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Industry Misfits: Jedi Mind Tricks & Mac Danzig Talk Fights, Rhymes, & Being Outsiders

Three outside-the-box figures converge for a candid talk about art, life, and being outsiders when Mac Danzig and Jedi Mind Tricks get together. Three outside-the-box figures converge for a candid talk about art, life, and being outsiders when Mac Danzig and Jedi Mind Tricks get together.

What do a pair of underground hip-hop heavyweights and an outside-the-box mixed martial artist have in common? Well, besides a love of combat sports and hard-hitting music, East Coast rappers Jedi Mind Tricks and UFC star Mac Danzig both know very well what life is like outside the mainstream.

Jedi Mind Tricks, comprised of MCs Vinnie Paz and Jus Allah, have just released an impressive new album, Violence Begets Violence. Meanwhile, Mac Danzig, aka “The World’s Toughest Vegan,” is coming off one of the most exciting fights of the year at a UFC Live event in October. So we here at RosebudMag.com figured it was the perfect time to sit the three friends down to share their thoughts on everything from the music industry to fighting.

Buckle up readers. This isn’t your typical journalistic Q & A. This is a candid conversation between three men who have carved out a niche in their industries while bucking the stereotype of who you need to be to succeed as either a fighter or a rap group.

Jus Allah: I’m going to start it off. Mac, I know you were a skater before you started fighting. How did you make that transition? Were you a skater that was fighting people? Were you violent?

Mac Danzig: No. I mean, I was always fighting growing up but I wasn’t a bully. When I was skateboarding as a teenager, I was watching the UFC when it first came out. It wasn’t even a sport back then. They’d throw a boxer in there against a sumo wrestler or a karate guy or Royce Gracie.

Vinnie Paz: Yeah, I remember in the early ‘90s watching the Gracies and shit.

Mac Danzig: I would watch all that stuff and study it as best I could. Over the years, the sport started evolving. When I was 18 or 19, skateboarding was peaking out for me. I got as good as I was ever going to end up getting skill-wises. But at the same time, I lived in a shitty area and there was nowhere to skate because I didn’t have a car. And all my friends who I would skate with who would drive us downtown, all moved to California or Florida to try to pursue professional skateboarding. Or else they quit skating and got a job.

I had a job at this farm sanctuary and finally I met this guy who was doing some jiu-jitsu and this other guy who was doing some boxing. I hooked up with them and started training. Fighting eventually took the place of skateboarding as my outlet. I always needed a creative outlet and I loved fighting.

Vinnie Paz: You bring up boxing. I don’t know how many of your fans know how much of a boxing head you are. Me and you will text each other at two in the morning that some Pernell Whitaker fight is on ESPN Classic.

Mac Danzig: Boxing will always be my number one sport as a fan. There’s nothing I’d rather watch. I’m always down to nerd out on some good boxing talk. I don’t want to say that it’s a dying art but there’s not so many people around to have a conversation with about the history of boxing or what’s currently going on.

Vinnie Paz: Absolutely. I agree. Why do you think that happened? Why do you think that mixed martial arts became the choice for the younger generation?

Mac Danzig: Well, I don’t look at them as competing the way some people do. A lot of people think that MMA has taken over the boxing fan base. And I guess it has because the UFC has promoted the hell out of the sport. But I think boxing, even if MMA wasn’t there, the promoters are running it into the ground. They’re not showcasing the talented people out there. You’ve got awesome people fighting out there. But all they care about is who can promote a fight.

Vinnie Paz: Yeah, so the promoters try to create conflict out of nothing.

Mac Danzig: I wanted to ask you guys, you know, with the changes in the music industry and CDs not selling the way they used to, you guys still have an extremely large following where fans not only buy the record but come out and fill up the halls and clubs. Do you think having found that touring niche is what has allowed you to make a living? Because I know some major label artists that couldn’t fill a studio apartment in LA.

Jus Allah & Vinnie Paz: (laughter)

Mac Danzig: But they might have a video on MTV. You know what I mean?

Vinnie Paz: We talk about that all the time. There’s dudes that will be on BET and everyone in the barbershop knows the lyrics, but they’re still in the projects. I think Jus’ and my ability to not be stubborn enough to say, “Yo, things can only go one way” helped us. You’ve got to know where your bread is buttered. To make the comparison for obvious reasons, if you’re a defensive whiz in boxing who throws punches in bunches and then doesn’t get hit, you’re not going to try to bang in the middle of the ring. We started seeing where the loyalty is. These kids buy music and show us love, so let’s build on that. Why would we cook steak for people who don’t want to eat steak, when these kids are dying for steak over in this other place.

Mac Danzig: So do you think with all these guys still hoping to get their video on TV, is that still a relevant goal?

Jus Allah: Yeah, that still works. If you’re really poppin’ in the States, that’s where it starts. Then the fans overseas are going to love you. We’re just riding the wave of wherever we feel the biggest response from. Even on this tour, we cut out some Midwest shows because they’re into Insane Clown Posse and shit like that. You can’t really wake up kids. You know what I’ve learned? Stupid people like stupid music. Only a certain amount of people are going to like us because we’re cutting edge.

Vinnie Paz: I couldn’t agree more. It’s like, you know that person that goes to every rally and Occupy Wall Street and Million Man March and Support Ron Paul and spends 20 hours a day doing this and then they turn 35 or something and they feel like they never changed anything and all their work was for nothing? Me and Jus started seeing that. If you’re an Insane Clown Posse dude dressed in face paint we can’t change how you think. (laughs)

So we just accept our lane. We look at people we idolize that have discovered their lane and just followed that. Look at a group like De La Soul. De La can still tour globally and sell it out because they understood their lane and were like, “Y’all have to come to us because we’re not coming to you.” And that’s why there’s not a song with me and Jus and Insane Clown Posse. And I’m not dissing them because they’re tremendous businessmen.

Mac Danzig: I always thought it was cool how you guys would pack these clubs while other artists who seem better known can’t do it. So it’s not about having the label behind you.

Jus Allah: Yeah. Prime example was when we did Rock The Bells. And Yelawolf and Big Sean opened for us and nobody in the crowd was feeling them at all. It was kind of a joke. And then over a year, just because they got a label push, now that makes them hot. I never thought they were dope at all.

Vinnie Paz: It’s crazy that Jus brought that up because it answers a lot about the question you’ve been asking us. We’ve been seeing it for twenty years, but with that we literally saw it in front of our eyes. We literally saw two groups on a major tour and have no one care about their music. No one watching them and practically getting booed, and within a year of that they’re bordering on being stars. They were opening up for us and we were killing it to thousands of kids and nobody there was trying to hear them. It’s the perfect example of the machine and how nobody can ever tell me there isn’t a matrix because I’ve seen it.

Jus Allah: And Big Sean was like “Ya’ll go hard, dawg.” And I couldn’t even give him the same respect. Now he’s got Chris Brown on a song and everything’s lovely, but I’ve seen that guy perform in front of ten people who were yawning, waiting for the next act to come on.

Mac Danzig: So do you think that just goes to show that you don’t need any kind of energy as a live artist these days?

Jus Allah: Yo, we thought these guys were fucking awful.

Vinnie Paz: Think of the shit the three of us grew up on like Public Enemy, where the live show was unbelievable. It’s like, the live show was the cornerstone of the culture, you know what I mean? And now it’s like a terrible dude screaming into a mic, a DJ who’s not a real DJ - who can’t cut, can’t mix. It’s a fucking mockery.

Jus Allah: I saw Tyga in Philly and people were throwing batteries and booing. When the music stopped all you heard were boos. He was trying to rap over the boos. Paz and me, even solo, we can command a crowd. You’re going to listen to me. I’ll come into the crowd. I don’t care who’s there. You’re going to pay attention when I’m on the stage. And together, we got that in the bag. We’re MCs. People are going to pay attention to what we got to say. And we’ve seen a bunch of amateurs who are related to people in the industry or whatever just blow up over night.

Mac Danzig: The other thing I wanted to ask was, I listened to the new album [Violence Begets Violence] and I was really impressed, which is saying a lot because I already expect a lot out of you guys. This one has the same energy, not the same sound, but the same energy as Violent By Design, which is your opus.

Vinnie Paz: Yeah, man. Everyone’s going to compare your stuff to the record that they perceive to be your classic.

Mac Danzig: I’m sure you guys have been tired of hearing it for years now, but to me and a lot of other people, that’s a classic. It’s up there with Illmatic and 36 Chambers [by Nas and Wu-Tang Clan, respectively]. Do you feel like you were tapping into that same energy this time?

Vinnie Paz: I felt a lot like we were kids again. I had so much fun making the record. I definitely felt the energy of being a teenager again.

Jus Allah: Yeah, now we have so much more experience, but we’re still able to execute it. A lot of people lose that. We could have stumbled onto Violent By Design, know what I’m saying? That could have been a fluke. But here we are 11 or 12 years later and we come just as hard. That proves that it was nothing like that. We know what we’re doing and we’re going to keep doing it.

Vinnie Paz: Yeah, I’m a firm believer in the stars being aligned. Everything was clicking on all cylinders with this record. We finally got back into that groove that we had when we were just friends who rapped together. Once we got that back, there’s really no one fucking with us when we’re in that zone.

Mac Danzig: One thing I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you can both attest to this, is that there are people, even if they don’t have the same tastes that you have, they are artistically inclined. Whether it’s drawing and painting, or being a musician, or a martial artist, or a skateboarder, there’s something about someone who has that artistic side to them. That’s why I can talk to you about Stanley Kubrick movies or David Lynch and stuff. It’s not like anything bores us. I can talk to you about whatever. And I think that’s why the three of us click.

Vinnie Paz: Absolutely.

Mac Danzig: It’s like we all have an understanding of what is artistic about the process of making something, as opposed to just the end result, which is what a lot of people are looking for: The knockout in the fight. The hook in the song. Landing the trick on the skateboard, or this painting looks great. It’s more about the process and how you got there. And we see that through the same type of eyes.

Jus Allah: No doubt.

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The first video from Jedi Mind Tricks' new album, Violence Begets Violence.
Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 16:32

Happy is a regular contributor to RosebudMag.com and has written for various other publications, including Black Belt, Inside Hockey, and FoxSports.com. He transitioned to life as a writer following a decade-long career as a touring musician. He lives with his son in Vancouver, British Columbia

Website: www.rosebudmag.com/hkreter

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