November 24, 2008

Jedi Mind Tricks - Violent By Design (October 3, 2000)





After their full-length debut, Words Strung Together In An Attempt To Be Clever, found an audience, Jedi Mind Tricks, which is made up of rapper Ikon the Verbal Hologram and producer Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, set about creating the follow-up, entitled Violent By Design. (Well, at first it was allegedly called Polymatrix: Reincarnation of the Hologramic Christ, and while I would never put it past the group to use that title on something else, I truly hope that they actually sat down, read that fucking title, and thought better of it.) During the two-year recording process, they adopted a second rapper, Jus Allah, who would leave the crew shortly after the release of Violent By Design (and would rejoin seven years later). Ikon the Verbal Hologram also took on a different rap name, Vinnie Paz, which is what most underground rap fans are familiar with (although he still refers to himself as the Verbal Hologram on several songs). But the biggest change for the Jedi Mind Tricks was their co-opting of a newer, hyperagressive style, alternating between the quasi-religious psychobabble that pervaded the first disc and ultraviolence, the latter of which would make the group virtually indistinguishable from every other rapper in the fucking universe, aside from the fact that they utilized the word "Jedi" in their crew name. But the changes to the original recipe seem to have been universally accepted: Violent By Design is generally considered to be the group's shining moment.

I remember trying to listen to Violent By Design in my back office at work after having left to pick it up at a mom-and-pop record shop, and let me tell you, this music is not conducive to any sort of productivity whatsoever. Not because Stoupe's production had me geeking out and throwing chairs and shit (although, once again, Stoupe remains, as the bloggers and blog readers call him, a beast behind the boards), but because, not unlike an album from Killah Priest, Hell Razah, or some other Wu-affiliate familiar with theology, Vinnie Paz and Jus Allah kind of demand that you listen to the lyrics, and their many guests pretty much have the same expectations.

Maybe it'll be easier for me to work while listening to this today.

(A note about the release: Violent By Design was originally released on Superegular Records, the group's own label, but was rereleased by Babygrande in 2004. The newer version includes a couple of additional tracks which were unearthed for hardcore fans, but I don't have the rerelease, so I can't comment on those tracks.)

1. INTRO
Sigh...

2. RETALIATION
Wu-Tang fans may dig this, and not just because of the Killah Priest vocal sample that frequently appears. Stoupe's beat goes the extra mile to engage the listeners, but Vinnie's rhymes become almost too comically violent to take this song for more than what it is.

3. CONTRA (FEAT KILLA SHA)
Killa Sha, the rapper whose name sounds as if he should be a Wu-Tang affiliate, but really isn't, provides a really short middle verse over another great Stoupe beat. Killarmy should seriously consider ditching 4th Disciple for one album and hire the Enemy of Mankind. Alas, this is not the homage to Konami's classic video game that I had anticipated.

4. SPEECH COBRAS (FEAT MR. LIF)
The film geek in me has to applaud the use of dialogue samples from Darren Aronofsky's Pi, but the music geek in me dismisses this track as outright fucking boring.

5. BREATH OF GOD INTERLUDE
Leaves you with a bad, pretentious taste in your mouth.

6. DEATH MARCH (FEAT VIRTUOSO & ESOTERIC)
It's been a long while since I've watched WWE Wrestling (I think it was still called the WWF when I last saw it), so hearing a sound bite from The Undertaker was an interesting flashback. This track is actually really good, and it flies by, thanks to the chemistry between everybody involved (Virtuoso and Esoteric were also a part of the Jedi Mind Tricks supergroup side project, Army Of The Pharaohs). The reference to M. Bison was also unexpected, so kudos.

7. WORDS FROM MR. LEN (PART ONE) (FEAT MR. LEN)
Interlude...

8. I AGAINST I (FEAT PLANETARY)
The beat was so pleasant that this song floated right out of by consciousness while it was still playing.

9. EXERTIONS REMIX (FEAT VIRTUOSO, ESOTERIC, & BAHAMADIA)
Just as she does on most songs, Bahamadia (also a one-time member of the Army Of The Pharaohs) sounds completely out of place, but her verse still sounds good, so the song still manages to work. This is representative of the traditional "underground rap song that tries to fit as many syllables in as possible but ultimately truly says nothing" that rappers release in an effort to prove how intelligent they are, so in that respect, it's not bad. Esoteric's verse happens to be the standout: it's reminding me that I have the 7L and Esoteric debut album in the pile and that I really should get over myself and write about them already. (Side note: the original version of this track was an Army song called "The Five Percent Exertions", and it also featured Chief Kamachi, who was deleted from this remix but appears elsewhere on Violent By Design. Curious.)

10. THE PROPHECY INTERLUDE
...

11. HEAVENLY DIVINE
I found this to be awfully dull.

12. SACRIFIEC
Other than the random Big Pun vocal sample, this kind of blended together with "Heavenly Divine" for six to seven minutes of sheer boredom.

13. PERMANENT MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE
...

14. THE DEER HUNTER (FEAT CHIEF KAMACHI)
Sadly, Christopher Walken fails to make an impression on this track. In fact, I barely remember his contribution to this weak-ass song, and I just heard it. What do you mean, Christopher Walken wasn't actually on the song?

15. BLOOD REIGN (FEAT DIAMONDBACK, LOUIS LOGIC, & B.A. BARAKUS)
I appreciated everyone's attempt to create a different sound for Violent By Design, but lyrically, this sounds like every other fucking song on the album. Even diehard Killarmy fans will have tuned out by this point. B.A. Barakus is a fantastic rap name, though.

16. WORDS FROM MR. LEN (PART TWO) (FEAT MR. LEN)
Interlude...

17. GENGHIS KHAN (FEAT TRAGEDY KHADAFI)
I can't imagine that anybody saw this collaboration coming back in the late 1990's. (If you did, then why haven't you won the lottery yet?) Tragedy, who was late of Capone-N-Noreaga collaborations and infighting at this point, doesn't truly fit in, but at least Vinnie and Jus Allah do their best to make him feel welcome by referencing shit that Tragedy has repeated in his own rhymes ever since his career rebirth (shedding his Intelligent Hoodlum image).

18. TRINITY (FEAT L-FUDGE & LOUIS LOGIC)
Graciously, Vinnie Paz opts to perform his worst verse on a collaborative track that appears on his own album. The hook is a bit much: was it truly necessary?

19. THE EXECUTIONERS DREAM (FEAT J-TREDS)
While I love the title, it feels artificial, as it seems to have only been chosen because it sounded cool, and not so much because it had anything to do with the fucking song. (See also: every other song on Violent By Design.) That said, Stoupe's dark-as-hell instrumental is very moving, and none of the rappers manage to fuck it up, so that was nice.

20. MUERTE
Meh.

The following two tracks are only found on the CD version of Violent By Design.

21. HEAVENLY DESIGN (REMIX)
I'd put this at the same level as the original. Sampling Alanis Morrissette was an interesting touch, though.

22. WAR ENSEMBLE (FEAT VIRTUOSO & ESTOERIC)
Tagged as an Army Of The Pharaohs track and not a Jedi Mind Tricks song, this isn't that bad, but it's a bit too late. All it truly accomplishes is making me upset that Violent By Design didn't sound mostly like this track.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Violent By Design's hyperaggressive rhymes and borderline pretentious execution turns this album into a literal chore to listen to. Music shouldn't force the listener to earn their entertainment or enlightenment, and it definitely shouldn't feel like work to hear it (although I suppose it is actual work for me, since I'm writing about it and all). While technically proficient, Vinnie Paz/Ikon and Jus Allah fail to engage the listener with their rhymes, and since this isn't an instrumental album, that makes Violent By Design a failure in my eyes. Maybe it's simply because I'm completely over this type of hip hop, but I'm of the mindset that rappers shouldn't take on a holier-than-thou persona (at least, not without the chops to back such a persona up). Stoupe remains a monster on the boards, though. All in all, I'm disappointed that this album failed to hold up.

BUY OR BURN? If one were to somehow locate an instrumental version of this disc, I would recommend that you purchase that. As is, this only deserves a burn. The fans of this blog that are fans of Jedi Mind Tricks will already own this anyway, and anyone who hasn't yet heard of them won't be turned by this disc.

BEST TRACKS: "Death March"; "Retaliation"; "The Executioners Dream"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Jedi Mind Tricks - The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness

37 comments:

  1. Are you crazy
    This is a masterpiece one of the best album of all time
    And you should check the reissue
    The song with Sean P is legendary

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  2. horrible fucking album u were right on this review

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  3. I don't think this album is a masterpiece, nor a horrible album. I really like Paz' flow, and Stoupe creates amazing beats. I also recognize that this isn't the easiest hip hop to listen to. It demands your attention, and if you don't avidly pay attention it will annoy the hell out of you. The only real problem I have with the album (and the same goes for their latest effort A History of Violence) is that Jus Allah always sounds like he is trying to catch up to Paz, by using the same flow but with less effect.

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  4. maybe the "lyrics catch your attention too much" point is the reason that jedi mind tricks are really successful in europe. the instrumentals are on top, flow and voice are extraordinary, but once you understand everything they say it turns (for me) into too much nonsense.

    though i like the album.

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  5. ok it wasnt horriible but this album is just bleh idk y i just cant get into this type of rap it sounds like theyre trying too hard to be wierd and cmon whats up with that album cover??

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  6. The song with Sean P is legendary

    --

    Indeed, doubt there's a rap track I listened more than "Blood Runs Cold". Absolute great track.

    Even if I don't agree in parts of your review, I like this review and it's always a joy to visit your page and see the work you invest in it, even though I barely comment . Keep it on!

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  7. Even if I disagree your review was fucking hilarious.

    There are Stoupe's instrumentals out there in the internets, but it's interesting that they just don't stand up quite as well without lyrics...even at his most ridiculous/ignorant/violent/cartoonish (as Mr Paz has steadily become since this LP), there's something about his voice that brings that last bit of heat and heart to the track.

    Also, Christopher Walken did spit a verse and co-produce The Deer Hunter, but it got all fucked up in a legal battle, and his label insisting he not guest on other people's cuts until he finished his own record, Skull Headed Freaky Motherfucker, What The Fuck Is Up With That Guy.

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  8. dude plz,this album im gonna buy it,this dont deserve a burn,tou its shit but this album is dope to me

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  9. Pretty horrible review. I understand JMT aren't exactly "easy listening", but you have to appreciate their ridiculously unique style and energy. Stoupe brings some of the best, darkest beats in the business. Paz, Jus Allah and company are extremely on point with their flows, and may be overly violent/ignorant, but I'd much rather listen to some lyrical guys spit their own contraversial opinions than listen to some cookie cutter guy from the "hood". These guys think outside of the box, and with the ridiculous beats mixed with good performances by the MC's, its a great album.

    How in the world can anyone say Speech Cobras, Heavenly Devine, Deer Hunter, I Against I, Muerte AND Sacrifice to be boring or bad?! First of all, they're definitely not boring, whether you like the content or not. Second of all, I think you think too much inside the box to appreciate JMT, especially Stoupe's work.

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  10. this album is an undisputed hip hop classic. i like your efforts on these reviews (good to see separate comments on each song) and you know your shit about hip hop, but damn. i'm disappointed in this review. jedi mind forever.

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  11. Are you sure your listening to the same album? Because Violent by Design is SICK

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  12. this album aitn horrible but neither the best album they made, real JMT fans would know that the psycho social was actually their best work they ever made, but this album is an entertaining listen.

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  13. AnonymousJuly 25, 2009

    i hate this album because of vinnie and his stupid angry ass voice, stoupe does a good job here so he doesnt get the blame

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  14. WTF what r u guys smokin ur dads old crank pipe this album is fuckin awesome! stoupe is the shit vinnie paz fuckin awesome and jus allah is dope. jus because they make fun of ur little god ur ears close cuz thats what mom and dad tell u to do right? bitch! they r the best underground group right next to wutang clan and la coka nostra shit this is classic underground hip hop u little bitch

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  15. i hate this shit with passion, stoupe did a wonderful job but vinnie and just Afagg did horrible

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    1. this guy voided every opinion he has ever has with this comment

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  16. HipHopFanFromNYCSeptember 03, 2009

    lol VBD remains an underground classic mainly because of stoupe, he did a wonderful job constructing classically based beats on this album that deserved him to be named as the top producers in hip hop, along with dj premier, pete rock, RZA, j dilla and marley marl hell ill even put havoc, since his beats had alot of influence on stoupe's beat sampling, continuing on this album, vinnie does a mediocre job on this album, because mainly on half of the tracks , hes just plain weak and max was right, he is forcing the listener to listen to his "im a muslim, ill fucking convert you" or his "fuck christians" campaign, but although i never cared about religion, but vinnie did a bad job here and not continuing what he did on The Psycho Social, the guest appearances here outshine vinnie here like crazy, especially sean price so my rating on this album is a 3/5, because of stoupe's amazing job on the production, so people, avoid this album as possible if your new to JMT

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  17. max you should do a review on Immortal Technique

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  18. to bad, i bought this shit 4 days after The Psycho Social, and this album to me is great, max i understand u hate this album, anyone is entitled to their opinion

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  19. wtf??? whats wrong with these guys forcing ppl to listen to them? they deserve to be heard, God you are a jackass reviewer, stick to reccomending Kingdom Come Albums or Ludacris albums, leave Violent By Design alone, it aint for you

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  20. exlente disco brother

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  21. i just found this web page. but after reading this rewiev, our point of wiev about rap music are very different.
    hope nobody will take your advice and still buys this album

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  22. I generally tend to disagree with this review. I find this to be a great album, but I do respect what you said here. It's a tough and unusual listen compared to most hip hop, but that's what makes unique at the same time.

    I will say this, however. JMT has alot of dickriders who seem to think JMT is the best thing hip hop has ever seen (which is far from the truth), so the flak you've received (and will continue to receive) for this review is to be expected. However, I'm glad you can keep an open mind regarding their albums regardless.

    Heads need to start putting things into perspective and get out of their self-righteous backpack mentality. The Psycho-Social CD was just a bunch of conspiracy theories laced with pseudo-intellectual dribble. Violent By Design was a lot of shit talking laced with controversial philosophical and religious references to grab your attention. Once you can overstand that, you realize you're not "enlightened". These guys are just as stupid as their backpack audience, it's just that they have the capability to sound smarter than them.

    So, that being said, I still like those 2 albums I mentioned above (the latter much more so) because of the lyricism that comes with them, but let's be serious... Stoupe's production is really what made them so great. JMT has steadily declined since Violent By Design.

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  23. AnonymousMay 13, 2012

    lmao you lost all credibility in my eyes calling this only a burn...

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  24. (this is the angry cage fan again) God damn bro, I read a couple more of your reviews in the mainstream light, (which by the way reviewing mainstream albums makes the name of your blog lose all credibility, drake? asap rocky? fucking nelly? You cleary are a rap fan not a hip hop head, you do no the four elements of hip hop right? If you can tell me just one that is connected to drake ill shut up) and its clear that thats your experitse, mainstream. When it comes to underground or real hip hop for that matter your completely blind def and dumb to it. Talkin about being 'forced' to listen to the lyrics<<<<Yo, if you don't listen to the lyrics wtf you call urself a hip hop head for? Lyrics and production is what you listen to hip hop four, not catchy beats and hooks you clown. The only thing i respect your for, 7 reviews deep, is posting the hate the readers have for you even though the comments are proof you have little idea of what your talking about. Violent by Design is probaly jedi's best album overall and that comment can be back by thousands of die hard hip hop heads around the world. Your definately not a hip hop head tho, and have no right belittling some of the greatest projects that were created. If you going to review the underground, atleast do albums that came out the year your review. You have a very snobby and pompous way of breaking down these albums when really there impact is going to be alot less, as its no longer relevant to the year. That criminal minded review was decent at best, and i actually LOL'd when you put, "if this were to be relased to day critics would eat it alive", no shit retard, things get better with time its called evolution. Thats like saying the hockey players in the 1920's were good but would get crushed today. Well the didnt were helmets and the equipment was piss poor, just like cats now a days have a lot to work with in the hip hop game, KRS ONE fucking basically created it, 15 years before you review it. I hope you actually take what im saying into consideration if you ever want respect from true hip hop heads. As it stands now, you have zero credibility when it comes to your word on hip hop, as well as not only are your reviews wrong, but you actually disrespect the work of the greatest and the greatest themselves, i know your older but you sound like a child when reviewing sometime. Please take my advice and either smarten the fuck up or stop in general, your making an ass of yourself

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  25. In my personal opinion: 1. Violent by design 2. Servants in heaven, Kings in hell 3. Violence begets Violence (yeah) 4. Legacy of blood 5. The psycho social 6. Visions of Gahndi and finally a History of Violence. Vbd is a hip hop classic in my eyes.

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  26. This album is raw and gritty and controversial. You probaly got offended when he mentioned strangling the pope with his rosary beads

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    1. In writing this blog, I've found that the only thing that offends me is when an album pretends to be entertaining and ultimately isn't.

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  27. I still don't understand how you can like Kingdom Come and MCHG more than this. And you have never reviewed Slum Village/J Dilla or a Scarface album LOL but this is a hiphop blog.

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  28. You idiots obviously have the same crack dealer as the writer. Dont switch dealers whatever you do, you gettin the bomb. VBD is one of the dopest hip hop albums ever made and way ahead of its fuckin time.. right in the middle of the Ruff Ryder Bad Boy era. This puneta is on some "Im different" shit and doesnt realize that he is discrediting himself with these so called views.. Luckily no one gives a fuck about these bloggers opinions, except you idiots that visit the shits to justify your lack of taste. Real heads know whats up with this classic. Anyone not fuckin with it due to opinion is missin the point and missin out. The losers are you sirs. Top 10 period.

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    1. Σωστός φιλε

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    2. "this only deserves a burn" ???? The only things that deserve a burn is YOU AND THIS AWFUL BLOG. Fuck off.

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  29. Only faggots can dislike or be disappointed with Violent By Design!!!! This review is just ridiculous.

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  30. one of the best albums ever man don't get this review! all those songs you say are bad or boring are dope as hell!! opinions and all that but this album is so good I really don't get it. ah well max is allowed to think what he want, keep up the reviews mate great site

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  31. this review is legit, this album has not aged that well, the raps and lyrics are not great. Deal with it dickriders.

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