu-Jamal being in jail, and getting these kids out of Iraq, and things like that."
Jedi Mind Tricks is similarly difficult to pin down. The group was formed in 1996, with backbone DJ/producer Stoupe and, on the mike, Paz and Jus Allah. Then they downsized to a duo, with Jus Allah estranged. Then came the Army of the Pharoahs records, featuring Paz with a fluid roster of underground stars (not to be confused with the regular Jedi Mind Tricks records, which have also always boasted casts of thousands). Next, Jus Allah was rumored to be rejoining JMT, in time for the 2006 album Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell. But he remained absent from the final product. Now he's back, but only for a few Rock the Bells dates (Miami is not among them).
As for the group's songs, thematically they're full of concrete imagery, but are anchored in out-there abstract narrative. There are numerous spiritual references; the Italian-American Paz is a devoted student of Islam. He's a master of extended metaphors that sometimes last an entire verse; his imagery is often frighteningly violent but impressively erudite. And his violence isn't of the mundane block/trap variety; it takes place on a different, strange cosmic plane.
All of this can make his interview voice surprising at first. He speaks in carefully measured tones, his words almost halting. This contrasts sharply with his MC flow — a roiling, aggressive voice with textures as dark and viscous as crude oil.
In fact the Jedi Mind Tricks oeuvre is drenched with in-your-face attitude and sonic quality that is downright ... punk rock. Indeed on the group's MySpace page, Paz cites numerous early hardcore acts like Hatebreed, H20, and Judge as influences. "I was always drawn to anything that was sort of aggressive and anti-pop, you know? Or anti-pop-culture," he says. "I was drawn to Public Enemy, but also to a lot of bands like Bad Brains ... based on the aggressive and rebellious nature. I still try to emulate some of that in what we do."
The DIY ethos propels the group, which remains on the independent label Baby Grande, and on the road for the better part of the year. It also stops Paz from focusing on the hype surrounding Rock the Bells and the prospect of playing to fields of thousands. "[Performing] is what I do; it's what I've done for so many years," he says. "I don't think people get nervous every day when they get up to go to their job." — Arielle Castillo