Jedi Mind Tricks - Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell (Cover Artwork)

Jedi Mind Tricks

Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell (2006)


Upon first listen, I was ready to dismiss the Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell as just another post-Violent by Design Jedi Mind Tricks effort, but I'm glad I didn't. Although it may sound like not much has changed from the last two albums in terms of production, flow, and lyrical content, after further review it becomes apparent that Servants a much deeper, more politically charged album than its predecessors from the underground rap team.

The album opens with a few standard Jedi Mind bangers, laced with Stoupe The Enemy of Mankind's traditional dark, orchestral beats featuring strings and angelic vocal samples, but fall short due to MC Vinnie Paz's redundancy: rhyming about violence, hate, how he loves death and how much better he is than you. Much of the first half of the album plays out like this, but "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story" is a track that will turn some heads as a commentary on the war from a soldier's point of view. At first it comes off as cheesy, but digging deeper paints an uncomfortable and horrifying picture.

The second half is where Servants really picks up, as Stoupe's beats and samples (his reinterpretation of Sufjan Stevens' "Dumb I Sound" is brilliant on "Razorblade Salvation") become diversified and interesting, and Paz strays away from his patented norm to discuss politics and suicide, channeling his anger in different ways as he rhymes about slavery, the government, war, and his own self-destruction. It's here where we see how versatile Paz has become after becoming stagnant on the first half, and his lyrics are much improved, albeit less demented.

Servants is far from perfect (Paz refuses to vary his flow and gets owned by guest appearances, and the first half is still weak -- not to mention he name-drops Dillinger Escape Plan and collaborates with Terror), but if you let it grow on you, it's hard to deny that Jedi Mind Tricks have still got something to say, even if they're not the same group they used to be.