Just minutes after the end of the recent Democratic presidential debate, Vinnie Paz is nonplussed. As the frontman of the rugged Philadelphia trio Jedi Mind Tricks, he's always been a rabble-rousing MC. On the 2006 track "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story," he spits 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 gets more direct: "I got a bomb in hand, and it's for George Walker/Meet your maker motherfucker, meet your lost father."
Still, Paz doesn't relate well to mainstream political noise, he says by phone from a recording studio in Philly. "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 originally formed in 1996 as a trio with Paz and Jus Allah on the mic and Stoupe as the group's DJ/producer. They then downsized to a duo, with Jus Allah pursuing a surprisingly lackluster solo career. Now he's back (no surprise there), joining the group for a few Rock the Bells dates — unfortunately, Miami's not among them.
As for the group's songs, thematically they're full of concrete imagery but anchored in abstract narrative. Their oeuvre is drenched in an in-your-face attitude that is downright... punk rock. The group's songs are full of spiritual references, and the Italian-American Paz is a devoted student of Islam. He's a master of extended metaphors that sometimes last an entire verse and a purveyor of imagery that is often frighteningly violent but impressively erudite. His violence isn't of the mundane block/trap variety but of one taking place on a different cosmic plane.
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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 antipop, you know? Or anti-pop-culture," he says. "I was drawn to Public Enemy but also to a lot of bands like Bad Brains... I still try to emulate some of that in what we do."
The DIY ethos propels the group, which keeps a constant tour schedule and also girds Paz against stressing about Rock the Bells.
"[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."
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