Legacy of Blood

Artist: Jedi Mind TrickTitle: Legacy of BloodRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone

True unabashed, hardcore rap music comes few and far between these days. While many acts such as The Lox and Mobb Deep keep their minds firmly planted in street grime, they occasionally dabble in commercial acceptance on their singles. This isn’t completely their faults, though, as 2004’s major label practices are more about compromising an artist’s vision rather than allowing complete freedom. So, leave it to the underground scene to deliver the raw and uncut sounds that die-hard fans desperately seek, and not too many acts come as hard as Philadelphia’s duo Jedi Mind Tricks. On their fourth studio album, colorfully titled Legacy of Blood, abrasive rapper Vinnie Paz and producer extraordinaire Stoupe craft a disc nearly as beautifully dark as their infamous classic Violent By Design.

Having never been one to throw beats to outside artists, Stoupe’s production alone makes a new Jedi Mind Tricks release one of high anticipation. Legacy of Blood easily satisfies on this level, with his deeply layered and extremely moody backdrops providing a fitting soundtrack. Stripped-down bells and chimes anchor “The Worst,” while effervescent harp strings inspire introspection from Paz and guest Killah Priest on “Saviorself.” “Verses of the Bleeding” assaults ear drums relentlessly with eerie, piercing piano keys raining steadily behind the verses, and guest Sean Price shines brightly on top of a dizzying blend of electric guitars and violins on “Beyond The Gates of Pain.” With not one suspect beat to be heard on Legacy of Blood, Stoupe further shows why he is one of the game’s most overlooked producers.

On the lyrical side, Vinnie Paz serves more of what he has consistently brought in the past: one-sided threats and angry rants. His flow and subject matter match Stoupe’s instrumentals nicely, which has been the key to Jedi Minds’ success from day one. He effortlessly coasts over the deranged orchestra heard on “And So It Burns,” and manages to outdo a somewhat lazy Gza/Genius performance on the string-heavy “On The Eve Of War (Julio Cesar Chavez Mix).” Showing that there is strong emotion hidden beneath his cold exterior, “Before The Great Collapse” is a haunting and swiftly-executed suicide letter to his mother, where Paz powerfully writes, “That’s just how life goes, Ma, it’s painful/ I’ll come back to you in dreams as an angel.”

Legacy of Blood delivers exactly what Jedi Minds’ core following wants from the duo, and in that respect, it is a worthy entry into the already solid catalog of prolific underground discs in 2004. With no real topical diversity, Vinnie Paz’s violent bars aren’t for sensitive ears, making this album one catered toward acquired tastes. Stoupe’s work behind the boards, though, deserves widespread attention. In the end, Jedi Mind Tricks’ latest breaks little ground, but is a refreshing alternative for those yearning for the powerful boom-bap of mid-90’s Hip-Hop.