As atavistic as it may be in the age of the internet, I still believe in the value of the library, even though KRS-One once coined it "the place where lies are buried." While it is true that historical lies are often written by the victors and thus skewed, sometimes the victor who prevails and writes history is not the mighty. In the case of Mahatma Gandhi, history remembers a meek man, what some might have even generously called a frail and fragile man. Yet this man of small stature stands large in victory, because his words inspired a nation of people to usurp their British tyrants and enjoy freedom and liberty. Small wonder then that the duo of Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind and Vinnie Paz (a/k/a/ Ikon the Verbal Hologram), collectively known as Jedi Mind Tricks, would have "Visions of Gandhi." It matches well with their name, which invokes the well-known Star Wars phenomenon of mental acuity so sharp it gives a Jedi Master physical power over the weak willed. For this group, to envision Gandhi is to invoke his mental acuity. Their oppressors are commercial radio and pop music. They seek to liberate the minds of listeners while exercising mental control over beats (with Stoupe's stellar production) and rhymes (Vinnie Paz' lyricism).
To learn more about Gandhi though, please visit your local library and check out a good biography. "Visions of Gandhi" may draw inspiration from his intelligence and strong will, but this is in no way an album about Gandhi. It's worthwhile to note that Gandhi was a man who strongly believed in non-violent protest (an example which inspired Martin Luther King Jr.) while "Visions of Gandhi" is filled with often dark and violent imagery. In fact, "Rise of the Machines" featuring Ras Kass opens with a sample of Mike Tyson speaking, a man who may go down in history as the most savagely brutal pugilist to ever don boxing gloves. Contadictory? Yes. Then again, I consider myself a believer in Gandhi's philosphy of non-violence, while one of my favorite video games is Grand Theft Auto 3 and one of my favorite movies is Scarface. Perhaps it's necessary to draw a distinction between violence as entertainment and violence as a way of life, something which feeble minded politicians and talk show conservatives like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh seem unable to do. Some psychologists and progressive thinkers have even argued that violence in entertainment is a healthy release of humanity's more primal urges - a vicarious experience which quells societally unacceptable rage in a decidedly non-lethal way. I can't debate the point psychologically with any authority since that's not my degree, but personally I've always found that when I'm in a bad mood listening to M.O.P. or Megadeth at high volume vents my frustration nicely.
"Visions of Gandhi" qualifies as just such an album. Stoupe has always had an uncanny knack for layering beats, samples, and rhymes into seething cauldrons of attitude. His songs tap directly into your cerebral cortex and unleash head-nodding, foot-tapping hip-hop exuberance. Vivid in their darkness and beautiful as the night sky, Vinnie Paz' lyrics are the stars which punctuate the blackness with bright light. His deliver is a loud roar, a cat that even DMX couldn't bark at. His imagery is harsh and relentless, using intelligence to both illuminate the dark and intimidate cowardly MC's who fear his shine. The lead single "Animal Rap" may be the penultimate expression of all these qualities in one bold statement. Even without the legendary Kool G. Rap lending guest vocals, this song would still blaze mixtapes coast to coast. Stoupe's rapid-fire beat and equally staccato selection of symphonic strings is the perfect backdrop for Paz to spit out his venom:
"Yo, bust a motherfuckin gat to this
Y'all believe lies like y'all was Catholics
I rap in Arabic, so my message is just immaculate
My rap elaborate, drink a forty and blaze a sack to it
My aim is accurate, take your brain and blow out the back of it
I'm surly, miserable cat that slap shorties
Looks kinda resemble that, of Fat Paulie
I don't even clap, young boy, he claps for me
Chain hang down to my dick, I'm that gaudy
I don't even fuck wit you cats, you rap poorly
I don't even buck at you cats, you that corny
What a whack army, we barkin at you
And Vinnie Paz hold the hammer like a carpenter do
You should understand that I ain't really fuckin around
And if you don't, you gonna find your body stuffed in the ground
We buckin' em down, cuz that's how wrong my life is
Y'all don't understand how fuckin strong my wife is
I'm from a time where every song was righteous
Before rap was just a swarm of white kids"
The Verbal Hologram is far from a man of peace. Neither are the guests on the album. The first full length song on the album, "Tibetan Black Magicians," features a rap pugilist as infamous as Mike Tyson, the "2nd Round Knock Out" king Canibus himself. For those who heard the stellar "Rip the Jacker" LP that Stoupe produced, 'Bis appearance here will come as no surprise, nor will how the rapper drops more "Hip Hop Quotables" than Ludacris:
"I grab mics, bust the raw, take flight, adjust the yaw
I break your bicuspids with your own jaw
Metaphors started menopause in your moms before you were born
Technically you don't even exist, God
A flick of the wrist, you'll be gone
Lost in limbo like pink shit camouflaged in a pig farm
I'm an enigma I rip bars, or burn your star with 5 points
plus the mic I ripped thus far
I stomp on ya forehead; peel the top of your fuckin face off
like an orange then eat the carnage
My God that sounds horrid
Eatin MC's is like eatin garbage, they make me vomit
Discombobulate prostates re-hydrate dry lakes
Wipe Ammonium Nitrates across the side of ya face
Anthropomorphalogically speakin, I'm out of ya league"
While most rappers would resign their right to rhyme following such a verse, Vinnie Paz steps up with equal authority:
"Every rapper better fear me, cause Vinnie Paz is a beast
And y'all steady screamin for war but want peace
You tryin to walk through the fog where sun leaks
You tryin to walk two dogs with one leash
You can't overstand the mathematics
How I rip bars, walk through walls, perform magic
Tibetan Black Magic, I'm a warlord
I'll stab you through your fuckin temple with a floorboard
I'm a born lord, I was baptised
To see the universal through a cat's eyes
Here come the black skies; it's all darkness
I breathe life into Jesus Christ's carcass!"
Stoupe's apt samples in the chorus perfect the package, with quips like "have you ever heard the sounds of bones splitting" and "I make MC's memories.. when I end you with the murderous medley." It's hard to even begin to describe the level of perfection this triumverate achieves, but you can't help but notice that every guest on "Visions of Gandhi" delivers an all-star performance when inspired by Stoupe's beats. From various members of Non-Phixion, to Percee P, to Tragedy Khadafi, they all shine like newly minted liberty dollars. If you accept as a given the rhymes are a glororious expression of both violence and ego on par with the aforementioned Scarface flick, the only place you'd be left to criticize the album is the beats - and here you'd fail as well. Stoupe has a seemingly endless bag of tricks. "Blood in Blood Out" opens with folksy guitar and fades gradually into an onomatopoeia instrument that bops along while Paz growls "You too commercial, you still a disgrace/you like to sit around with women watchin Will & Grace" and then ups the ante with "I'm the definition of toxic/anyone who ever got close to me got sick." Yowza! Then Stoupe does it again with a syrupy somber selection for "The Rage of Angels," and then Paz does it again over Stoupe's latin-influenced "Nada Cambia" where he compares himself to dictators like Mussolini and Khomeini. At some point it's just plain redundant to say they do it again, because at no point on the album do they NOT do it. Each song is it's own slice of perfection, whether it's whimsically ominous like "A Storm of Swords" or just plain creepy like "The Wolf," they all stir your soul and release your emotions as well as any therapist ever could.
"Visions of Gandhi" comes so close to hip-hop perfection, it could be a rare "perfect 10" for RapReviews.com. Could be, but isn't. Although I can enjoy the dark savagery of Vinnie Paz rhymes, it may be so far over-the-top to be a turn off for some. There's certainly no shortage of profanity to go with the brutality either, as it's "fuckin Vinnie Paz" on almost every rap he speaks. Stoupe's beats are clearly aimed at matching his lethal rhymes and flow, and if you aren't looking for hip-hop with that much edge then it just isn't meant for you. Like Mobb Deep's "The Infamous" though, the beauty of "Visions of Gandhi" is the unmitigated excellence with which is portrays images most people would rather turn their heads away from and not see. Like a crucifix in a cup of urine, it may be art, but it may also be disgusting. While it has non of the peace of Mahatma Gandhi, it may ultimately bring about more peace by venting the darkness in a true head's hip-hop loving heart. If you're fed up with things that are happy, flossy, shiny or glossy there's no better album than "Visions of Gandhi" to unleash your inner beast. It's intelligent hip-hop you can slam dance to, or as Prodigy once said "heavy metal for the black people," except you can substitute "rap" for "black."
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10
Originally posted: October 14, 2003