Vinnie Paz

Could you explain the title "Visions of Gandhi?"

It's basically something I thought about a while ago. On Foxy Brown's verse, remember on Affirmative Action on It was Written, she says, "They praise Allah with visions of Gandhi." It was always something that stuck in my head but I never applied it to anything. Then I thought with everything going on in Palestine, the war with Iraq, Mumia's in jail. I just felt this is a time right now that the world and society need someone like Gandhi. So Visions of Gandhi just kind of reflects that.

I noticed going around the Internet that there are two different spellings of Gandhi, one being Gh the other be dh. You guys have the correct spelling on your finally press work, right?

The correct spelling is Gandhi, that's on all our shirts and posters and stuff like that. Actually, there are some Americanized spellings that spell it the other way so I guess that's how the confusion came about.

A lot of people are wondering why Esoteric, Apathy or some of the other people you've collaborated with in the past didn't make the album, any particular reason?

Actually, since the albums not out I guess a lot of people don't know it. Eso is on the album. After the 17th track there's 3 bonus cuts and there's a song with me, Eso and my man King Syze. As far as Apathy himself, everything is cool. They were working on their stuff, we were working on ours. I'm actually going up to New York this Monday to work with those guys. Just conflicting schedules.

Did you guys plan to use the clout you earned with Violent By Design to get some big names, such as Kool G. Rap and Ras Kass?

With Canibus, we had done a joint together for his album Mic Club, so that went down pretty easily. With Kool G. Rap, Ras Kass and Non Phixion our managers just new each other so we just kind of threw it out there and it all came together.

Was it tougher to completely switch focus from Psycho-Social to Violent By Design, or to try to follow up a classic with a similar style?

To tell you the truth, when we make music there's no real conscious effort to create any certain sound. It's just inherently who we are. We just make the records the way we want to make them. Our only concern is making sure the shit is raw.

We planned on talking to Stoupe, but apparently he doesn't do interviews anymore...

He's just a weirdo. It's nothing personal to anyone, he just likes to let the music do the talking.

Do you feel as though there's more of a Latin sound to the songs now?

I can understand people saying that, but on some level we always had some Spanish shit in our music. Like Muerte on Violent by Design. We've always been influenced by Spanish music. Stoupe is Puerto Rican. Most of my squad is Puerto Rican. I listen to a lot of Spanish shit. So that's not something we planned on, but it's the way it worked out.

Do you ever plan on going back to the Psycho-Social style?

Yeah, it's just whatever we're doing. If that's what we feel like making then that's what will come out. We're tedious with our work and our work ethic, but at the same time his beats basically create the shit that I'm going to write. There couldn't be an upbeat stringy Latin beat with me rhyming about spaceships (laughs). I can get the vibe of my rhyme for the track.

So is that generally the process, where he gets the beat and you get inspired by that?

95% of the time. A couple of the rhymes for the album I already had written but most of it I got inspired from the beats. He's so dope that's just the way it goes.

Have you patched things up with Jus Allah?

Nah man. I haven't talked to him since everything went down. He just came out on some bullshit, making up stories and I set the record straight. Other than that I don't know.

Do you feel as though it kind of worked out the way you would have expected, where he and his label Omnipotent have just faded away?

Well the whole thing is, if you conduct yourself the way that they conducted themselves the karma police are eventually going to get you. People don't understand that you can't evade the karma police. It will always come back to get you. If you put out positive energy it will come back to you. If you put out negative energy it'll come back and bite you in the ass. It happened and I'm happy it happened. I don't feel like anyone is going to get away with playing me without anything happening. But it's deaded to me. Those cats aren't even in my mind.

In retrospect, do you wish you kept the group just you and Stoupe from the jump?

In retrospect, yeah because basically that's who it had been through the 90's. I pretty much brought Jus in because he was my home boy. Even during Violent by Design it was me and Stoupe making all the decisions. All the beats, movie samples, song titles; even down to he was still new to the game so we would have to teach him the proper manner to spit on a track. The fact of the matter is Jus Allah is dope. I'm not a little kid that can't admit the reality of situations. He can rhyme his ass off, he just turned on us. He plays the roll of Benedict Arnold and I can't stand that.

What is the status of the AOTP album?

Right now everyone is finishing their own shit. Apathy, Celph, Outerspace are finishing their albums. 7L and Esoteric are finishing Dangerous Connection II. So we're shooting for October or November to start the album. We're going to have Stoupe, 7L and Molemen on production. Hopefully some other heads too, but we're just laying the groundwork.

Now how has it been working with Canibus, whom we recently interviewed, have you guys taken things from each other while working together?

I can't speak for him, but to me, he's one of the dopest lyricist of all times. What I learned from him is that he can say a lot of complicated things in a short verse. He can compound it all down. Something that may take me 3 verses to say, it may only take him 1. I've learned from him the ability to try to get ideas across in a quicker manner. And he's just crazy lyrically, crazy flow-wise. A pleasure to work with him.

It must have also been an honor to work with someone as raw as you are. I assume most times when you're in the studio people can't match your presence.

A lot of people are sort of intimidated by the presence itself, but everyone on the album is as raw as me.

Do you find it difficult to find people that can match that on an album?

The truth is that's why if you really analyze it there's not a lot of younger heads on the album; it's all legends. All the heads from back in the day are the rawest. Kool G, Percee-P, Canibus is a vet now, Ras is a vet now have all been doing the raw shit. A lot of these younger cats are talking about flowers and burning incense and rapping about their girlfriends, I don't have time for that shit.

Have you seen the shirts Icon the Mic King made, with Butterbean on the front saying "I sucker punched Icon the Mic King?" Do you have a comment on that?

I've seen that, but the irony of the situation is I bumped into that kid and we squashed everything like last week. I seen him at a bar and we had a mutual friend. I was drinking and shit, he was drinking and shit and we just talked for a few minutes and deaded everything. So that's a non-issue now. I'm glad to get that cleared up for people to stop hyping that up on the net. I don't mean you guys, but just throughout the net. I'm a grown ass man. The older you get the less you want to deal with that. I have a family to feed, I want to get a house for my mom now. I just want to dead all that other shit.

Can you imagine putting out an album without Stoupe?

Nah. To me, we try to emulate the famous duos of the past. Guru and Premier, Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince. We're just going to stick together. He's going to do outside production. I'm going to do guest spots, but we'll always come back.

What is the story of "The Rage of Angels?" Who are you talking about?

Oh word, I'm glad you asked about that. My verse is about my man, we went to high school together, he was more like my brother. He's doing 13 to 30 years for attempted murder. He's been locked up since '98 so I wanted to let him know that I'm still thinking about him.

He called me from jail a couple of days ago and we talked for a while. He's like, 'I've seen what y'all are doing, I'm so proud of you. You've written letters and songs for me. I love you for that. You guys aren't forgetting about me.' It made my day to brighten his day a little bit because he's stuck in the belly of the beast right now.

--Joel & Andy