Saturday, March 30, 2013

Souls of Mischief - "93 'Til Infinity" (1993)

93 'til Infinity is the debut album by Souls of Mischief. The group consists of four members (A-Plus, Opio, Phesto D and Tajai) and is a subgroup of the Oakland, California hip-hop collective group Hieroglyphics.

Group members A-Plus and Tajai started rapping together as teenagers under the name Rhythm & Excellence before bringing in Opio and Phesto. Along with Del the Funky Homosapien and a few other Oakland rappers, the foursome then became part of the Hieroglyphics crew. As label interest reached a head in the early '90s, Rhythm & Excellence became Souls of Mischief. The group went into Hyde Street Studios in 1993 to record their debut for Jive, which soon led to "93 'Til Infinity," a track that had existed in some form since at least 1991. For the beat, producer A-Plus snatched bits of jazz-fusionist Billy Cobham. In speeding up the tempo — the twinkling marimba melody, for instance, is a very slow drip in its original form — he managed to mirror the warp speed with which it means to "chill" as a teenager.

The song was only a modest pop crossover, reaching No. 72 on Billboard's Hot 100. But by the group's own admission, the song's legacy has grown outward since then: You can hear the classic beat used for freestyles by Big K.R.I.T. and J. Cole, two rappers who have also eschewed gangster rap while achieving varying levels of crossover success. Still touring, still recording (much of their last album, 2009's Montezuma's Revenge, was produced by Prince Paul), and still hitting young musician's games like SXSW, the continued presence of Souls of Mischief is illustrative of just how prophetic "93 'Til Infinity" was.

A-Plus: "Back then, we didn't have any money. People did odd jobs, this and that. So I didn't have a whole bunch of money to buy records, but I did whenever I could. I found that particular record, it's a Billy Cobham album called Crosswinds. At that point it wasn't one of the hot records for people to sample. It didn't cost hella money, it was in the dollar bin."

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