Collectively nudged by the
inherent diversity and surge of thought which permeates the Bay, the
Souls Of Mischief will always reverberate their love for Hip-Hop. This
message is also heard, when theyre collaborating amongst the larger
collective, Hieroglyphics. Each of the Souls members (Opio, Phesto,
A-Plus and Tajai) are accomplished MCs; yet, its their genuine friendships
which supersedes the music, that has helped the group to remain intact
throughout the years. Defying any regional boundaries, their depth of
lyricism is their passport to worldwide acclaim; the globe stamps its
approval. Formed in the early 90s, the SOM have built a solid
foundation that can withstand todays Hip-Hop aftershocks. Life
is ever changing and the art of survival within Hip-Hop comes from lyrically
evolving; we bring that to our art, contends Opio. Souls
Of Mischief: Montezumas Revenge is one of the many things that
Tajai and Opio discuss in this exclusive interview.
The Bay boasts an array of MCs. Theres everyone from E-40, to San
Quinn, to Ras Ceylon, to The Frontline; where do Souls Of Mischief figure
into todays Bay scene and the overall portrait of Hip-Hop?
Tajai: We have the same
place that weve always had. As far as the Bay area, [its] between
us and Too Short [who] exposed
the Bay area to more people than any other group out there. Thats
not to get into a pissing contest or a chest-beating contest with anybody;
but, we brought the Bay area to the entire planet. When we [first] came
out, a lot of times cats were not checking for what came out of the
Bay…SOM, we brought Bay area real Rap to the entire world and we still
do. Theres nobody in the Bay who can tour like us We really blazed
a path as the Hieroglyphics. We wouldnt even be an underground tour
circuit of 100 to 200 shows every year that you can spot and you can
rock at all over the world.
So, I dont want to concentrate
it as a Bay thang; because, were universal artists. You can ask anybody
including MCs from Cali on the West coast, or whoever you ask who has
real lyrics, SOM or Hieroglyphics will show up in their top rappers.
Its not just all, Theyre good to be out of the Bay; or, theyre
lyrical to be from the Bay. They aint rapping about the Bay. Weve
never been pigeon-holed as Bay-area-rappers; because, we have a universal
sound. We grew up on everything from Too Short to Rakim
Success sometimes leads to complacency; what circumstances led to the
creation of SOM: Montezumas Revenge?
SOM, weve been together [for so long and] we tour so much that I
dont even think that we realized that we were on a recording hiatus
until we made this record. The opportunity to come back like that with
Prince Paul to us that was like something that was worth picking up
the pen. The people that support us expect a lot from SOM and Hieroglyphics;
we had to come up with something. We were like, this has to be the
dopest shit ever; it can be wack or subpar! Prince Paul is great;
hes such a cornerstone of what we try to do in terms of being creative,
being different, and being avant-garde.
Prince Paul, he laid the foundation
for us to explore those concepts, you know, he is the grand master.
He is the teacher. To sit there and work with him on equal footing is
an honor. It was a challenge; but, SOM, we endure those particular types
of situations. We enjoy those types of situations; because, we [exceed]
the challenge. It really gets our creative juices flowing. Its enjoyable,
as far as, us being together, and working on a record with a guy that
weve mutually admired and have studied for so many years. I mean,
he [Prince Paul] has contributed to so many great albums. The key to
motivation and the key to staying active is to be creative like that.
The activity right there was crazy. We were excited about it! I aint
really felt that kind of excitement going into a record in a long time.
Bet, so it was rejuvenating; thats beautiful. Whats the secret
to creating a track which boasts resonating lyricism and hypnotic production?
Man, I think it starts with the beat, you know. The beat of it will
bring it out of you. You might have a concept for a song; but, youre
not just going to write a whole song without hearing the beat that youre
going to rock it to Its really finding a balance between fighting
a track and rolling with the track. A lot of people go hard on the South,
they dis the South; but, the cats in the South ride tracks better
than all rappers right now. They can out balance them and that starts
with the beat. A lot of dudes who consider themselves lyrical get into
a war with the track rather than riding it. They end up crashing. You
cant fight the beat; because, the beat is what is driving it. But,
you also want to be able to show your skills. Its kinda like surfing.
Have you ever seen a surfer wiping out; because, of the wrong technique
on the wave? Youre a surfer on the wave and the wave is the track.
If you hit it wrong youre going to wipe out. Thats kinda like
the needed balance between those two. You want to use the track as a
background for you to display your skills without attacking the track
and wiping out.
Is SOM: Montezumas Revenge time capsule material?
Really, I think the album is a time capsule. How can I explain iteverything
is disposable right now. We got little kids who were raised up on Red
Bull and hot chips and liquor store food. Theyre throwing processed
cheese on top of the hot chips and throwing some beef jerky in it and
theyre acting like thats a full complete meal; thats the same
with this Rap. I think our record, in general, is a time capsule. Were
still young. There are people who are out there from Outkast to Pharrell
to Kanyethem dudes are our age or older. Theyre from an era and
were from an era where Hip-Hop had vegetables and complete protein.
It had really good stuff to help you grow as a person and to help your
brain grow. We got all these kids that are in school who cant pay
attention; because, theyre eating garbage every single morning and
that is the exact same thing it is I dont want to blame Hip-Hop
like Hip-Hop is wack. There are a lot of young dudes who grow up on
that good stuff. And we are that same thing.
Our album is a time capsule.
I didnt mean to hijack the question like that; but, I meanHonestly,
you got a group of dudes whos still young, whos still rocking
shows everywhere, whos still in the mix and still in the scene [because]
we grew up on good nutritious real Rap, like KRS [One], Rakim, [Big
Daddy] Kane, Scarface, you know, Cubeand [we] are able to spar. We
can still hop into the ring with all these youngsters who put out one
record and sold a billion Ringtones and think theyre the greatest
rapper alive. So, I think our record is a time capsule. If you listen
to that record youre gonna be like Oh, this is True School.
It aint Old School, that I think why its doing so well. For the
young ones theyre like, Oh, this is dope; this is different.
The Old School dudes are like, This is dope! Its different from
whats out now; but, I understand the vein that its coming from.
So, this is true school?
Tajai: True school,
it aint old school; its just classical. Were sort of the last
classically trained Rap artists out there, you know what Im saying?
Its like, the way a musician looks at musicLike all these dudes
do is pick up a synthesizer and auto-tune and all of a sudden theyre
an R&B Lothario. Though you cant deny it, you cant take
away from the music; theres a lot of good music coming out by guys
who makes beats on computers and makes beats in beat machines. Thats
the same thing with guys who grew up and didnt listen to Earth, Wind
& Fire, who didnt listen to Stevie Wonder or Curtis Mayfield;
but, they are still phenomenal rappers. We grew up in a world where
Hip-Hop wasnt even the main music; we had a Earth, Wind, & Fire,
and Kool & The Gang, and Curtis Mayfield and Prince and Tower of
Power. We had all the Rock stuff and we had real rappers who were
really spitting knowledge and lyricism. Thats our classical training
in this field. Im not going to blast Hip-Hop; because, its all
across the board.
We were lucky enough to
be born in the year where were old enough to understand the depth
of what the older dudes was kicking; but, were young enough to be
different from them and not want to do what they did. Thats kinda,
you know, what makes us this true school thing. Theres young rappers
and old rappers that are still doing it all over the world, man. Most
of the good stuff aint even getting exposure. But, when we go to
these different countries and go to different parts of the nation and
listen to the openers and stuff, its a lot of raw rappers. Hip-Hop
is alive and well, its just that whats on the radio is mainly
like elevator Rap and copies of copies of copies of copies of copies,
with laughter] HA! Elevator rap, I love it! I wanted to touch on the
age disparity within Hip-Hop. Some of our MCs are maturing in age and
some of our MCs are straight out the womb. Is there a mutual respect
between these groups?
with anything you look at theres always a battle between old and
new. Theres a new way of thinking verses the old way of thinking.
I think that that dialogue that happens between the two groups is healthy
for change in music. So, you need critiques, you need to have records
that kinda set people straight. And also, you have to have a revolutionary
spirit where youre willing to do different things that you may have
felt that before you wasnt capable of. Youre just a newer, better,
more improved generation; because, youre building off the foundation
that they laid. Its always healthy to have that dialogue between
old and new. I think that inevitably that the new is going to overwhelm
the old. To all my favorite young rappers coming up, if you dont
listen to these older generals whove been through the war; youll
moan a lot. They can tell you the ins and outs of whats going on,
you know what Im saying?
I always look beyond just Hip-Hop;
but, just black music in general. We have to study the history of black
music and youll have a lot more respect for the OG rappers. The competitive
nature of Hip-Hop lends itself to like, Im going to destroy this
guys career; or, Im going to demolish this cat. You know, which
is cool; because, it keeps people on their toes. But, if youre studying
black music, you know, you cant destroy the blues, you cant destroy
Chuck Berry, you cant kill that with Rap. Were an extension of
their energy. Its been an issue for if you are a young lion thats
gonna go hard. But, you have to understand that these other young lions
came before you. So, the power of black music and the history of black
musicI think Hip-Hop needs to start analyzing the history of black
music, more so than only just Rap. If we give respect to all these other
cats, Muddy Watersif were taught more about that then we would
see our place in music. We would see how Melle Mel fits into that and
how Run-DMC fits into it that legacy. Hopefully, Hieroglyphics fits
into that legacy as well.
I want to thank you guys for sharing your time with me, is there anything
else for the public?
We just want to thank everyone out there thats been down with Souls
for all these years. People
really dont see us coming out on every mainstream outlet; yet, still
somehow we just managed being relevant after all these years. Thats
just because the people that have supported us actually stood tall and
rode for us. It really cant be just us in order for us to be successful.
So, everybody out there whos supported us, I just want to say thank
you. Definitely, go cop that Montezumas Revenge. SOM and Prince
Paul coming together, thats historic right there. If you love true
school Hip-Hop, thats the perfect example right there. Be on the
lookout for the new solo projects that we got