Vinnie Paz

Featuring a slew of notable rappers and producers, Vinnie Paz’s God of the Serengeti maybe among the best hip-hop albums that dropped in 2012.

An album non short of the proverbial lore of unhinged aggression and berserk ferocity, the Jedi Mind Tricks rapper follows up his highly acclaimed solo debut, Return of the Assassin, with a gritty sophomore effort that takes “hard-body” to the next level – or two, or three.  And just seeing the likes of Kool G. Rap, Immortal Technique, Scarface, DJ Premier, Mobb Deep, Tragedy Khadafi, R.A. the Rugged Man, DJ Lethal, and Psycho Les on the album’s tracklist is enough to give certain hip-hoppers wet dreams.  For the listener wanting nothing more than gutter beats and aggressive rhymes, GOTS is your album.

Unlike Season of the Assassin where the overall sound was diverse, this release features a more focused tonal aspect that gives it more of a sinister edge across the board.  The rawness of this record is ideal for back alley mugging; or better, plane crashes and severing bodies.  The intro, “Shadow of the Guillotine,” begins with a monologue referencing the Book of 2 Chronicles:  “My father chastised you with whips, I shall use scorpions.”  Paz’s beat selections are perfect; as they all fit his raspy, but belligerently ferocious, style of delivery.

“They tend to stop me at every level and stress me and send me devils / I press ‘em like Chevy pedals and shred ‘em like heavy metal…”

“Slum Chemist” begins with a crazed sound bite from the film Monster in which a serial killer attempts to explain her sick logic that allows her to murder.  A charming violin terrorizes the song’s backdrop amongst hard-hitting snare hits and a diabolical Paz voice proclaiming, “You should never **** with the monster / You crash like La La La Bamba.”  The DJ Premier-produced, “The Oracle,” is a synth-heavy highlight that Box-cutter Pazzi absolutely shines on.  This track is the classic “I’m the realest, and let me tell you why I am and why you’re not” standard:  “He the mother****** always sippin’ goose n’ shit / Stomp a rapper out, Timberland boots and s***…”

“Last Breath” sounds like a lost track from SOTS, and sonically doesn’t really fit the album’s tone – not to mention, the song’s horrid chorus.  The immense standout, “Crime Library,” is on some instant underground classic status.  The Philadelphia-bred rapper’s performance is flawless here, and Marco Polo’s production is exceptional and memorable – to say the least.  And such momentous attributes can be applied to the proceeding Mobb Deep collaboration, “Duel to the Death.”  Backed by tremendous and suspense-like production, this is classic Mobb Deep.

The Scarface featured, “Problem Solver,” and the Immortal Technique collaboration, “And Your Blood Will Blot Out the Sun,” are two cuts that have all the makings of greatness on paper, however, each lacks qualities that the best tracks from this release possess.   The former is a decent song, but Poison Pen’s chorus may ruin the experience for most, and the latter features a nice verse from Scarface, but the song’s lackluster production and another terrible hook may just be enough to overshadow the good.  However, these moments don’t last too long as Paz’s super-group, The Army of the Pharaohs, makes a welcomed appearance on the very next track, and high point, “Battle Hymn.”  There isn’t a weak track (not including the bonus track, “Kingdom Crusher”) from this point on, seriously.  The apocalyptic sounding “Geometry of Business” is among GOTS’s best, as is the refreshingly semi-biographical “Jake LaMotta.”  This track is Sesame Street compared to the rest.

“I Mike Tys(on) verse, big lord, I’m dying to fight / I drink, drugs, smoke, alcohol, my mind isn’t right / Eternal Sunshine of the Spot. I’m just minding my site / I knock buildings over like I was Osama on flights / I would dream about Jordans, I would die for the Nikes / We ain’t had the money, but my mother buy me the Nikes…”

Tragedy Khadafi makes a grand appearance on the standout, “7 Fires of Prophecy.”  Both Paz and Tragedy rip this percussive beat into unbelievable shreds leaving the listener with a vivid impression of how good these two can be over the right beat.

“Flow is tsunami, bulletproof Bugatti / Arab, Nazi spraying a semi out a Ferrari / Crash Maybach Music, smash Aston Martins / Cops turned rappers, y’all n***** is targets…”

The depressing self-assessment of “Cheesesteaks” helps to create one of the effort’s darkest tracks, while the symphonic and epic “Cold, Dark And Empty” fits effortlessly into the sequence right after, as does the intense R.A. The Rugged Man feature that follows; “Razor Gloves.”  All four cuts are instant peaks.

Closing out this excursion of unapologetic and ruthless aggression is the rather conscious, “You Can’t Be Neutral On a Moving Train.”  On the closer, Paz explores the savage politics and history of racism, sexism, government tyranny, and colonialism of the West.

The time goes by rather quickly as GOTS comes to it’s end before the listener knows it.  There are nineteen tracks in all (including one bonus track), and of the nineteen tracks presented; only five are without guest features.  This attribute would doom a lot of albums, but this just isn’t the case with GOTS, as most of the rappers/MCs featured present quality and actually fit the song that they’re on.  This album is a violent frenzy maxed out to the “nth” power, so it may not be for everyone; however, most who embrace hardcore hip-hop will undoubtedly love this album.

-Julius Thompson