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Assbad they are: DJ Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind (left) and MC Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks contemplate higher powers.

Full Force

Jedi Mind Tricks reunite the Order at the Catalyst.

By Curtis Cartier

Vinnie Paz has been called a lot of things. Wigger. Psycho. Poet. Genius. But with the forthcoming album, A History of Violence, by Philadelphia hip-hop set Jedi Mind Tricks, the rugged rhyme-spitter is getting called something else lately: diplomat.

Out Nov. 11, the crew's sixth LP will feature the return of original Trickster Jus Allah after an emotional falling out in 2000 that put the two longtime friends on nonspeaking terms and, as Paz will admit, "really fucked with our sound."

"By the time we put out Violent by Design, me and Jus already had seven years of chemistry," says Paz. "We've always had this synchronicity in making music and I think we lost a little of that when he was gone. It's good to have that back even if it's for selfish reasons."

The hefty frontman caught up with Metro Santa Cruz ahead of his band's Nov. 5 show at the Catalyst. Fresh from a European tour and about to begin the American version, Paz said the newly reunited crew is stronger than ever, and he's planning on dropping his brand of hardcore, aggressive rap on heads until blood hits the floor.

First formed in 1996, Jedi Mind Tricks originally featured only Paz and the ultracomplex and notoriously reclusive DJ Stoupe. Their lo-fi gritty sound was akin to rap legends Wu-Tang Clan, many of whom they would later work with, but their first album, The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness, was a dictionary-cracking noggin-scratcher that touched on themes of corporate corruption, government exploitation and human experimentation. Jus joined the group shortly after, and from then on, the squad took a much more violent and destructive tone. Today, they've become legends of the underground hardcore rap world and worked with some of hip-hop's biggest names including GZA, Kool G Rap, Percee P and Ill Bill.

"When we started I tried to make every line like a homework assignment," laughs Paz. "Now I try not to ram that shit down people's throats so much. The maturation process told me not everyone wants to hear it like that, people like Kubrick or Scorsese would do things that make you think but also entertain you at the same time and I think now I try to do more of that."

Although less of an oddity than when he started rapping in the '90s, Paz, as a white man, still feels he sometimes has more to prove than black artists. And with the candidacy of Barack Obama, issues of race have come back to the forefront of the American conversation. Paz, a Ron Paul supporter, says although he's not completely sold on the concept of "reverse racism" in the hip-hop world, he says it's possible that if he was black he might be living in a mansion sporting a platinum grill instead of in Philly with two missing front teeth.

"The reverse racism thing is weird because now every white kid raps and produces and they love all the big names, but they've never heard of me or Necro or [Ill] Bill," he says. "But if we were black we'd be their hero. But that's the fans, I have to say I've never run into racism in the industry. I've got nothing but respect from some of the biggest rap names in the biz."

If the yet-unreleased A History of Violence is anything like its first single, "Monolith," it will be the closest album to Violent by Design since Jus left eight years ago--a natural but not necessarily expected result. The 14-track disc was recorded over the summer in the seedy Philly studio where they worked with everyone from fellow Philly rapper Doap Nixon to metal god Tom Araya of Slayer. Expectations are high, but Paz says he doesn't make music to please his fans. The only criticism or props he respects comes from other rappers and musicians.

"These nerds on the Internet say a record sucks after three days, then a month later they love it. It's hard for me to take serious criticism from people who can't do what I do," he says. "The album is great but records are like girlfriends--you love the one you're with, but eventually they get old. We haven't made our Sgt. Pepper's yet."

JEDI MIND TRICKS powers up the Lightsabers, along with Outerspace, Reef the Lost Cauze and King Magnetic, Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 8pm at Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $15 advance/$18 door (831.423.1338)

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