From the Underground
By Jasen T. Davis
Jus Allah from Camden, N.J. and Vinnie Paz from Philadelphia are Jedi Mind Tricks, a band that delivers utterly original, ironclad hip-hop that goes far beyond boring radio rap.
The duo’s latest album, Violence Begets Violence, is both a commentary on American politics and an observation of life’s harsh realities. Vinnie says, “Jus came up with the album title prior to most of the songs being recorded.” Each track fits the album’s theme. “The title dictated the music, instead of the music following the title.”
Since 1997, Jedi Mind Tricks has composed seven albums, including a fistful of LPs and solo records. Mostly underground, the band has thrived in the dark with an integral cool that can only be cultivated far from mainstream pop. “There’s always something different about underground music that appeals to people who are looking for more,” Vinnie says.
The band’s goal is to play the caliber of music the guys want to hear on the radio. Vinnie says, “It’s the reason me and Jus have been into music since from when we were young.” To them, it’s just a matter of making hip-hop for enthusiasts who are sick of mall music. “People want more than what’s being spoon-fed to them,” Jus adds.
Vinnie and Jus put a lot of work into their music because they are disappointed with the modern state of mainstream hip-hop. Jus says, “It’s not really an art form anymore. Anyone could do it. Not so many people can do what me and Vin can do. All of those dudes are interchangeable.”
Vinnie agrees. “When I see bands on TV now I don’t even know what dude is which dude.” He doesn’t hate pop music, he despises the lack of talent. “Sam Cooke was pop music. So was Bill Withers, James Brown and The Beatles. Look at what’s popular now.”
One component that has given Jedi Mind Tricks such an enduring fan base is its music. Both artists have been in the game so long they could be DJs themselves. Has that science changed?
“I think that’s changed over the years. A lot of people use Serato, a program for DJs. Then they just hook the laptop up to the turn tables. It’s still live DJing, but there was a controversy when it came out because artists would just download music all at once instead of having to collect records.”
To Vinnie and Jus, collecting albums should involve some soul. “They could just have a few thousand albums at once instead of buying Jazzy Jeff or Kid Capri . . . albums you could spend your whole life collecting. I’m torn about that,” Vinnie says.
“I think it’s dope. Our DJ uses Serato,” Jus says.
“A lot of younger kids I meet now have no history about what they spin. They spin ’90s hip-hop for parties and it’s just like a radio DJ playing the same thing. A lot of heads don’t know about the music right now.”
To Jus, it’s not just music, it’s a heritage. “We study the art form and the culture since we are a part of it as well. Those records affected us, as people.”
Jedi Mind Tricks w/Outerspace at The Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us; www.jmthiphop.com. Mon, Nov. 27. 7PM. $16-$18.