Vinnie Paz – “Tortured in the Name of God’s Unconditional Love” review

Vinnie Paz is a 45 year old underground veteran from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania known for being the MC of Jedi Mind Tricks & the leader of the Army of the Pharaohs collective. He put out his first 2 solo albums Season of the Assassin & God of the Serengeti in 2010 & 2012 respectively, but returned in 2016 with The Cornerstone of the Corner Store. The Pain Collector would become my favorite of his since his first 2, but as above so below & Burn Everything That Bears Your Name were both almost as great, so I had no worries going into his 7th album considering his consistency.

“Pistol Opera” is a creepy boom bap opener with some piano chords talking about respecting violence & what he was purposely designed for until Method Man comes into the picture for the unsettling “Invisible Ether” produced by Stu Bangas talking about what happens when they start to flow. “Faith Healer” goes into trap territory thanks to longtime Enemy Soil Entertainment in-house producer C-Lance cautioning that shit’s all fun & game till the drum-magazines are empty, but then “Be Wise as Serpents” is a rap metal boom bap fusion with a ghostly hook & Vinnie acknowledging that motherfuckers think it’s cool to behave stupid.

Continuing from there with “Heroin on a Harpoon”, we have Geechi Suede talking about becoming rich as soon as his mom gave birth to him & Pazzy referring this as the oldest trick in the book over a boom bap instrumental with a blaring guitar & some jazzy undertones until “Curse of Canaan” with Kurupt finds the 2 talking about keep pushing the lines & the main loop throughout sounds like video game sound effects to me, I don’t know why. “Rambo Knife” however has some amazing vocal samples throughout speaking on cutting coke & causing panic, but then “3 Levels of Hikmah” is a triumphant jazz rap cut laced by Oh No with some incredible ad-libs talking about people shooting at him like paparazzi & a lot of them being yadda yadda.

“Killpoint” returns to the boom bap with some horn sections courtesy of Vic Grimes as Vinnie & M.O.P. get malicious lyrically while the piano-trap joint “Deadman’s Hand” calling himself the most ignorant of all-time while “Winged Assassins” with Boob Bronx & Ras Kass ruthlessly compare their rhymes to black hand-grenades. “A War Chest & a Propaganda Machine” has a more delirious quality to it provided by DJ Muggs being straight up & telling anyone who wants smoke with him to say his name while “Gunpowder Plot” with O.T. the Real spit some drug trafficking tales.

“Slight Rebellion Off Madison” is a woodwind/boom bap hybrid talking about how his shooters don’t die while “Father Yod” by the Heavy Metal Kings & Lord Goat finds the trio over some grim piano chords to spit that gun talk. The song “Spoils of War” with Big Twins aggressively talk about stomping on motherfuckers heads when they be outside over some ominous production while the penultimate track “Loro Pianas Robes” with Thirstin Howl III discuss being the upmost & being left cut in half over a glistening boom bap beat. “Zafiro Añejo” with Boob Bronx & Recognize Ali ends the album with the 3 referring to this as beautiful architecture with a flute hanging behind them.

Ikon the Verbal Hologram has always remained consistent with his music & even though God of the Serengeti is my personal favorite album of his, I definitely think this is the most I’ve enjoyed since The Pain Collector. The production has some more trap undertones to it this time around surprisingly, but best believe Paz & nearly every feature are absolutely catching bodies with their pens the whole damn time.

Score: 4/5

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Apathy – “Where the River Meets the Sea” review

Apathy is a 42 year old emcee/producer from Willimantic, Connecticut coming up just 2 decades back as a member of the Demigodz & the Army of the Pharaohs collectives founded by Open Mic & Vinnie Paz respectively. He was also signed to Atlantic Records at one point, but left due to creative differences. Since then The Alien Tongue has built up quite the solo discography on his own, with my favorites being 2011’s Honkey Kong! & even his previous album The Widow’s Son in 2018. But after years in the making, Ap is finally releasing his 7th full-length outing.

The title track following the “Headwater” intro kicks things off with a glossy tribute to his father & after “The Ocean” interlude, we get some cinematic string sections “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” & the lyrical theme of it was inspired by the opening line off one of my favorite Public Enemy songs “Welcome to the Terrordome”. We go into a more soulful direction with the confrontational “We Don’t Fuck Around” just before Styles P & Lil’ Fame hop aboard the guitar-laced “P.S.E. (Public School Era)”, which conceptually is based around the opening line off the iconic Biggie joint “Party & Bullshit”.

Anoyd & Chris Webby are enlisted for the fittingly aquatic “Underwater” as they spit about slippin’ off the deep end before “River of Light” provides us with a progressively layered instrumental & lyrics proclaiming himself as a King cut from a different cloth. The song “Force Fields” with Pep Love & Tajai finds the trio hopping on an quasi Middle Eastern-inspired beat from Teddy Roxspin letting haters know you can’t break them leading up to the optimistic “A Rainy Day in Connecticut”.

Meanwhile on the Stu Bangas-produced “Mermaid Music”, we get an organ-laced tribute to Ap’s wife whereas the Snak the Ripper-featured “Dream Sequence” goes back into a more orchestral territory as they go in about not wanting to wake up from the dreams they have. And just before “The Mouth” outro, the final song “Remember the Night” reunites with Hayze is a somber depiction of how they always do their deepest thinking at sundown.

I have a tendency to enjoy artists at their most mature & that’s what Ap has done on Where the River Meets the Sea. A couple of the features I could’ve done without but I think his production has only gotten better with time & you can really hear the vulnerability in The Alien Tongue’s voice throughout his performances.

Score: 4.5/5

Vinnie Paz – “Burn Everything That Bears Your Name” review

This is the 6th full-length album from Philadelphia underground mainstay Vinnie Paz. Coming up as the MC for Jedi Mind Tricks & the leader of the Army of the Pharaohs collective, he also started building an impressive solo career off his 2010 debut Season of the Assassin & the 2012 sophomore effort God of the Serengeti. His previous album as above so below just came out last Valentine’s Day & a little over a year later, we’re already being treated to Burn Everything That Bears Your Name.

“Socrates Drinking the Hemlock” is a 2-minute opener with Boxcutter Pazzy spitting that disrespectful shit over an old west-sounding instrumental & then Billy Danze joins him for the horn/boom bap infused “Machine Gun Etiquette”, where both of them comparing their lyricism to that of LMGs. “Body Bag Philosopher” brings out the horror vibes from C-Lance’s piano instrumental to Vinnie’s lyrics about a rat going rogue whereas the Stu Bangas-produced “Papi Wardrobe” talks about letting the TEC spray over what I assume to be a 70’s sample.

We then get on some mafioso shit as Ill Bill & Lord Goat hop on the orchestra-laced “Witches Teeth” while the song “Latka Bravas” talks about murder over some trumpets loops. Things go into a more jazzy direction on the Oh No-produced “Danger’s My Business” with lyrics detailing a war going on outside, but then Vinnie details his woman having an abortion on the track “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” & the way Farma Beats flips “Don’t You Ever Dare” by Dean Friedman is immaculate.

“Guilty Remnant Cigarettes” is a short yet effective cut about being out for blood over a more vintage instrumental from Esoteric & right after funny enough, The Czar-Keys cook up what could possibly be the darkest beat on the album as The Verbal Hologram reminds us of being an old school shooter on the song “Don Eladio”. Meanwhile on the overawing “Warhead”, we have Chino XL coming through to help detail how dirty people are before talking about bodies being stacked up on the sepulchral “Excuse All the Blood”.

The song “White on White Crime” kinda has some trap & rock undertones in the production as O.T. the Real & D-Boy Flowski come together with the Pazmanian Devil to talk about how they rap what they live, but D-Boy’s verse at the end doesn’t hit me like the first 2 did. This is followed up with the powerful Islamic ode “Battle of the Camel” featuring Willie the Kid & the sample Giallo Point uses is just so comely.

Vic Grimes takes shit back to boom bap territory on “Torch Bearer”, which I think might be the Paz Man’s response to the diss tracks both King Magnetic & Doap Nixon put out towards him last year. The song “Affairs in Order” incorporates some synths as Jay Royale accompanies the mic to talk about how you don’t wanna be around when the feds start getting on your ass.

Lord Goat returns for “Tell Gold to Hold the Boneyard” alongside Crimeapple to deliver them gangsta bars over a guitar-driven instrumental from Hobgoblin before incorporating an organ & some sputtering drums tor the track “Duppy or Gunman”, where The Sicilian Shooter says anyone who wants it with him is out of their goddamn minds & rightfully so.

“Angels with Dirty Faces” is a gospel-like homage to everyone Vinnie’s family was enamored before he & Eto talk about acting right around them on “Murder Takes Time”. The penultimate track “Lloyds of London” is a bilious acknowledgement of telling when people don’t want the smoke, but the Boob Bronx verse is another low-point for me personally. Finally to round it off, M.A.V. tags along to get in battle rap mode for the flute-backed closer “Digital Veil”.

In comparison to as above so below, I actually happen to prefer Burn Everything That Bears Your Name a bit more. Did it need to be 22 songs? Not necessarily. However, the dude’s pen-game remains unmatched as does his ear for production almost a quarter of a century deep making music.

Score: 4/5

Vinnie Paz – “as above so below” review

Vinnie Paz is a underground veteran from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania known for being the MC of Jedi Mind Tricks & the leader of the Army of the Pharaohs collective. He put out his first 2 solo albums Season of the Assassin & God of the Serengeti in 2010 & 2012 respectively, but returned in 2016 with The Cornerstone of the Corner Store. Last time we heard from him solo-wise was with The Pain Collector in 2018 & with Valentine’s Day arriving, he’s back with his 5th full-length album.

It all starts with “Crime Wave Tehran”, where Pazzy talks about shooting someone over a minimalist yet intimidating instrumental from Giallo Point. The next song “Scorched Earth” with Estee Nack & Jay Royale sees the 3 spitting some vicious mobster-style lyricism over a Stu Bangas beat with some prominently harmonious vocals while the track “I’m the Chaos” reminds us of Paz’s place in this culture over a boom bap/rock fusion from Vic Grimes. The song “Mabuhay Gardens” talks about how nothing other than death is guaranteed over a somber beat while “The Conjuring” compares himself to that of a magician over a Bronze Nazareth beat with a relaying vocal sample.

“The Black Hand” with Demoz sees the 2 talking about murder over a cavernous beat from C-Lance supplied with a hook delivered in this weird faux-Jamaican patois while the song “Mock Up on Mu” sends a message to his competition over a suspenseful instrumental. The track “Ankle Bracelets” talks about wanting to be alone over a calming beat & a stellar hook with Queen Herawin while “The Conpleat Witch” with Nowaah the Flood finds both MCs painting some vivid street imagery over a boom bap beat with some creepy keyboards.

The song “Hannibal” is laced with gun talk over a boom ball beat with a luxurious pianos lead while the track “Silician Bull” compares himself to just that over an ominous beat. The song “Cero Miedo” gets confrontational over an eerie beat. The song “Spilled Milk” is a tear-jerking tribute to his father with a piano instrumental to enhance the emotion while the track “Vahid Moradi” with Rigz sees the 2 talking about staring into Satan’s eyes over some strings.

The song “I’ll Buy All the Uranium You’ve Got” talks about being strapped over a boom bap beat with a prominent vocal sample while the song while the track “Doomsday Machine” with Demoz & Vast Aire sees the 3 talking about how ruthless they are over an instrumental with a beautifully dark atmosphere to it. The song “Serve the Creator” with Recognize Ali sees the 2 talking about Allah over a soul sample & some horns then the closer “The Gone-Away World” gets conscious over a killer rock instrumental Vinnie made himself with co-production from Scott Stallone.

Paz’s discography has always been known for being consistently hardbody & this is no exception. A couple of the features could’ve been better to me personally, but his lyricism has gotten sharper over time & the production is as equally gritty.

Score: 4/5

Vinnie Paz – “The Pain Collector” review

Vinnie Paz is a underground titan MC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania known for being the MC of Jedi Mind Tricks & the leader of the Army of the Pharaohs collective. He put out his first 2 solo albums Season of the Assassin & God of the Serengeti in 2010 & 2012 respectively, but returned in 2016 with the disappointingly average The Cornerstone of the Corner Store. And now just 3 months after the release of the latest JMT album The Bridge & The Abyss, Boxcutter Pazzy isn’t stopping with his 4th full-length album.

The album begins with “Winter Soldier”, where Paz gets confrontational over some strings. The next song “Necklace of Hands” gets bloodthirsty over a gritty yet soulful instrumental from Oh No while the track “Gasmask” is a mix of street & conscious bars over an eerie beat. The song “Sundae Bloody Sundae” intellectually compares himself to an ice cream man as a metaphor for a drug dealer over an alluring soul sample while the track “Jail Cell Recipes” continues this theme albeit in a much menacing & straight forward tone to it. The song “Tongan Death Grip” with Reef the Lost Cauze sees the 2 spitting battle bars over some sinister horns while the track “God’s Shadow” reflects on his early days over a woodwind-inflicted boom bap beat with a cool Biggie sample on the hook.

The song “DualTow Night Eagle” sees Pazzy getting back in your face over a haunting beat while the track “Blood on My Hands” gets back on the murder tip over a somber boom bap beat. The song “Floating Goat” sounds like it was recorded for the latest Soul Assassins album Dia del Asesinato, but it works very well on here. The track “Byzantine Jewelry” brags about how hardcore he is over a laidback beat with a beautiful soul sample on the hook while I do find the beat switch on the song “Requiem for Black Benjy in 2 Parts” as well as the verses from both Vinnie & Crimeapple, I found Tha God Fahim‘s verse to be pretty bland. The track “Pray for Sleep” goes into the mind of a insane murderer over a gloomy vocal sample while the song “HaShem on a Pentagram” with Non Phixion members Ill Bill & Goretex sees the 3 talking about criminal activity over an apocalyptic boom bap beat.

The track “Masked Stickups” talking about how he can have people disappear if he wants to over a piano & a funky bass-line while the song “Hollow Light Severed Sun” has a somber beat & I absolutely love how Paz experiments with his flow on here. The track “Cold in Philadelphia” tells the story of an immigrant coming to america over an acoustic instrumental while the penultimate track “Gracious” talks about all the things he’s grateful for over a vocal sample & some piano chords. The album then closes with “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress”, where Paz gets political & I absolutely love how the instrumental gets progressive throughout it’s 6 minute runtime.

Honestly, this is on par with Paz’s first 2 albums & I’ll even say it’s better than the latest Jedi Mind Tricks album. There are a couple weak spots & I feel like it 4 or 5 tracks could’ve been left out of the picture, but it’s just as rawly produced & angrily delivered than ever before.

Score: 4/5

Apathy – “The Widow’s Son” review

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Almost 6 months after the release of Perestroika’s self-titled debut, Army of the Pharaohs & Demigodz member Apathy is at last giving fans his long-awaited 6th full-length album. The opener “The Spellbook” sees Ap spits angry battle bars over a haunting beat & then the next song “CHAOS” brags about his rapping prowess about over a jazzy boom bap beat from Stu Bangas. The track “Never Fall Off” with A.G. sees the 2 talking about their longitivtiy over some glorious strings. The titular song with Ryu gets conscious over a grimy rap rock beat while the track “The Order” is a menacing attack towards his enemies over an grimy boom bap beat from none other than DJ Premier.

The song “Alien Weaponry” raps about his rapping prowess over an eerie Nottz beat & then the track “Hypnosis” sees Ap spitting knowledge over a soulful instrumental. The song “I Keep On” with Pharoahe Monch sees the 2 lyrical beasts battle rapping each other over a Pete Rock instrumental with some keys & a funky bassline. The track “A View of Hell (View from Hell)” gets lyrically murderous over a gritty beat from Buckwild while the track “Fist of the North Star” with Diabolic is a vicious diss to wack rappers over a boom bap/rock fused beat.

The track “Stomp Rappers” with Celph Titled & M.O.P. gets into battle rap mode over a grimy instrumental while the song “Legend of the 3rd Degree” sees Ap giving more knowledge over an ominous beat. The penultimate track “Rise & Shine” with Locksmith talking about killing wack rappers & I love the horns throughout. Also, the soul sample during the hook is beautiful. The album then finishes off perfectly with “Obi Wan”, which is a heart-wrenching tribute to Apathy’s father over a gloomy beat.

It’s been a long time coming, but this might be Apathy’s magnum opus. Of course it’s gonna be angry & rawly produced but conceptually, it’s probably his smartest one yet.

Score: 4.5/5