East Bay hip-hop foursome Souls of Mischief will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut, '93 Til Infinity, by performing the entire album at the Majestic Theatre on June 19. Its production still feels funky and warm, and MCs Opio, A-Plus, Phesto and Tajai still come off as both thoughtful and happily obnoxious. Here are three key tracks that explain why the album deserves a victory lap.
The piano sample that anchors this song seems right out of DJ Premier's playbook, melodic but a bit stark. Which isn't to discredit the production talents of the Hieroglyphics crew. The track gradually incorporates longer phrases, forming a nice contrast to Opio and A-Plus' hectic verses about gunfighting.
All four MCs take obvious pleasure in chopping up their rhythm, rhymes and phrasing on this song's short verses. The rapping is smart but delivered with exaggerated, singsong glee, always walking the line between wit and dumb, dirty jokes. "Opio disposes of crews like snotty tissues/I rip through bodies with corkscrews," Opio says, whereas Phesto boasts of "pulverizing skulls, annihilating trifling dunces/Pulling rifle pumps to stifle punks when my knife splits."
The "classic-album concert" format makes sense for '93 since Souls have a knack for building narratives and exploring themes as a group. On this track, Opio and Phesto present a sort of staged rap dialogue about whether to live a life of crime. Tajai wraps it up with a big-picture perspective: "Well, who ya takin' the risk for? ...There's no boats or cocaine fields nowhere in the ghetto." Though young at the time, these four MCs had already figured out how to add depth to their songs without getting too preachy.