August 17, 2009

Souls Of Mischief - 93 'Til Infinity (September 28, 1993)


The Souls of Mischief are classified as an "alternative" hip hop group, one based out of Oakland, California. I've always hated the fact that hip hop has to be further divided into as many different sub-genres as possible, especially when, in this case, "alternative" generally means that the artist or artists involved are not very violent with their lyrics. Which isn't the case for Souls Of Mischief at all: they have more than a few songs where motherfuckers are killed, son! They just also rhyme about repercussions and shit, yo! They're hardcore! They also weave jazzy influences into their instrumentals and take time to have fun with their rhymes, almost as if they realize that, as rappers, they don't actually have real jobs, and they are fully appreciative of that fact.

Souls Of Mischief are made up of four rappers: Opio, Tajai, Phesto, and A-Plus (who also produces), all of whom are part of a much bigger collective known as Hieroglyphics, a crew of rappers, producers, and like-minded creative individuals all based out of the Left Coast. The four Souls linked up in school and released their debut album, 93 'Til Infinity, in 1993 on Jive Records, a label who has always been known to treat rap artists fairly. (Zing!)

93 'Til Infinity, the first album to come from the Hiero camp (the collective wouldn't solidify their membership until several years after this disc's release), is considered to be one of the best hip hop albums to come out of the West, if not one of the best ever. The production duties (and guest spots, now that I think of it) are handled exclusively by Hiero affiliates Domino (a guy who I always got confused with the rapper who recorded "Getto Jam"; I always wondered how those two could get away with using the same moniker), Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (Ice Cube's cousin, an "alternative" rapper in his own right, and, from what I understand, the main reason that the Souls turned into a group), Jay Biz, Casual, and A-Plus himself, and it consistently defies your expectations as to what a hip hop album from Oakland should sound like, especially since Digital Underground also came from that area.

Not that Souls Of Mischief have a "The Humpty Dance" in their vaults or anything.

1. LET 'EM KNOW
Foregoing the typical rap album intro, Opio, Tajai, A-Plus, and Phesto elect to use the first track on their group debut to actually play us a song, choosing to show and prove rather than talk shit. And the experiment works. Domino's production meshes with their boasts brilliantly. They don't put much effort into the hook, which shows, but the song still manages to work.

2. LIVE AND LET DIE
It seems a bit early in the sequence for a song in which the beat overtakes the lyrics, but here we are. For what it's worth, Domino's beat is alright (I dug the piano keys sprinkled throughout), and the lyrics sounded okay (with the exception of Opio's opening verse, which I just couldn't get into), but otherwise, I can't imagine anybody ever putting this song on 'repeat'.

3. THAT'S WHEN YA LOST (FEAT PEP LOVE)
In contrast, I loved the beat on this one, which was produced by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. The dramatic feel of this track is amped up by the random boasts by everyone involved, creating a classic sound. Nice!

4. A NAME I CALL MYSELF
Contains a jazzier instrumental than you would expect from a sex rap. The chorus is pretty bland, but the lyrics are goofy enough. Overall, though, you'll just forget about this song in an hour.

5. DISSESHOWEDO
I didn't really care for this one, either.

6. WHAT A WAY TO GO OUT (FEAT CASUAL)
The Souls of Mischief make the idea of joining a street gang sound like the least thought-out concept in the history of time. Which would be commendable if they didn't play their roles so goddamn seriously. True to its title, though, the way that the lead character dies is unexpected (at least, it is if you're not familiar with the story of Eric “Eazy-E” Wright).

7. NEVER NO MORE
Hooks are rarely the strong suit of any rapper, regardless of the coast, and these guys are no exception. The song's producer, A-Plus, makes a proclamation (“I get the props, you get the buttocks”) that is kind of funny, though, helping to bring 93 'Til Infinity back on track.

8. 93 'TIL INFINITY
Most readers of HHID will be familiar with this song, but for those of you who aren't, welcome! And be sure to check out this classic A-Plus-produced track on YouTube before reading the rest of the review. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. Kanye West and Consequence attempted a remake/homage of this track a few years back, and while they did alright for themselves, nothing's going to top the original.

9. LIMITATIONS (FEAT CASUAL & DEL THE FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN)
Del's distinctive voice on the hook is a welcome change of pace, but his chorus is unnecessary and inane. The song itself sounds pretty weak when compared to the tracks it is sandwiched between, but when removed from this context, it's alright.

10. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
This is my favorite song on here by far: this shit fucking rocks. The A-Plus beat is what I wish today's hip hop sounded like: simple and hard-hitting all at once, with the faintest sense of melody. (That's probably why I liked the Diamond District album so much.) The tale these four weave actually doubles as a public service announcement: anything can happen, so beware, as you never really know who you're fucking with. Words to keep in mind.

11. MAKE YOUR MIND UP
I found the reference to “bottom ramen” (“never Top”) pretty hilarious. Actually, the boasts on this track are all pretty funny. This shit isn't bad at all, although it sounds completely different than “Anything Can Happen”.

12. BATTING PRACTICE
Comes off as some West Coast gangsta rap by way of Digable Planets. Which is to say, the music is engaging in an entirely different way than you would expect. Still good, though.

13. TELL ME WHO PROFITS
The most serious track on 93 'Til Infinity also happens to be the most boring song on here. Huh.

14. OUTRO
And we're done.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 93 'Til Infinity presents listeners with a West Coast rap album with the sensibilities, sound, and lyrical delivery of an East Coast crew: none of the various Hiero members provide an instrumental that even comes close to what you would expect from the Golden State. I'm sorry to report that, sixteen years later, this album doesn't hold up as well as you may have hoped: a lot of the beats blend into one another a bit too well, making some of the tracks sound exactly the same. However, there are enough fucking bangers on here that stand the test of time, so the Souls of Mischief can still lay claim to having what most bloggers refer to as a classic album. Newer listeners should be prepared to hit the 'skip' button more than a few times, though.

BUY OR BURN? I would recommend a purchase. The songs listed below are hot enough to offset the tracks that aren't so great, since they fucking knock. You won't be disappointed.

BEST TRACKS: “Anything Can Happen”; “93 'Til Infinity”; “That's When Ya Lost”; “Batting Practice”

-Max

15 comments:

  1. make your mind up isn't on the best tracks? you need to stop smoking that rock, max

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  2. man, such a great album (although I remember really not liking one of the dudes- Opio?)

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  3. One of my favorite albums of all time. It took me a long time to find out about it, but once I did I never looked back. 93' til infinity!

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  4. awful vocalization of classic beats.

    Best intro of all time though. The scratching +++++

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  5. 93 till infinity is truly a classic song, also the listed best tracks are also really good...the problem I have with the album is that it doesn't have a really coherent sound from cover to cover...
    nice review though, keep it up Max

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  6. @ringpeace:
    fag

    also, a-plus consistently dropped the best verse on every single song

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  7. Good review. Agree that 'Make Your Mind Up' should definitely be in the best tracks though.

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  8. Lol @ Protoman

    Butthurt fanboy. Just because its considered a classic doesn't mean it can't get criticism.

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  9. some of the beats here put me to sleep but most of them wake me up, but besides the beats, this album is worth it

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  10. saying the album doesn't have a coherent sound is hardly even a criticism, it's just something an idiot would say to pretend he knows what he's talking about, but i wouldn't expect you to even know what the word means

    and i'm definitely a fanboy of this group that only released one good album their entire career

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  11. I loooove Live and Let Die, especially A-Plus' verse.

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  12. Dope intro, dope album. Easily one of the most (only?) underrated Oakland hiphop albums of all time.

    Can't wait for Montezuma's Revenge :)

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  13. live and let die? is it guns n roses with axl singing the hook or is it live and let live :)

    btw this is a very gooood album.

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  14. album is not that great really, other than "that's when ya lost" i can't remember a track that really rocks..

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  15. Tile GroutMay 22, 2012

    "Let 'em Know" and "Batting Practice" are my two favorite tracks on here. Overall it's a good album.

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