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“When The Body Goes Cold” also starts off fine but once again this is ruined by a strangely out-of-date Nu-Rock-sounding hook and in “Legacy of the Prophet” (featuring the late, great Sean Price) there’s another chorus that sounds like it was devised two decades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 “Hell’s Henchman” also features a strangely out-of-date and corny chorus and “Marciano’s Reign” sounds overly upbeat and sports an utterly horrible R’N’B hook…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.
i agree 100% with what you said. I read somewhere before the album dropped that C-Lance co-produced 10 tracks with Stoupe for this album. I think that was one of the main reasons the soundscapes for this album were not that great. But “The Letter Concerning the Intellect” is by far my favorite track on this album. Sad that we had to wait 3 years for this; was hoping for something better.
It’s not all down to the production though, there’s some weird choice of choruses on there, and that’s all down to Paz I assume. “Philo: Metatron: Wisdom”, “The Void”, “The Coffin”, “Blood Addiction”, that’s how JMT should sound not “San La Muerte”, “When The Body Goes Cold”, “Legacy of the Prophet”, “Hell’s Henchman”, and “Marciano’s Reign”, way too corny for Jedi Mind Tricks.
I’ve only heard “San La Muerte” and “Marciano’s Reign” so far . I enjoyed the videos for both . “San La Muerte” has hard lyrics .
Apparently Jus Allah complained that Vinnie was ripping off 50 Cent . To me Jus Allah is a very insecure person . He has shown frequent diva behaviour over the last three years . He now hates Vinnie and all white emcees associated with AOTP and The Demigodz . He also has foolishly started beefing with mixed martial artist and UFC veteran Mac Danzig – and other mixed martial artists Danzig trains with . Danzig was a long time fan of JMT and offered to direct a video for a Jus Allah song that ended up remixed and put on Jus’s last studio album in 2015 . Also in the last three years Jus has taken shots at Esoteric , 7L , Apathy , Celph Titled , Slaine , Ill Bill and Diabolic on his Facebook page . He has become a black nationalist even more than he was before . To the same degree as Wise Intelligent . Jus also refuses to condemn Bambataa and supports sell out diva Talib Kweli’s dubious remarks . To the point of dissing his former AOTP band mates . Immortal Technique is beginning to show similar tendencies now as well . A friend of mine remarked that Jus Allah must be anxiety riddled all the time due to starting beefs with over a dozen well known underground emcees and over a dozen well known MMA fighters . These guys should be coming together to resolve their differences instead of acting like Junior High students (mostly on Jus’s part) . I would love to see him rejoin AOTP and JMT and for Immortal Technique to squash his beef with Bolic .
The last JMT group album wasn’t overly great . It had three decent tracks . Vinnie Paz still kills it on his solo albums and his AOTP albums . And on features .
I wonder what you think of the two videos that have dropped so far ? I am a fan of them visually and artistically .
Vinnie , Stoupe , DJ Kwestion and C-Lance may have made an average-at-best album here . I would bet that Nas’s latest release is quite a bit worse , though .
(I’ve added the official videos to the review)
The video to “San La Muerte” is nothing special, it’s okay but at 1:11 that Curtis Jackson-style shite comes in and it just makes me cringe.
The video for “Marciano’s Reign” is a better video technically, it reminds me of the animations in the film “A Monster Calls” but again the sound is very mediocre, even childish. It sounds kinda like Cam’Ron’s “S.D.E.” thanks to the sample but a lot less emotive and a lot more mainstream…
If you’re gonna use a light and airy sample at least refrain from a corny hook. Cam’Ron at least used a Biggie sample during the chorus which added a sense of credibility to it but JMT have gone full-blown radio-friendly (but radio-friendly for approx. 2000).
Whatever you think of Jus Allah, he brought something to offset Vinnie’s raspy voice, he had a darker tone and it made Jedi Mind Tricks unique. Not that Jus would have sorted out this album, it’s below average regardless but it can’t be ignored that the best JMT album had him in it.
I heavily disagree with this article. If you know that groups evolve, then this article would have been written differently. You also are a little hypocritical when you think about it … it seems like you want it to sound more like Violent By Design but you go on to say that this album sounds like it’s from the mid-2000’s. So which is it? Isn’t that what you want? It seems like that from the tone of this article.
As you said, groups evolve. Vinnie is what, in his mid to late 30’s now? You honestly think he shouldn’t have matured or changed his sound by now? It would sound ridiculous to me if every track was still dark and aggressive over 20 years later. And Jus isn’t in his group anymore which is probably another reason why the style isn’t what you are expecting.
Speaking of Jus, do you really believe that this album would have been better with him? I don’t know about you, but that guy has been straight trash in anything I’ve heard him in over the past several years. “I’m this, I’m that” grocery list lyrics are not what’s needed right now as you would say. He is so one dimensional and shallow in his lyrics that it’s actually sad. The Jus from 20 years ago is gone unfortunately.
At least Vinnie has variety and depth in his lyrics to this day and has evolved. There are the boom bap style tracks such as “San La Muerte”, personal tracks such as “Marciano’s Reign” (a track written for his son), awareness tracks such as “Making a Killing”, etc. I’m actually glad it’s not all dark and aggressive like earlier JMT.
To me personally, I think this album is very solid. And look, I’m not saying it’s their best work, but it’s not a miss by any stretch in my opinion.
I’m not pussy-footing around you fanatics anymore:
1. Bar 1 or 2 songs, this album is garbage. Yes, there may be shittier albums out there but I’m judging this against all previous JMT albums and if you do that, it becomes obvious that this is one of their weakest.
2. Fans like you who make excuses for sub-par material is the reason artists soon fade into obscurity after making back-to-back wack shit. Just because you’re a fan it doesn’t mean everything is worthy of praise.
3. There is a difference between mainstream mid-2000 music and underground mid-2000 music. If you’d actually read the article I pointed out that during that time JMT made decent albums whereas Hip-Poppers were making overground trash. Compare 50 Cent’s Massacre to JMT’s Legacy Of Blood, both from the same period but both sounding completely different. Therefore…
4. Sounding like or copying a weaker artist from the previous decade is not evolving as a group it’s devolving. It definitely isn’t “maturing”.
5. San La Muerte isn’t exactly Boom Bap, especially with that shite chorus.
6. It doesn’t matter who or what Marciano’s Reign was written for, stylistically it’s watered-down Hip-Pop.
7. I don’t necessarily want Vinnie Paz to be more aggressive, I just don’t want him sounding like past-it rappers from last decade. He was and still is a better MC than the people he now sounds like.
8. Just last year he released a solo album which was much better than this LP, so being over 30 or “old” has fuck all to do with his musical choices. He made hard-as-fuck tracks on Cornerstone so why make namby-pamby shite this year?
9. Okay Jus Allah’s M.M.A. album was too short and disappointing but tracks like Days Like This and Therapy contained some dark lyricism. The verses in these songs weren’t exactly “grocery list” raps. Jus Allah’s style/flow/delivery is possibly what’s missing from the latest JMT line-up. The question remains would Jedi Mind Tricks sound like 2005 50 Cent if Jus was still part of the group?
10. If you think this album is solid you need to re-listen to all the weak-arsed tracks I mentioned and then re-read my article. I think you’ll find I want JMT to make good music. Whether it’s 1998, 2008, or 2018 this is not good music.
JMT has been on my radar since 2003, and I’m generally a hop-hop head that likes shit from the 80’s all the way up to new shit. I can listen to every album JMT has released and can find things I like and things I don’t (including the “perfect” Violent by Design, and their shittest album which is clearly A History of Violence). As for The Bridge and the Abyss, I liked this album a lot so far. I’m at my third listen now. There were about 4 tracks that ranged from aight to wack, but the other cuts were anywhere from above average to incredibly dope. I emphasize ‘now.’ I thought Vision of Gandhi was soooo dope when it came out, but listened to it in its entirety 5 years later and (even now) I’d skip probably more than half the album. On the other hand, I thought Thief and the Fallen was very weak when it came out, but re-listened to it last month and it was better than I remember. I probably won’t listen to Bridge and the Abyss again in it’s entirety for another 8 months or a year (only so little time if you work and have a life). Then I’ll have a better idea. We shall see… I do think it’s a bit corny to have consecutive album titles that follow this formula: The X and the Y [insert random words for X and Y]. Next album, JMT goes trap with The Wraith and the Draco.
Whatever. JMT’s worst album is still far better than the BS we’ve been getting from most artist.