Souls of Mischiefhit the Basement in Columbus, Ohio Monday as part of their “Still Infinity” Tour which celebrates the 20th Anniversary of their landmark debut album 93 til Infinity. While I have seen pretty much all of Souls of Mischief’s Hieroglyphics family perform in their various forms; this was special because they promised to rock 93 til in it’s entirety as well as other classics from their catalog.
Columbus, Ohio rap legend in his own right, Illogic opened the show. The adept, poly-syllabic rapper began the night on hisAdrienne Kennedy waxing poetic songs from his recent album with NYC producer Blockhead called Capture the Sun . Illogic methodically rhymed about various pensive experiences like being inflicted with cancer in one of his eyes as a child as well as failed friendships. Illogic later went deeper into his back catalog released by the Blueprint owned and Columbus-based imprint Weightless Recordings. Illogic and Blueprint have a new album dropping on Weightless as the group Greenhouse on July 9th called Bend But Don’t Break which is in it’s own way a celebration as the two have been making music together for 15 years..
Before Souls came out a man named Kev Choice from Oakland appeared and got busy on a piano. At times he was joined by Columbus saxophone player Charles Cooper which added a nice mood to the intimate venue. The Basement is usually where bands like Wavves, and Fidlar perform to 15 year-old skaterats so the jazz flavor flipped the venue’s mood.
Kev would also get up and rap in a pretty true school manner complete with a solid flow and some timeless call and response. It kinda tripped me out how being able to get busy on a piano added so much dimension to a straight-up Hip Hop showing.. He also rocked a few covers from the piano including some classic Nas.
I gather Kev was Lauryn Hill’s bandleader for a bit after he studied music at Xavier University in New Orleans and Carbondale in Illinois. He also works with Bay Area greats like Too Short and the Coup.
Kev Choice redefined the jazz-hop performance buying being able to operate with a purist’s skillset in bother genres.
We sometimes take for granted how special the Oakland rap collective’s emergence onto the underground hip hop landscape was. While DJ Lex One spun before Souls took the stage I began to think about when I first got into Souls Of Mischief.
I started to think back to the early 90’s. Hiero’s el presidente, Del the Funkee Homosapien had already made a deviant splash as Ice Cube’s weird cousin that stood out from the standard gangsta rap that the West Coast had taken as it’s prime identity. Del, along with Hiero were the West Coast’s answer to the Native Tongues movement in terms of rappers with a new style trying to defy cliches. With that said, Del and Hiero also made it a point to not imitate New York. Hiero along with Project Blowed, and the Pharcyde helped develop a West Coast style that still can be seen today in new king of the West Kendrick Lamar’s Black Hippie movement along with pretty much any underground backpack rap that doesn’t speak the dun language or Wu’s slanguage.
I already liked Del so when I heard the above so when the exportation of Bay Area skate culture was blasted into our televisions with Souls of Mischief’s demo songs like “Cab Fare” many young Midwestern skateboarders like myself were immediately hooked. And then you would hear the same rappers that Mike Carroll was skating to at EMB also on the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito tapes that you would have NYC friends send you?
Souls Of Mischief was everywhere underground music could permeate so when 93 Til Infinity hit along with Del’s No Need For Alarm, and Casual’s Fear Itself people began to imitate Soul’s rhyme sequences and insisting freestyles be strictly off the top because that was that was the Hiero way. Who can forget ” The Hobo Junction vs. Heiroglyphics battle” which is a timeless catalyst for freestyle vs. written debates regardless of victor.
I quickly returned to 2013 when Souls of Mischief took the Basement’s stage with an authority that also had a surprising personal warmth. Classics like “Never No More” were executed with each member of SOM working perfectly in unison whether it was backing up a hook or each emcee landing a following line in perfect cadence, melody and rhythm with the previous . Watching Souls perform was a complete delivery on my youthful idealization of Souls of Mischief taking the Cold Crush style of crew emceeing to technical and also individualized. fresh level that also appealed to the Slick Rickf side of my brain.
Souls did deviate from playing “93 til Infinity” songs just front to back tho; In a very welcome manner. I stood in disbelief as I was hearing early Souls demo song “Cab Fare”. A song that only existed as a memory from a Mike Carroll section in a skate video and as a high-hiss gem on a cassette tape was now being rocked with live showmanship and proper fidelity. While watching this I began to notice that the majority of the crowd were young high school kids that would be at a Wavves or Fidlar show.
As much as we assume today’s teenagers don’t give a damn about the history of Hip Hop; the crowd at this show proved the opposite. All the kids knew the words to all the “93 til Infinity” songs.
Seeing a 19 year-old female standing on a banister to have a vantage point over room full of teens who are all rapping line for line things like:
“I’ll stay home get some rest, call my girl an’, Tajai’s on the phone, talkin’ about the world’s end.” along with Opio from the cautionary “Anything Can Happen” was a trip.
I wondered if just as skate videos and mix-tapes made Souls the best thing to me in 93; People like Joey Bad A$$, Currensy and Vampire Weekend referencing Souls of Mischief had help maintain their legacy to a newer generation.
Souls performed 1998’s “You Never Knew'”—— a song off Hiero’s “3rd Eye Vision” which really helped solidify their indie label Hiero Imperium existence after breaking ties with Jive/Zomba in 1995 after the release of Souls second album “No Man’s Land”. I thought maybe that SOM’s web presence, constant touring, recent album with Prince Paul and the Hiero logo presented a good body of work that a few references helped reinforce.
The crowd wasn’t all teens, though. Columbus’s true school Hip Hop community was in the building strong. Every now and again would look over and see Blueprint and Illogic rapping word for word in the crowd. So I can say 93 til Infinity/ While I would say Illogic and fall closer to Pharaoh Monche than Souls style-wise it was pretty obvious from his enjoyment of Souls performance that when Illogic was a young dude he was probably bumping “93 til Infinity” in the same rotation as Organized.Konfusion’s “Extinction Agenda” .
Eventually we got to the climax of the show where Souls discussed how they were broke and looping up records from the dollar bin when they initially made “93 til Infinity”. Then they launched into the hits “93 Til Infinity” and “That’s When You Lost”. Oldheads, and young kids rapped along. There is a certain ambiance to the actual “93 Til Infinity” song that appeals to my brain like a tranquil Clams Casino production.
While ripping, “That’s When You Lost”, Souls rapped the famous retort “Now I’m gonna show you how the west coast smacks kids. I rhyme, it swells, so the hell with a (wack dis)/(generalizing)/Dissin’ before you’ve ever seen this. So you can get the middle (what middle? )/ the penis.” This brought to mind of another important regional aspect of the “93 Til Infinity” album. The Hip Hop landscape of 93 obviously had the emergence of the Wu-Tang Clan, Organized Konfusion, Bootcamp Click, Mobb Deep, B.I.G that showed how the East Coast rocked which reinstated New York’s pride during the reign of “The Chronic”. So Souls dropped amidst a brewing coastal feud where people had a huge bias against West Coast artists. Hiero along with Project Blowed, and Pharcyde were the anomaly that disrupted regional stereotypes. But just because they weren’t gangsta rap; Hiero wasn’t not ashamed of being from Cali although they were one of the few groups accepted by their NY underground peers.. Hiero was just doing their own thing. They were normal people at peace with what they were doing.
Of course at this moment in 2013 there were zero coastal tensions in this Ohio room. People were just stoked to hear their favorite songs.
SOM ended the night asking everyone to put peace signs up and explained they have always been about love and not divisiveness. The feeling in the air was good. The whole room put up two fingers and was happy.
After the show, Souls hung out near the merch table. I eavesdropped and overlooked as true school Columbus deejays, J. Rawls and Pos 2 had SOM sign their records.
This was a good end to my roll down memory lane after seeing Souls of Mischief perform “93 Til Infinity” within a 10 minute walk from my house. When 93 Til Infinity hit 20 years ago the closest communion one had in Columbus to this great record was to see them open a Native Tongue tour in Cleveland, bite Souls rhyme-style, skate a triple set while rocking a nose ring and some big-ass headphone or catch a tag in an alley and add the three eyed Hieroglyphics logo next to your hideous toy attempt at vandalism. This review might sound like some dick-rider talk but this was an extremely important album’s 20th Anniversary. It warrants a recollection of the pure naive, experience of music.
With that disclaimer stated: The young toy in me enjoyed witnessing that each member Souls of Mischief had graffiti-based signatures.