Album Review | Vinnie Paz – As Above So Below

This album was released on Valentine’s Day this year. I’m a huge fan of Vinnie Paz, and I think he’s one of the most consistent artists in Hip Hop, so this is actually one of my most anticipated releases of the year. The reason it took me so long to finally listen to it is because it’s just kind of a daunting release. It’s about an hour in length, which I guess isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but when I see an album with 18 tracks I feel like I have to set aside a lot of time to fully digest the project. I think I’m gonna love this shit though. I think every solo album he’s released up to this point has been amazing, so I don’t know if he’ll be able to top it here, but the single I heard definitely instilled a lot of confidence, and the features look promising, so I’m excited about this.

1. Crime Wave Tehran featuring Chinaski Black produced by Giallo Point

I really like the way this album starts; it begins with what sounds like a super old PSA about signs of satanism in children. The production here from Giallo Point is really cool too. I love how it’s just a dark loop with minimal percussion. The only drum on the entire song is a light hi-hat pattern. The opening verse from Vinnie is really hard, just as anyone could’ve predicted.

A couple rounds popped into his visage
How can an unpolished mirror reflect an image?
It’s always motion, action and devotion
And you ain’t thinking, homie, you reacting off emotion

The hook from Chinaski Black is super simplistic, but I think that works to the song’s benefit. I can picture the music video for this song in my head. I just imagine Vinnie sitting on a folding chair in a dimly lit room where the only source of light is a fire, and everything around him is super rusty and dirty, and he’s wearing a ski mask. There would have to be a lot of cool visual effects and filters to make it interesting though. Anyway, the second verse from Vinnie is fire.

The maiden bathing in a clear pool of fresh water
This the Hiero fan’s chalice, this the next slaughter
Perpendicular of the pyramid dress alter
I was taught the brazen bull is the best torture

I’m wondering if he was referencing the recent disses from Doap Nixon & King Magnetic with these lines here…

You say my name, I’m fucking you up
Y’all are clout chasing, homie, and enough is enough

This shit is hard. I really fuck with this song. It’s dope.

2. Scorched Earth featuring Estee Nack & Jay Royale produced by Stu Bangas

This track is even better than the preceding one in my opinion. I really like how it’s structured. It kinda reminds me of those classic Army of the Pharaohs songs that just felt like cyphers. The Stu Bangas production fits all three of the MCs on this song perfectly. The first verse from Vinnie was very good, and Estee Nack killed it. I was super impressed by Estee Nack’s performance on that recent Trust Army single, so I was happy to see him here, and he didn’t disappoint. He said something about getting it moving from Venice to Budapest, which is funny because I’m pretty sure he mentioned Venice twice in the verse I referenced on that Trust Army song. He did his thing here though. I’d never heard of this Jay Royale guy before hearing this song, but he did a really great job with the final verse.

Burn shit like incinerators pushin’ pen to paper
Fuck around and split your chin with a razor

I think the song is dope as hell honestly. It’s got a very straightforward structure, but everything here is just super well done.

3. I Am the Chaos produced by Vic Grimes

Vinnie Paz announced that his upcoming album “As Above So Below” would be releasing on Valentine’s Day either at the beginning of this year or late last year, so that’s been one of my most anticipated records of 2020 for a while now. As you hopefully know by now, I’m a huge fan of him. By the time this post goes up, the album will be available, so make sure you check that shit out. Anyway, this song is incredible. I wish y’all could’ve seen my reaction the first time I listened to this shit. The way Vinnie was flowing on both of these verses literally made my jaw drop. My mouth stayed agape. In fact, my jaw was on the floor so long that I literally drooled on my computer. I’m not even joking right now. That’s a real thing that happened. The last time I reacted like that to something was when I heard Kendrick’s final verse on DNA for the first time. I was fucking astonished. His flow and breath control are unreal on this joint. It’s wild how Vinnie manages to exceed my expectations with every single project. I think his first four solo albums are amazing, but I know at some point he’s gonna make something that’s just great. They can’t all be amazing. This is a stellar first impression though. I think I’m gonna love the album, and it’s gonna make the most depressing holiday far less unpleasant for me. Check this shit out.

4. Mabuhay Gardens featuring Block McCloud produced by Caliber & Johnny Burgos

This track has probably my favorite beat up to this point on the record. I think the opening verse from Vinnie is pretty great, but I’m not crazy about Block McCloud’s hook. I’ve never really been super into his singing, but it’s not terrible here I guess. The second verse from Vinnie was cool, but I could’ve done without that tired simile comparing asians and stoned people. I think this song is pretty good, but it’s definitely a lowlight on this album for me. Vinnie did his thing on the verses, and I love the beat, but nothing about this track really pushes it to the next level, and I’m not crazy about the hook. It’s a cool track though; I fuck with it.

5. The Conjuring produced by Bronze Nazareth

This song has another really great beat. I guess I should’ve seen that coming with the Bronze Nazareth placement. The opening verse here is awesome. Once again, Vinnie’s flow and breath control here is stellar. The content here is a bit more philosophical than that of the preceding material. I mean, that’s peppered in throughout the entire album, but it’s more in depth here.

Parasitic astral deities inform the occupants
Them headshots is comin’ for the top like it’s a condiment
The law of one, raw, channeling, challenging continents
Physical death, mystical breath, it’s found in the documents

The hook on this track is super simplistic, but it serves its purpose well. I love how esoteric & I guess “nerdy” the lyricism here is.

Divide and conquer, grand strategy of the Reptilians
Witches and warlocks congregate in the pavilion
Fundamental and coded bases for the civilians
I tuck the shotty, abduct the bodies, it’s in the millions

The hook is probably the most underwhelming aspect of this song, but I love the production, and the rapping from Vinnie is top notch. This shit is dope as hell.

6. The Black Hand featuring Demoz produced by Aaron Hiltz & C-Lance

This track is kinda frustrating. I think it has some of the best rapping up to this point, as well as one of the better instrumentals on the album. The issue is the hook. I just published a review for the latest Jadakiss album in which I stated that he would be in a personal list of the top 10 rappers who should never sing. You know who else would be on that list? Yeah. This hook is terrible. The thing is, it’s not quite bad enough to ruin the song for me. It sounds goofy as hell, but it’s got kind of an odd charm to it at the same time. With that said, I’d probably hate this song if the rapping wasn’t as good as it is. The lyricism from Vinnie on the initial verse is super hostile, and I love it.

The Mossberg flex make a change to your skin tone
There’s nothin’ changing, everything is carved into stone
I will cook ’em ’til the meat falls off of the bone

I was happy to see Demoz on this project because I’ve always considered him to be one of the better MCs out of the AOTP crew. I’d say that Vinnie definitely had the better performance here from a lyrical perspective, but they both sounded really great on the verses. The hook here is atrocious, so I don’t love the song as much as I wanted to, but I still like it quite a bit. The song is dope.

7. Mock Up on Mu produced by Stu Bangas & DJ Eclipse

This song has one of my favorite beats on the project. It sounds like some old school Wu-Tang type shit. Speaking of Wu-Tang, the Method Man sample that they flipped for the hook is really cool. The scratches from DJ Eclipse are amazing. This is my shit. The first verse is fantastic.

I ain’t the motherfucker you should box with
We can take it to the guns, homie this a chop stick
Put the motherfucker in your mouth like it’s a swab stick
Bring the box-cutter in the motherfuckin’ cockpit

The second verse was really great too, but it’s just kinda hard to understand some of the bars since he’s using a lot of Muslim terminology that I’m not familiar with. It sounds great though. This is one of my favorite songs on the album to be honest. I think this shit is dope as hell.

8. Ankle Bracelets featuring Queen Herawin produced by Stu Bangas

This song has yet another stellar beat. Stu Bangas really did a great job on this project. I love this instrumental. It’s relatively melodic and light-hearted sounding. It kinda gives me the same feeling that Childish Gambino’s Firefly gave me. The content of this song is really odd to me though. He’s basically rapping about his aversion to women throughout the whole song.

Y’all God’s curse ma, Eve ate the apple
And y’all ain’t gonna convince me that monogamy is natural
I ain’t tryin to talk with somebody who’s not rational
And who the fuck is you to try to take me from my castle

This is really fucking weird to be honest. I can’t tell if he’s being serious or if this is just a weird misogynistic persona. As far as I can tell, he seems like a super nice guy in real life, so I’m guessing it’s the latter, but I’m not completely sure. I’m not really crazy about the hook either. I just find Queen Herawin’s voice to be really annoying. It’s not bad enough to ruin the song though. The second verse was cool. I don’t know… I was kinda torn on the subject matter at first, but it grew on me as I was listening. I feel like it kinda makes sense for his super aggressive, macho, hyper violent rap style. I’d much rather have this than a love song from him. I fuck with the song, but it’s definitely not a favorite of mine.

9. The Compleat Witch featuring Nowaah the Flood produced by Evilldewer

I’ve heard some features from Nowaah the Flood in the past, and he’s never really been super impressive to me, but he’s not bad. I’d never heard of Evilldewer before listening to this song, but I love this beat. It’s super dark. Evilldewer is definitely a good name for someone who makes shit like this because it sounds like pure maleficence in the form of music. It’s definitely one of my favorite beats on the album. I feel like I’ve been saying that for half of the songs on the project, but I really mean it about this one. The first verse from Nowaah was okay. I think he sounded good, but I could barely understand most of what he was saying to be honest. The second verse from Vinnie was great though.

You is insecure, homie, you is lonely inside
You ain’t got nobody, you ain’t got no homies to ride
This a bloodbath over here, furious wars
It’s banana clips everywhere, Curious George

He fits perfectly over this beat. Maybe him and this Evilldewer person should work more frequently because this is a perfect match in my opinion. The song itself feels kinda skeletal as a whole. There’s not much going on here; it’s just two verses one after another. This is the shortest song on the album, and I kinda wish there was at least one more verse, but I still like this quite a bit. I think it’s really dope.

10. Hannibal produced by DNZ

This song has another fantastic beat, and Vinnie basically starts spazzing right away.

These bullets is like mosquitoes
I put the clip in,they get tospittin’ like they the Migos
The Sinwith Don Quixote and Cueva de Montesinos
These bullets burn, ahki, they hotter than jalapeños

I know I said that Vinnie Paz should never sing earlier in this review, but I actually think he sounds kinda good on the hook here. He’s not trying to sing his ass off like Luther Vandross or anything. He just has a melodic delivery, and it went over relatively well.

There’s devils movin’ everywhere, motherfuckers shape-shift
The gem star gonna get his batiman a face lift
His skin hangin’ off, blood drippin’ from the blade tip
AKs, banana clips have me goin’ ape shit

From what I understand, “batiman” is basically a Jamaican euphemism for the F word. “F word,” as in the homophobic slur. Not “fuck.” There’s always been an implicit hostility towards homosexuals in Vinnie’s music, which is unfortunate. I kinda try to ignore it the same way I ignore it in a lot of Eminem’s music, but obviously not everyone’s gonna be able to look past it. I still really fuck with this song though. This shit is dope as hell to me.

11. Sicilian Bull produced by Vic Grimes & DJ Eclipse

This beat is amazing. As soon as this shit came on, I was like…

OOOOOH

Vinnie fucking slaughtered this shit too, man. He was spittin’ his fuckin’ ass off. Once again, his flow and breath control here is remarkable.

A tons of guns appear, and it’s cartridges in abundance here
It’s motherfuckers armed to the teeth it’s like we the Bundeswehr
We took a tunnel there, to the sewer it wasn’t traceable
The blicky go up under your chin and blow out your nasal roof

I LIVE FOR THIS SHIT. I fucking love it, man. The scratches from DJ Eclipse on the hook are fantastic, and the second verse is even better than the first in my opinion. The way he was flowing and rhyming here was astonishing. This is easily one of the best songs on the album in my opinion. I think this shit is dope af.

12. Cero Miedo produced by Lucky Loopiano

This track has another phenomenal instrumental. It kinda reminds me of Try Me by Trae tha Truth, except less repetitive. The first verse is pretty nice. I’m not crazy about the sung hook though. Once again, Vinnie’s vocals sound way better than I would’ve expected, but they’re still not particularly good. I can tolerate it, but it’s easily my least favorite aspect of the song. The second verse was very good. Honestly, this is one of the weaker tracks on the album in my opinion just because I’m not really into the hook, but the rapping and production are good enough to make the song enjoyable to some extent. I think this is pretty good.

13. Spilled Milk featuring Eamon produced by Stu Bangas

This is one of the few more sentimental cuts on the album. The piano driven beat has kind of a childlike atmosphere to it. The lyricism about Vinnie’s father is very gripping.

Sometimes you think something is when it isn’t
He was gonna die and that was his decision
I could never do the same in this condition
He left three sons and a wife in that position

The hook here sounds really gorgeous. Eamon’s vocals are really nice. It sounds like the hook is a sample from an old song, but I don’t know for sure. The second verse is even more emotionally potent than the first one.

Ten years old, they telling me that my father dead
What the fuck was going through my father head?
He ain’t think his youngest need his father?
Had a million chances to change, but didn’t bother
It’s like he ain’t love me enough to live
Or do something to make an adjustment for his kids
And you ain’t think you dyin’ would divide us?
And you ain’t think a ten year old boy needed guidance?

Sad

Honestly, there’s really not a single aspect of this track that I don’t like. I’m glad he decided to throw this more personal song on the album. It’s really well done. I think this shit is dope af.

14. Vahid Mardi featuring Rigz produced by C-Lance

The beat on this track is relatively underwhelming, but I don’t think it’s bad at all. It just doesn’t really stand out that much to me. Honestly, the same thing can be said about the opening verse from Vinnie. I don’t think it was bad at all, but it’s definitely one of the more uninteresting performances from him on the album in my opinion. I really like the hook though; I think him and Rigz’s voice have a nice contrast to each other. Rigz surprisingly ended up having a more enjoyable verse on this track to me. It was weird though because I couldn’t really understand a lot of what he was saying. I just think he sounded really good here. I haven’t really been that impressed by the verses I’ve heard from him in the past, but this was dope. Overall, I think this is one of the less attention grabbing songs, but I definitely like it. I think I was just caught off guard by how much I enjoyed Rigz’s performance. I fuck with the song though; it’s dope.

15. I’ll Buy All the Uranium You’ve Got featuring Block McCloud produced by Nick Jackelson

Most of what I said about the preceding track’s production applies to this one, although I definitely prefer this instrumental. The opening verse from Vinnie is more of what he always does, but I’m 100% okay with that because it’s fire.

This philosophy I walk into a Mosque with Descartes
This is Jeffrey Dahmer ’89, fork in the heart
This magnum ain’t eat in a while, see, the cal’ hungry
It’s why I got my hand in my drawers like I’m Al Bundy

My least favorite aspect of this song is easily the hook though. Again, I’ve never been into Block McCloud’s singing, and this is even harder to stomach than his first appearance on the album. The way he sings reminds me of the way Krizz Kaliko sings. It just sounds way too over the top. Honestly, I think it’s terrible, and it ruins the song for me. The first and second verses from Vinnie are very dope, but I just can’t tolerate that hook. It’s really fucking bad to me. The song as a whole is okay, but I would’ve liked it a lot more without Block McCloud.

16. Doomsday Machine featuring Vast Aire & Demoz produced by Stu Bangas

This was one of the more intriguing songs in the track listing due to the Vast Aire feature. I wasn’t really sure how I would feel about it because in my opinion few rappers have fallen off as hard as Vast Aire. Anyway, I really love the production from Stu Bangas here. The beat kinda has that 80s Electronic-ish sound. Vinnie murdered that first verse too.

I told you you should learn from mistakes
I will violate a motherfucker’s personal space
This a carbotech, come with a submersible case
As the sound of the demon bell, merciful fate

The hook is nothing special, but it serves its purpose well enough. The verse from Vast Aire was about as good as I could’ve hoped for honestly. It was obviously nowhere near the quality of his writing on The Cold Vein, but compared to some of the other shit he’s done recently it’s pretty great. The only line that really stood out in a good way was the one about him pinching your wind cord. That was kinda hard. The final couplet was kinda trash, but I can tolerate it. Demoz’s verse was much better.

I remember I was broke, scramblin’ so I could smoke
No joke, I was livin’ like an addict sniffin’ dope
In the attic doing coke with a addict gettin’ throat
Like a savage, but I’m not a savage, nigga, I’m the GOAT

Vinnie definitely had the best verse in my opinion, but Demoz did a good job, and Vast Aire’s verse wasn’t complete dogshit thankfully. The song is dope.

17. Serve the Creator featuring Recognize Ali produced by Bronze Nazareth

The beat on this track is really dope, but funnily enough it sounds kinda like something RZA might make. If you haven’t read my review of Dueling Experts or even just listened to the album yourself then you probably won’t get why that’s kinda odd. Ali’s verse here is really dope though, and I think he fits in really well on this album.

A hustler in the streets, in the booth I’m an animal
I spit that fire water, and the flow’s highly inflammable
Seven Star General, the third war Hannibal
This hammer though, will leave a hole in your cantaloupe

It should be noted that this instrumental is far more detailed than anything from Dueling Experts. It’s not just an incessant loop. Vinnie’s performance here was ridiculously disappointing though, and it pains me to say that. It’s not that the verse is bad. The issue is that… Well… Just look at these lyrics…

This philosophy I walk into a Mosque with Descartes
This is Jeffrey Dahmer ’89, fork in the heart
This magnum ain’t eat in a while, see, the cal’ hungry
It’s why I got my hand in my drawers like I’m Al Bundy

Seem familiar? He literally recycled his opening verse from track 15. I have no idea why he did that; it’s really a baffling decision. If he was gonna recycle an old verse, he could’ve at least chosen something aside from what listeners will have already heard 2 songs ago. I just don’t understand why he chose to spit the exact same thing. Maybe he just had a bunch of verses written and forgot which ones he already used, and he didn’t listen to the album before releasing it, so he had no idea that this even happened. I don’t know. It’s the weirdest, most disappointing moment on the album to be honest. With that said, I like the song. I didn’t like the track that the verse originally appeared on, so I guess it’s nice that it’s been moved to a better song, but it’s still weird. I fuck with the song, but I’d be far more satisfied if it had its own unique verse from Vinnie.

18. The Gone-Away World produced by Scott Stallone

Pretty much every solo album from Vinnie has ended with a super grandiose, dramatic song about the power structure of the world. This track pretty much has him rapping about different manifestations of evil. He referenced police brutality and manipulative thots, among other things. I think the instrumental is cool, although I wish it was a bit less repetitive. The hook is also a bit underwhelming, but as a whole I actually really fuck with this track. I think it has some of the best rapping on the album. It’s dope as hell.


This album is great. I’m kinda disappointed though. I don’t think it’s anywhere near as amazing as his first four solo albums. None of the songs here are particularly bad though. My issue really comes down to two things honestly. First of all, the features are really a mixed bag. People like Recognize Ali & Estee Nack did a really great job, but then you have Block McCloud and Vast Aire kinda fucking things up. The other thing is… Some of these hooks suck ass. In fact, I don’t think there’s a single hook here that I love. Even my favorite track here has a hook that kinda just gets the job done. I feel like this album could’ve been cut in half honestly. If he pared it down to the best material this could’ve been on par with his other albums. Don’t get me wrong though, this is a great album. It’s way better than what a lot of other artists have been putting out this year. I just like his other solo work a lot more. This shit is dope though. Check it out.

Favorite Song: I Am the Chaos
Least Favorite Song: I’ll Buy All the Uranium in the World

82

B+
Grade: B+

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