Reviews::Jedi Mind Tricks - Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell

Like Larry Gowan, the Philly 1,2 punch known as Jedi Mind Tricks is a strange animal. Producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind and Vinnie Paz (aka Ikon the Verbal Hologram) create an agressive, grimy style of underground hip hop filled with middle east references and nonstop war and religious imagery. Not exactly everyone's cup of tea, and honestly, I've usually had trouble making it through an entire album. Vinnie Paz's vocals are done in a style I will call "borderline screamage" and the fact that his yelling about demons and slicing people in half kinds of wears on you. But they've always had quality underground beats, and they tend to mesh perfectly with Vinnie's style and so sometimes you forget he's talking about suicide bombers and fire-breathing hellspawn. Plus their albums are filled with guest MC's, and that also helps bring me back to check them out.

So that brings us to the jovially named Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell, which is sort of the same ole same for JMT, but in a good way. I don't know if you can use "same ole same" in a good way, but I'm going too. Basically I mean they've made an album filled with solid underground hip hop. For me the music (the "beats" if you will), is the star here. Stoupe fills the album with pianos, godfather-esque mandolin licks, and female vocal samples (sped, not, english, not), and old school scratched sample choruses that I always appreciate. Vinnie does his suicide bomber/ MC bit: "I'm a new disease, drinking a 40 listening to Judas Priest", "Does the new testament contradict the Koran". He has a style, you have to give him that.

But Jedi Mind Tricks have more, err, tricks up their sleeve than the religion-themed battle rhymes. Shadow Business is a verbal expose of the hardships faced by sweatshop workers across the globe. R.A. The Rugged Man appears on the Vietnam epic Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story - no played out Iraq war jams for JMT, taking it back to the old school! Sufjan Stevens affiliated Shara Worden, aka My Brightest Diamond joins the fun on the festive Razorblade Salvation with a very enjoyable chorus appearance. I enjoy this song muchly despite the fact it deals with suicidal thoughts and reasons why not to kill yourself. Ill Bill appears on Heavy Metal Kings, which interestingly contains very little heavy metal. Sean Price makes a low-key appearance on Outlive The War, which ummm, interestingly contains almost no mention of war.

The bottom line here is if you've been down with JMT's past work, I'm assuming you'll like this as I think it's probably their most consistent album to date. If you're of the hipster persuasion and are nosing around because you heard they sampled Sufjan Stevens, I'm fairly certain you won't enjoy this whole album. Unless you're a hipster that enjoys hardcore hip hop laced with suicide bomber references and oodles of religious imagery. Then yeah, this is for you.


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