This year is an important one for Hip-Hop. It marks the anniversary for many important bodies of work for pioneers in Hip-Hop and the genre, itself. One of those bodies of work is the Souls of Mischief’s debut album, 93 ’til Infinity. The Oakland group of emcees and producers made their own wave to ride out with their smooth Jazz samples and hard hitting rhymes. Although they’re not as celebrated on a superstar status across the globe as some groups, their impact was just as important. The group took a moment to talk about the beginnings of the group, the underground culture, and the future of Souls of Mischief, including the Almyghty Myghty Pythons.
How did you come up with the name, Souls of Mischief?
Phesto: We had another name before that name and then there was somebody that we were in contact with in the industry, and he suggested we come up with a better name. and we just sat around and brainstormed new names and that was the name we came up with.
What was that first name? Is that G-14 classified?
Phesto: I can’t remember man. It’s so long ago (laughs).
How did the name of the album come about?
A-Plus: Originally, we had a song we were working on in high school-“91 Til Infinity.” It never really got finished and recorded. So when we ended up in the studio in 1992, we were about half way done with that. So we finished that one and decided on “92 Til Infinity” but we knew the album wasn’t coming out til 93, so we named it “93 Til Infinity.” But it was a concept we had from before. For us it meant what it is, til infinity. It’s not like we were thinking way ahead and had the foresight to see it ahead 20 years. We were still in high school, really young, and excited. The sense was for it to go on forever. This was our shot so we wanted to make it count.
Phesto: Once the name came about, it was the obvious choice. We were like, “We should name the album that!”
How did you come up with your emcee names?
Phesto: Tajai’s and Opio’s are our real names. A-Fresh’s real name starts with an A. And then Young Fresh Diesel, my real name is Damani, so my whole rap name is Manifesto. If you look at my name, it’s real Da Manifesto, so I just took the “Da” off. And I was Manifesto so I abbreviated that to Phesto. After a while, it was just Sto.
In the background: Sto up! (laughs)
What was the chemistry like for you guys in the studio, figuring out the verse order for each track?
Opio: You can’t really be too cookie cutter with it when you got four emcees. That kind of naturally forces you to be more creative with how you set things up. It’s a lot more people and less time to get your concept out. You kind of build off each other. We tried not to do things the same way over and over again.
What were some of the pros and cons, if any, for having such a monumental debut album?
Phesto: Can’t be no cons.
Opio: The only con that I can really think of is probably the same for anybody who makes a good first album-it’s a standard you set. No matter what you end up doing or progress as an artist, a lot of times the listeners want to hear a repeat of that because they like that. That’s just specific for anybody with a good first album. All we wanted to do was make an album that put us in the same category as the people we looked up to.
Phesto: What was his name? Mannion or something. He came up with the concept that we’re under a pier so it seems as though it goes infinitely. It was just a good, clean shot-before Photoshop was big.
How did the Hieroglyphics come about? What did that supergroup mean to you guys?
Phesto: We basically all kind of grew up together. We lived in close proximity to each other. It’s really Souls of Mischief as a group and then we have three other solo artists-Del, Casual, and Double L. And Domino was introduced to use by Dante Ross, who signed Del. We all had a mutual interest in making forward thinking Hip-Hop.
Underground Hip-Hop then and now is different in the style and hype. How would you guys say it’s changed over time?
A-Plus: Hip-Hop is a lot bigger now. There are a lot more entities who have a hand in it now. The underground was like a culture or slang that people used to talk about. It was like, “I’m not a Pop artist but I’m still Hip-Hop.” Now an underground artist is someone who doesn’t sell or have as many records as most people. It was more of a style thing. Even artist that make Pop music can be an underground artist if their style is real Hip-Hop. Like if you care about the lyrics and use real Hip-Hop beats.
Phesto: There are hella underground artists that make Pop music.