All four members of Souls of Mischief A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai are present for this interview. Theyre all crammed in a van, driving from city to city for their latest tour, a tour which has them celebrating the 20th anniversary of releasing their debut album, 93 Til Infinity.
To hardcore hip-hop heads, 93 Til Infinity is considered not only the Souls best album, but the finest album to come out of Hieroglyphics, the Bay Area hip-hop collective that includes Souls, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Casual and Pep Love.
Although these Oakland-bred emcees have been touring together since their debut, did they feel they had to go all out for this tour?
We didnt think about it like that, says A-Plus. But once we knew that 20 years was coming up, we were like, were gonna do it different than normal for our 20-year tour. We definitely had it in mind like, maybe, a year and a half prior to where we were like, yo, 20 years is coming up. We might wanna juice it up a little bit.
So, does this mean theyll be performing the album all the way through, in its entirety?
Were mostly doing stuff from 93 Til, says A-Plus. But the show is centered around the whole album. And what makes it different is, in the past, most of that album, a lot of it, we just have never performed. So people who are used to seeing the Souls, whove been traveling on the road since 93, people who are used to seeing us arent used to seeing this format of a show.
With its boho yet urban mix of jazzy samples and intricate rhymes that still bump to this day, its no wonder 93 Til Infinity is still regarded as a hip-hop classic. Some of todays younger, on-the-rise rappers have found ways to pay homage to it. Mac Miller has a mixtape with DJ Jazzy Jeff in the works called 92 Til Infinity, while Joey Bada$$ recently released a single titled 95 Til Infinity.
The men of Souls are flattered by the constant hat-tipping from these young cats, whom they also admire for bringing some fresh perspectives to the hip-hop game.
Its interesting, especially right now, says Tajai. I see, like, a lot of things kind of coming back to the era that we came up in. And I think things are starting to go more towards originality and kind of sticking out from the crowd. I mean, thats always gonna be a part of pop music copying whats hot or whatever. But theres a lot of diversity now.
Like, the difference between Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa are you can tell that they are totally different artists, he says. So you see that diversity in hip-hop coming back around like, you know, you had the Fugees and the Wu-Tang Clan or something. The realness is starting to come back to hip-hop. Its starting to be kind of, like, more popular to be original.
The guys are continuing to be as real and original as they have always been, not just on tour but on wax as well. The Kitchen, the latest album featuring Souls of Mischief and the entire Hieroglyphics crew, was released this week. Theyre also working on another album, along with a book and a documentary, which will both be retrospectives on 93 Til Infinity.
Considering how most veteran rap groups usually have a shelf life that rarely goes over five years, let alone 20, Souls of Mischief is just grateful that theyre still together, and that theyve amassed two decades worth of music and fans.
Were just really happy to be here 20 years later, says Tajai, rocking with Hieroglyphics, like nothing happened. Its love, man!