Opio of Souls of Mischief: Soul Supreme

There are two choices for veteran MCs; advance your style and stay relevant, or remain static in your ways and become a glorified fossil. Thankfully Opio of the mighty Souls of Mischief and their overarching Hieroglyphics crew chose the former. It’s been 15 years since Souls dropped their heralded debut, ’93 ‘Til Infinity, and since then the team has gone on to carve out a living as independent artists, cutting out any major label middle men. Opio’s first solo salvo was 2005’s Triangulation Station and though it’s been available digitally, on August 26 he drops Vultures Wisdom Vol 1 in stores on Hiero Imperium. Wholly produced by longtime underground producer The Architect, Vultures Wisdom Vol. 1 finds Opio in deep lyrical mode, oblivious to any mainstream pandering. Longtime fans should be enthused and here the veteran Oakland MC speaks on the importance of the indie hustle, the significance of “’93 ‘Til Infinity,” the need to respect Hip-Hop and how he stays on some superfly s**t.  AllHipHop.com: Vultures Wisdom, a trilogy, did you just have a gang of music in the stash or was there a vision beforehand?Opio: Kinda had a vision beforehand. We worked on one record, the first one, we did that and we had it tucked. We really had a good creative energy going, a lot of steam under our belt. We really focused on that first record and did it all as one project and made sure that it was tight in and of itself. We were still in work mode. We didn’t necessarily stop and say that’s it, no more. We just kept working. We had a concept of doing more volumes and making it out to be that way but we didn’t think it was going to happen as quickly as it did. Opio “Some Superfly S**t” VideoAllHipHop.com: Are Volumes 2 & 3 done?Opio: Yep. We sitting on Vol. 2 right now, just waiting. We really want people to get this album and digest this record, get into the material. It’s the independent game so that’s the whole reason why I’m taking the opportunity now to let people know that we have more material coming. You gotta take as much opportunity you can to get out there and promote being that we’re independent artists.  The material is there for the people.Each one is a full album and has a full personality. It’s really not necessarily the fact that it’s three records, that’s the hook. You going to get into Vol. 1 then you got another one coming that’s already ready. We just want to keep blessing people with music. AllHipHop.com: What was said in the convo with the Architect that made you two create these projects?Opio: I been a fan of his music for a long time, he been doing stuff since the early Stones Throw days. Me being with Hiero we felt that’s a powerhouse combination right there. He was definitely encouraging me to step out a little more lyrically. My first record, Triangulation Station, if you listen to it, it’s kinda has a universal appeal to it. If you’re not really into Hip-Hop you might be able to pick that album up and listen to it and still enjoy it.Vultures Wisdom is more for the avid Hip-Hop fan, the hardcore Hip-Hop fan. They don’t necessarily care about it having any universal appeal. They just want the grime and the grit. That’s really what I wanted to move towards on this record anyway. Me and [The Architect] was on the same page in terms of what we was trying to do with the record. A lot of people when they listen to it say it’s like a throwback. To me and him it’s more like a natural progression of our style.  We trying to elevate our style. Even though I’m from the second coming of the golden era, or whatever, I just try to stick to what I do, and what I brought to the game and not copycat off other people. Opio “Don Julio” VideoAllHipHop.com: So is Vultures Wisdom the record you would naturally make without having to keep everything easily digestible?Opio: Vultures Wisdom is more what I would naturally do. But when you’re doing a record you want to touch more people. You want to extend yourself and reach out to people. I’ve always done that in my career with Souls of Mischief and Hiero. We always make records [that are for] the Hip-Hop fans but they also have a universal appeal. To me it’s easier for me to get into this lane because that’s really what I am at heart: a lyricist, a storyteller, those type of things. It’s not about making a song that everybody can get into. When I was making music as a youth in high school it was just easier, just for my homies. As long as they liked it or if I thought it was tight, that was where I got my inspiration from. That type of energy translated into classic records like “93 to Infinity”. It was just for me and my homies and for the folks and it just ended up having a universal appeal naturally.AllHipHop.com: How’s it feel 15 years after “’93 ‘Til Infinity” that that record has stood the test of time and is so highly regarded?Opio: It ushered in a new era which was a good thing. During the time when it was out I feel like the average listener was a little younger than the people that [were] the established press and all that kind of stuff. We was like 17, 18 and all of our fans was around the same age. We didn’t really have no voice within the media to say, “Yo this is underground West Coast Hip-Hop, lyrical shit from the West Coast.”At that point in time everybody was like, “Yo it’s kind of like from the East Coast.” If you look at any comparison in reference to an east coast dude now, it’s always Wu-Tang: “Yeah, you guys are kinda like Wu-Tang.” But at that time Wu-Tang wasn’t really out yet. So it was Native Tongues. They was trying to compare us to Native Tongues, which we were a lot different from them at the time.If you look at that record 15 years later now, to me I’m happy to see it separated from everything; all of the boxes people were trying to put it into at first. In terms of sounding like it was from the east coast and it sounds like it’s Native Tongues or whatever. If you listen to it now you can tell that it’s west coast underground Hip-Hop. It’s a beautiful thing that it really got the opportunity to be seen and get it’s recognition for what it really was. At the time it was frustrating to me seeing cats trying to front on it a little bit or put it in these weird categories. Souls of Mischief “’93 ‘Til Infinity” VideoAllHipHop.com: Being that y’all came into the game so young, when did the switch flip and you all recognized you had to really be about your business in this game?Opio: Before ‘93 ‘Til Infinity even came out, like the actual song I think we was on the road with De La and Tribe. They asked us to come on the road with them. Those were some of our favorite groups of all time. I couldn’t believe it. I’m coming out of high school about to tour with my idols.  We were just like sponges on tour with them. They were hella cool, couldn’t be more informative and totally took us under they wing. They gave us a good blueprint to how to be in the industry period and on the road. They opened our eyes up to the possibilities. All we wanted to do at the time was get signed and get on, get a record deal, get our music out there and show it to people.  What they allowed us to see is that the record label is just a filter.  The people like you for you. They like you, they don’t like Jive Records. In our mind we really [thought] they was part of the equation; they f**k with us because we’re signed to a major label. They gave us the resources to get out there but at the end of the day the people is f**king with us and what we created. It opened our eyes to be like, Yo we get like a dollar a record at this point, in order for us to get any money we gotta go platinum. But if you selling records and you getting $7 a pop, you don’t even have to sell that many records. We just started doing the mathematics and breaking it down in our mind on that tour—it would be dope to be independent. You would never have to get caught up in all the industry bulls**t. Even though we were young, like Tajai and A-Plus was doing music for years before you heard Souls of Mischief. They was working with Sir Jinx, we f**ked with Ice Cube in the studio for years. Even though we was young we had at least, getting close to like ten years of actually recording. We was rapping since like seven…and really serious about it. We had a lot of time to work at that craft, we had a lot of experience in the game. We had a whole way of doing music for years and then when we got in the industry we were like, “This is not cool.” You got people telling you about s**t and trying to give you opinions about music. Barry Weiss doesn’t know anything about Hip-Hop. For the dude to come down and sit down with Souls of Mischief, four super creative dudes living the Hip-Hop life; there is no way he can relate to us and tell us about stuff. They would try to run that manip on you, “Yo we know about music cause we’re in the music industry and blah blah blah.” We seen it for the bulls**t that it was. AllHipHop.com: Would you compare to this age rift going on in Hip-Hop, not the best example but kind of like Soulja Boy vs. Ice-T?Opio: [laughs] Really, I hate to be talking about fools cause that ain’t me man. Ice-T is an icon, he can say whatever he want to say. Me, if I start dissing Soulja Boy I just look like I’m angry and I’m a hater. That whole thing ain’t really about the age, that’s him trying to take advantage of the situation cause the dude is just really not elevating Hip-Hop. That’s what’s really going on right now. There’s some cats that just have no respect for the music at all. They don’t care about it. The way that the music industry is right now it’s not a cash cow like it used to be. People aren’t selling ten million records and getting all this cheese off this record business right now. If you really out there doing that horrible…kicking Hip-Hop, taking it down, you really hurting it right now cause you ain’t even making money. When other cats was doing it…like for instance Master P, everybody knows he ain’t the greatest lyricist in the world. Was he really elevating Hip-Hop, probably not. But he was making all this money, so everybody’s like Yo he’s getting paid, whoopty whoop whoop. People ain’t making money like that no more so it’s really ain’t no excuses, in my opinion, for people to stick to this myth of we can do this bulls**t Hip-Hop and take it down a notch, talk about this bulls**t nonsense, as long as I’m making my paper then it’s justifiable. Now you ain’t even making paper like that, so where is the justification now?That’s really where the battleground is. What they really want to do is just make Hip-Hop over with. They’d like you to turn your backs on the people that made Hip-Hop what it is. If you get these OGs to holler at these young cats, start getting their mind right, listening to their knowledge that they have, you’d have a lot more young Black men in America thinking on a whole other level. They trying to misguide that energy, take that power away.  

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