Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind is a one-man orchestra. Since the late '90s, the Philadelphia producer has layered diverse instruments and samples on top of each other to define the evolving sound of Jedi Mind Tricks [click to read]. In fact, he built a career out of matching Jedi mainstay Vinnie Paz's chilling howl with dense beats. In Decalogue, his solo debut, Stoupe eases away from that legacy with beats that are less fussy and even less intense.
Decalogue mirrors the basic elements of Stoupe's track record; it's full of strings, vocal samples, and other sounds that add variations to each song. But Stoupe's trademark complexity is replaced with a more straight-forward approach for his 10-track debut. That doesn't help "Transition of Power," where hollow voices and violins do nothing to spark M.O.P., the most amped duo to ever touch a microphone. The group's frenzied performances are absent and unnatural, though Lil Fame is still a bit diesel as he blasts fake kingpins whose "persona is John Gotti without the body." Simplicity is more welcomed on "The Truth." Teaming Supastition's flow with whistling flutes and a somber guitar melody, "The Truth" is Hip Hop's answer to an Old Western showdown or a Kill Bill battle scene.
Few outside the Pharaohs network have regularly touched a Stoupe beat, so Decalogue adds a fresh perspective to the producer's sound. Instead of jam-packing songs with different artists like so many other producer compilations, the bulk of Decalogue is a one producer, one artist affair. While not ground-breaking or jaw-dropping, the emcees are serviceable additions rather than stars of the show. Saigon [click to read] manages to break that mold and command the dizzying "When The Sun Goes Down." Joell Ortiz [click to read] does the same when Stoupe revisits the Latin tone of Visions of Gandhi with a perky beat tailor-made for the Puerto Rican emcee. "That's Me" finds Ortiz playfully dancing around an energetic rhythm, rapping, "Speaking of Latins, since Pun's passing/Besides Fat Joe, I'm the only thing that's been cracking...with the mic it ain't nothin, I'm a microwave oven/Y'all made these up-and-comers feel nice when they wasn't."
Rather than try to reproduce the beats that fans associate with Vinnie Paz's aggression, Stoupe builds upon his formula in ways that may not fit a Jedi Mind Tricks project. "Find A Way," a smooth song featuring short-range singer Lorrie Dorizza, is a respectable departure from his previous work. The sounds are varied but subtle, the melody is emotional, and the drums are rich; that's Stoupe's signature to a tee. Though he writes that signature a bit differently throughout the album, Decalogue is a decent debut from an underground veteran.