photo & text by nacrowe
hailing from OAKLAND and part of the HIEROGLYPHICS collective centered around DEL THA FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN and his collaborators, the UNDERGROUND group SOULS OF MISCHIEF to my ears is the perfect distillation of what was great about early 90s, NATIVE TONGUES-influenced HIP HOP. case in point is their classic debut 93 'TIL INFINITY (JIVE, 1993) which deftly utilizes vintage JAZZ samples in a manner not dissimilar than high-profile JIVE RECORDS label-mates A TRIBE CALLED QUEST. and i make that direct connection not as a disservice to SOULS OF MISCHIEF as means of writing them off as emulators, but instead as a means of providing context to a highly INFLUENTIAL sonic template that still very much informs HIP HOP production to this day (MOS DEF, PHARRELL, OUTKAST). when i consider A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, their innovative production on those early records was in essence a foundation for Q-TIP's and PHIFE DAWG's INGENIOUS, HUMOROUS and highly IDIOSYNCRATIC perspectives and personal psychodramas about daily life in NYC. what is compelling about SOULS OF MISCHIEF, especially on their debut, is how their seamlessly their SMOOTH vocal cadences and delivery meld into the RELAXED vibe of those JAZZ samples, especially the title track "93 TIL INFINITY." its an absolutely striking counterpoint to the AGGRESSIVE WEST COAST HIP HOP of the period (DR. DRE, ICE CUBE, SNOOP DOGG, TUPAC SHAKUR) associated with their distant cohorts in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. for me, their debut is an exploration of groove.
lyrically all four members, A-PLUS, OPIO, PHEST and TAJAI are deft craftsman when it comes to writing and executing SOPHISTICATED internal rhyme structures. as a former english teacher, i live for this stuff and always appreciate the technical WIZARDRY and linguistic DEXTERITY required in order to bend language to your will. topic-wise the songs on 93 'TIL INFINITY celebrated their OAKLAND roots and the greater community that supported them. as a listener, this record feels EMPOWERING in how it promotes RACIAL NITY and PRIDE in their community. again, that lyrical stance is a stark contrast to what was brewing in LOS ANGELES at the time on DEATH ROW RECORDS, who took their cue from the remnants of N.W.A. and created a discography that marketed and perpetuated the almost-MILITARISTIC concept of the BLACK community as an OPPOSITIONAL FORCE to that of rampant INSTITUTIONAL RACISM of the state at the time. it was an AGGRESSIVE and defiantly CONFRONTATIONAL stance that seemingly bifurcated an audience and created an US vs THEM mentality. SOULS OF MISCHIEF seemed more of a grassroots, bottom-up celebration of a DYNAMIC community that validated itself in the process. to this day i feel like the overall vibe and perspective of 93 'TIL INFINITY when considered in context to its peers, was a SIGNIFICANT record that was a more MATURE and COMPLEX statement of what it was like to be a creative artist during that period before the whole polarization in the industry that defined the decade (EAST COAST vs WEST COAST) reared its ugly, pointless head.
definitely check out 93 'TIL INFINITY, its a criminally OVERLOOKED classic HIP HOP record for the ages.