Vinnie Paz has been a chief of hardcore Rap for almost 20 years, and it’s easy to see why: he knows how to serve his audience, and he works well in numbers. The Philadelphia native has been an active member of a dozen projects between the two groups he founded, Jedi Mind Tricks and Army of the Pharaohs, and his 2010 solo debut Season of the Assassin was further opportunity to hammer down blistering bars alongside a roster of other able lyricists. His sophomore solo set, God of the Serengeti, sticks to the script, and that’s not a bad thing.
Fans of Paz and Jedi Mind Tricks will recognize some of the group’s staples from the moment they peruse the tracklisting. Song titles such “Slum Chemist,” “And Your Blood Will Blot Out The Sun,” and “Shadow of the Guillotine” sound exactly how they read: ominous sound beds with searing strings and eerie chants and organs, obliterated by Vinnie Paz’s gut-knifing, multisyllabic rhymes. On “Cheesesteaks,” The Beatnuts’ Psycho Les serves a platter of menacing keys and horror film shrieks for Paz to spew his self-described “Hard Body Rap” while slipping in memories of losing his father. He also lends his brute rhymes to DJ Premier’s lends his signature scratches and granite-splitting drums on “The Oracle.” The album does lack some of the thoughtfulness and conspiracy theories that JMT listeners may be used to, but Paz takes a break from the hardcore posturing for the album-ending “You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train,” a seven-minute diatribe about the historical oppression of minorities and the corruption of religion.”
Jedi Mind Tricks and Paz have a history of enlisting Rap legends to boost their records, and God of the Serengeti is no exception: the guests here deliver with cameos as big as their reputations. Mobb Deep contributes their Queens-bred brand of gutter on “Duel To The Death” over a beat that sounds like it could’ve been made by Havoc himself. “Problem Solver,” features some old-fashioned shit-talking from the rarely-seen Scarface. Tragedy Khadafi, R.A. The Rugged Man, Kool G Rap, and Paz’s Army of the Pharaohs crew also offer noteworthy verses.
Despite God of the Serengeti’s guest appearances, it still has a lack of variation of sound and subject matter that runs long at 18 songs and a bonus track. The disc could have trimmed a few songs and still delivered its point, but consistency speaks volumes, Vinnie Paz is likely giving loyal listeners what they want: as much gritty, venomous Rap as possible. For Paz’s second solo album, the mission is accomplished.