“Serial killers do on a small scale what governments do on a large one,” says a voice in the introduction to the Jedi Mind Tricks’ latest. “They are a product of the times and these are bloodthirsty times…”
Turns out the voice belongs to Richard Ramirez, the convicted serial killer dubbed the “Night Stalker.” The quote, while apt, is troubling when one considers the source. Over broken guitar and eerie atmosphere, Ramirez continues, carrying on about evil and whether or not he’s 100 percent evil.
A controversial start, to say the least, but Philadelphia’s Jedi Mind Tricks have never strayed from crossing the line. Violence Begets Violence is a step in the same direction in many respects, but there’s also some new flavour to consider.
First, Violence Begets Violence is without the presence of producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind. In his place are a slew of producers from Nero to C-Lance. This could have been an excuse to move on musically, but nothing the new cats bring really resonates that well. Tracks like “When Crows Descend Upon You” feature the same hefty crush fans are used to.
The combination of Jus Allah and Vinnie Paz is sharp and their exchanges are high-energy in the best of ways. They glide easily over the beats, but there’s something missing in the lyrical department. While they still provoke from time to time, the songs lack punch and seem to be competitions of cruelty rather than stimulating examinations of pressing concerns.
Indeed, the “how brutal can you be” lean in rap has been present since the days of NWA. The message of the streets has always been one of toughness and masculinity, with lyricists attempting to top each other with how violent and offensive their content can be. There is a point when that becomes dull, however, and NWA always had something more to offer beyond the fury. There was also context there, of lives in hell described not with personal braggadocio but with corrosive acceptance.