Thursday, November 24, 2011

Season of the Assassin: The First Step in Vinnie Paz’s Emotional, Political, and Social Maturation

Sicilian-American rapper Vincenzo Luvineri (better known as Vinnie Paz) is often regarded as the angriest man in all of rap. Needless to say, Vinnie has earned this title quite understandably given his violent lyrics and heavily political themes throughout his 20+ year musical career. Starting off as a member of the Philly based underground hip hop duo Jedi Mind Tricks, Vinnie quickly gained a reputation as a musical outsider with his conspiracy theory-ridden album The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological, And Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness. This reputation was only confirmed throughout the next decade of lyrical bravado, political frustrations, and personal lamentation that characterized his next six albums with Jedi Mind Tricks. Even a quick glance over the tracks from albums like A History of Violence and Legacy of Blood is enough to confirm these speculations, with lyrics like “I’m a warmonger I never explore passively” and “The bullets splatter through your spleen and guts” examples of some of the milder and less profane lyrics you are likely to come across in these works. These somewhat childish outbursts of violence and lyrical arrogance (“If it’s coming from my jaw then it’s pure anger”) may have very well been due to Vinnie’s own experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts, highlighted by his underground classic Razorblade Salvation, wherein he addresses a formal apology to his mother for writing a letter to her describing his planned suicide.

As seemingly immature as Vinnie’s lyricism was throughout much of his early work, his debut solo album Season of the Assassin represents a level of musical growth that had been formerly lacking. What’s miraculous is that the album is just as politically charged and audibly frustrated as even his earliest albums with Jedi Mind Tricks. The single End of Days begins samples a speech describing “the chasm between what we’re told is going on and what is really going on” to set the stage for a track that enumerates a long list of political and economic conspiracy theories. Similarly, the truly Vinnie-esque theme of lyrical violence is conserved in tracks like Bad Day, Nosebleed, and Washed in the Blood of the Lamb which are filled with explicit physical threats and lavish self-praise. But despite this continuity with older works, what sets apart Season of the Assassin is Vinnie’s ability to branch out to the subtleties of human emotion rather than the one-dimensional barrage of rage and confusion that was a hallmark of his early musical career. In Keep Movin’ On Vinnie pairs with a somber-sounding Shara Worden to deliver a true masterpiece that empathizes with the plight of factory workers and war veterans who have lost their jobs and are left with no support for their families. For once Vinnie chooses to put aside his penchant for controversial political conspiracies and address the empirical realities of the world from which he came. In a similar showcase of sensitivity, Vinnie delivers a heartwarming dedication to his step father in his rather uncharacteristic track, Same Story. Here, Vinnie expresses his utmost respect for his step father’s treatment of Vinnie’s mother and exhibits an unprecedented level of lyrical sorrow (“I was nervous, I was crying and really distraught”) at his step father’s poignant early death. Tracks like these are perhaps symbolic of a new, post-Jedi Mind Tricks Vinnie Paz who, through his rap, has risen to higher levels of lyrical maturity and has found greater control over the more nuanced elements of human emotion.

--Amin Aalipour

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