Philly underground Hip-Hop legends Jedi Mind Tricks today release their 9th studio album The Bridge And The Abyss and with the cover artwork similar to 2015’s The Thief And The Fallen, this is more of a follow-on from that LP than any of their earlier albums. This however is part of the problem. With Vinnie Paz making the listener aware of his “20 plus years” career in two of the LP’s songs, as a listener you hope for a return to the darker, original sound that JMT pioneered. What we instead have is an album that is 80-90% lacklustre, the majority of the songs sounding like they were crafted over a decade ago.
Jedi Mind Tricks have been responsible for some classic Hip-Hop music, including The Amber Probe EP and the perfect album Violent By Design. Since their second album however, the group have dropped material here and there that hasn’t lived up to their first two releases and unfortunately, this LP is one of those disappointing ones.
The Bridge And The Abyss firstly suffers from a concept problem; the album starts with “Al Bid-Aya”, and a philosophical question about God followed by some south Asian samples. But from that point onward we wander away from philosophy, religion, the afterlife, limbo, and eastern sounds into some strange realm where it seems the noughties never ended. For the most part, this album sounds like a generic underground Hip-Hop album released in 2005; tracks like “San La Muerte” start off okay but are let down by a 50-Cent-esque, early-noughties-sounding chorus…
“When The Body Goes Cold” also starts off fine but once again this is ruined by a strangely out-of-date Nu-Rock-sounding hook and in “Legacy of the Prophet” (featuring the late, great Sean Price) there’s another chorus that sounds like it was devised two decades ago. Even when a song contains a nineties sample like “Torture Chamber” (Rottin Razkals’ “Oh Yeah”) it still comes off as noughties-esque. “Hell’s Henchman” also features a strangely out-of-date and corny chorus and “Marciano’s Reign” sounds overly upbeat and sports an utterly horrible R’N’B hook…
When it comes to lyrics, they’re not exactly earth-shattering either. “You Have One Devil But Five Angels” for example may sound like an interesting title but it descends into contrived violence. “Certified Dope” contains a very basic rhyme scheme over an old-school Rock sound. Eamon’s singing adds to the crossover feel, and the track comes across like something Pharrell would make then possibly discard. “What She Left Behind” at least features a narrative, a one-sided dispute between a couple slightly reminiscent of RZA’s Bobby Digital track “Domestic Violence” but thanks to the chorus and overall tone, it sounds more like something Eminem would have made back in the day.
“God Forsaken” includes some impressive double-time rapping but alas this is ruined by the Army-chant-ish chorus, although compared to all the other noughties-sounding stuff, this is one of the most interesting songs on the album. The best song on the LP is “The Letter Concerning the Intellect”, it doesn’t contain any corny-sounding music and because of that it kinda sticks out in an album heaving with back-to-back out-of-style tracks.
The final song is somewhere between satisfying and a let-down. “Making A Killing” does contain a Pop chorus and a Hip-Pop beat but the topic of animal welfare is refreshing for the Hip-Hop genre. With the line “who are you to say what should be eaten or what’s a pet?” we get something meaningful in an album that for the most part sounds hackneyed, if only Thea Alana (who sounds like some kind of Paloma Faith-Lana Del Rey hybrid) didn’t sing on this song it would be a memorable joint.
Even when the production is satisfying (“The Letter Concerning The Intellect”) it’s more “Muerte” than “Genghis Khan” and that’s unfortunate. I know that groups evolve and that their sounds change, but the soundscape of this LP isn’t what’s needed right now. What’s missing in contemporary Hip-Hop is that raw, dark sound that was present in most of Violent By Design. Stoupe seems to be stuck in a weird radio-friendly rut, making music that seems to be fixed in the mid-point of JMT’s career.
Another thing I’ll add is that with Jus Allah leaving then re-joining then leaving for good in 2013, the group has suffered from inconsistencies when it comes to their overall sound. Jus Allah was part of JMT’s greatest album, the aforementioned Violent By Design and without him, that matter-of-fact, macabre, relaxed-yet-hardcore flow is nowhere to be seen. Without Jus Allah, there’s not much to differentiate between a solo Vinnie Paz album and a Jedi Mind Tricks album other than Stoupe making all the beats. If you want to hear a Vinnie Paz album you’d be better off listening to The Cornerstone Of The Corner Store rather than this and if you want a decent Vinnie Paz/Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind album, this release will have you digging out a copy of their Psycho-Social LP to reminisce over their origins.
At just under an hour in length, The Bridge And The Abyss isn’t overly long but with more unappealing songs than appealing ones, it feels much longer. I cannot stress how much this album sounds like it should have been released in the mid-2000s. Ironically, in the mid-2000s, Jedi Mind Tricks were making decent albums like Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell. It’s highly unlikely that Jus Allah will re-join the group but this album will make you yearn for the trio’s sophomore magic.