Souls of Mischief
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Souls of Mischief

Oakland, California, United States

Oakland, California, United States
Band Hip Hop World


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"Souls of Mischief "Montezuma's Revenge" Review"

For Souls of Mischief’s latest album they take it back to the days of the past. They rented a town home on San Francisco's Montezuma Street with 20-year super-producer Prince Pauland recorded Montezuma’s Revenge in its entirety. It’s a welcomed break from the electronic collaborations that take place and the project benefits from the tight-knit chemistry and the organic approach that they took to make the album. The album isn’t flawless but Souls of Mischief delivered an album that rightfully stands beside their first two releases, dating back a decade-and-a-half.

Prince Paul is a star addition to this project. He has a keen ability for creating albums that sonically flow from start to finish, a trait that played a role in De La Soul's legendary status. He may be far removed from hit records that garner spins, but he fosters a sonic narrative which each emcee is forced to match. Tracks like “Postal” show how talented and detailed of a producer he is while on “For Real Y’all” the emcees ride a dope bass line and a vibing sample. The song is blessed equally with dope verses and a catchy hook. It proves to be arguably the best song on the album.

The Souls of Mischief have a full grasp on the skill of sharing a verse. You can tell they’ve done it for close to 20 years, yet the passion for their craft still is reflected in each bar. On “Fourmation” the emcees go back and forth over a simple, but effective track. Meanwhile, on “Proper Aim” each emcee kicks a dope verse that lyrically complements the verse before. Tajai starts the track off strong with lyrics like, “I stress the maximum effort / I can’t relax 'cause I’m reppin' / so face the fact that I’m fresher / and take it back to the essence,” that highlight a dope cut. A-Plus, Tajai, Phesto, and Opio are consistent throughout, well aware of their individual boundaries, but not shy about pushing them. They are comfortable in their own skin and it’s quite evident on “Home Game” a track that makes you wish summer was right around the corner.

The album isn’t without flaws. The group constantly toes the line between brilliance and obscure. Tracks like “Poets” leave the listener yearning for a bit more from the crew. The Souls' common "I’m-better-than-you" tracks may actually be better than most recent releases, but they’re nothing revolutionary, and they fail to match up with some of their classic cuts in the Hiero catalogue. Prince Paul puts forth a righteous effort, but even he is guilty of delivering some off the wall beats or bland sample like “You Got It” or “Hiero HQ.” Even these so-so efforts, that are occasionally seen throughout the 18 tracks, are passionate records. They go hard on every verse and that alone is commendable.

Souls of Mischief prove that they can still put out a dope consistent effort and have fun doing it. While Hip Hop is stuck in the age of conformity, the Bay Area originators of the abstract are still pushing the limits and making music that feels good to them. The bottom line is Souls of Mischief know who they are, and who their audience is and isn’t. They aren’t trying to become a group that they aren’t and after 20 years of kicking rhymes, they still have plenty more to say. The end result comes out fresh, even if the occasional track misses the target. Montezuma’s Revenge may have been created by Prince Paul, but it’s told by Souls of Mischief and it is quite the entertaining adventure.

"BBC UK Review - Hip Hop for Those Who Would Like to Pretend the Last Two Decades Never Happened"

Pitching respected underground artists at doomsayers currently contemplating hip hop’s imminent demise would somewhat fudge the point that rap’s pop chart-troubling incarnation is slowly strangulating the genre.
Yet veteran Oakland group Souls of Mischief’s comeback album, almost a decade since their last, proffers up a plethora of arguments countering and concurring with the original argument. And that’s without examining the titular connotations of naming a re-up record after, it seems, traveller’s diarrhoea.

The chief conundrum is a stylistic one. Birthed from the same fertile 1990s American ‘alternative’ hip hop scene that unleashed De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, as with many of their contemporaries the basic SoM template has remained effectively unchanged.
Still, reconvening was a logical step: their individual solo careers hardly went inter-stellar during the interim, despite garnering cult acclaim as part of expansive west coast crew Hieroglyphics, alongside Gorillaz collaborator Del tha Funkee Homosapien. In one breath, SoM – MCs A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai, joined for the entire returning journey by De La Soul/Handsome Boy Modeling School production king Prince Paul – kick against everything their supposedly artistically barren cousins represent.

Simultaneously, little on Montezuma’s Revenge possesses the mind-blowing futuristic impact to suggest they couldn’t have comfortably conceived the album pre-hiatus. Nobody can dispute that the foursome display seasoned verbal skills throughout, but sadly that focus rarely elevates the actual songs above workmanlike, Prince Paul’s imaginative contributions outshining the mouthpieces on Proper Aim, Fourmation and various others.
SoM even appear to poke fun at the position they find themselves in via skit Mr Freeman, among a handful of between-track filler nodding to Prince Paul’s predilection for such diversions. “Stop doing that old school s***, son,” advises a Morgan Freeman impersonator. “You need to let it go.”

Credit where it’s due, though: Montezuma’s Revenge confirms that SoM’s 1993 debut album, 93 ’Til Infinity, was no empty statement. This is hip hop for those who like beats that boom-bap, lyrics that run deep, and a general nostalgia-bleeding vibe that sticks fingers in ears and pretends that the past two decades never occurred. - www.BBC.CO.UK

"Rap Review of the Week 11/10/09 - Souls of Mischief "Montezuma's Revenge""

RapReview Of The Week
Souls of Mischief :: Montezuma's Revenge
Hiero Imperium Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

You can't call it a comeback, because they really have been here for years - almost twenty in fact. That being said, there's quite a few people out there in the atmosphere who haven't stayed aware of what Souls of Mischief had to share. SOM certainly didn't break up after 2000's "Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution" but they weren't releasing albums as a group either. The fab four of A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai were expanding on their solo career aspirations through the Hiero Imperium, still collaborating on each other's shit, but doing it their own way. As a result hip-hop got treated to some slept on gems like Opio's "Vulture's Wisdom" and Tajai's "Power Movement" while they were simultaneously contributing SOM songs to various Hieroglyphics compilations.

For greedy needy rap fans though this simply wasn't sufficient, especially those who came of age when "'93 Til Infinity" first came out. Hip-Hop has a collective memory of the seismic shift which resonated outward from California to the world, and the landscape changed as the limits which seemed to exist shattered completely. SOM proved you could be verbose without being nerdy, hard without being thugged out, mellow without being a stoner stereotype and hella fly with their own mode of speech. Many imitated what came out of the Hieroglyphics camp, and while a few came close to approximating it, none could duplicate it - especially Souls of Mischief. In fact the success of "'93 Til" became one of those unreasonable moments any gifted artist eventually experiences. Michael Jackson couldn't make "Thriller 2" any more than SOM could make "'95 Til Infinity" - and you can't blame them for not trying. In summary, here's four things you need to remember about "Montezuma's Revenge":

(1.) It's 2009, not 1993. Reminisce on the past, but don't dwell in it.
(2.) Just like Wu-Tang Clan, SOM never split, they just did solo joints.
(3.) If you think they haven't recorded together since 2000 you're WRONG.
(4.) Souls of Mischief are ready to invigorate the rap scene all over again.

Even before a promo copy of "Montezuma's Revenge" hit my desk, the peeps at Audible Treats have been leaking out selected tracks from this increasingly anticipated album, complete with audio drops designed to shake the bootleggers off. The album doesn't drop until December, so it's understandable to hear "Yo whassup? This is Opio from Souls of Mischief, you're checking out Montezuma's Revenge, one love" interrupting songs like "LaLaLa." Despite the drops snippets of dope lyricism still sneak out the speakers: "You know A-Plus, you know he nuts like a cashew/cuss like a head coach and bust like a gat do!" The raps are ill, but thanks to Prince Paul the track might be even iller.

YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY. The legendary Prince Paul has linked up with the Hieroglyphic Imperium to provide some production on "Montezuma's Revenge" and "LaLaLa" is a study in unconventional dopeness. The drum track is like a tambourine rubbed and slapped against a washboard, punctuated by rimshots. A short guitar riff looped in the background is so fresh it never gets repetitive, and wouldn't even if the song was two minutes longer. The song itself is just the fearsome four freestyling flyness, so it's up to Paul to provide the theme with the hook, and "LaLaLa" draws its name entirely from the arabic singers crooning between verses. The song's dope as hell but it's one of many creative musical and lyrical combos to be found on "Montezuma's Revenge" like the lead single "Tour Stories":

"Ain't no way to count all the flights I'm takin
Chillin in Australia with them white Jamaicans
In Tokyo, I wasn't relaxin when I smoked (what?)
They throw the book at you if they catch you with a roach!
International ladies be givin up the numbers
Your homey get around like Christopher Columbus
And they know - I'll be back like Arnold
Act carnal, soon as I slam the car do'!
That's hard fo', a lot of brothers but not me you could
watch the Travel Channel probably spot me and I'm
very thankful I ain't gotta be cocky but I'm
flyer than a motherfucker, somebody stop me!"

Long-time Hiero member Domino and Prince Paul share the production credit here, but whoever gets it deserves props for the light airy feel of the music and how well it melds with the drums and subtle bassline, then picks up nicely by bringing in scratches and funky horns on the hook. Sometimes when you listen to a beat you get the sense it only took a minute to think of and five to create, but on songs like "Tour Stories" you picture the producers spending three straight days in the lab just tweaking one song - creating a bar of music, looping it, sampling from it, remixing it, reverberating it, blending it, discarding it, creating something brand new and liking it more, then taking the discarded dopeness and bringing it back into the fold - all done over and over again. That sense pervades the entire album. On "Proper Aim" you'll enjoy the beats and the rhymes in equal measure:

"Op don't need amphetamine
Op is an adrenaline fiend, Op live for the filthy scheme
Op gotta get the fettu-cine, similar to Medellin
Cartel, you never met a king
That's pushin with a head of steam like I'm Edgerrin James
Biggest Kilimanjaro bantamweight spaghetti green
They whylin in the mezzanine with a heavy chain
Follow to your limousine, stuck you like a nicotine patch
My reaction time is like a matador
If it seem imagined or inflated, check your vantage point"

Sink beneath the surface of the properly constructed linguistics and peep the bassline, plucked like you're sitting in a smoky nightclub listening to a jazz trio. Then notice the intentional crackle of the dusty record sampled, making the song far doper than it would be without that crispy feel. Then notice the carefully timed cymbal hits and rolls. Then notice the almost eerie melody that hits right before the mic is passed off artist to artist. Then pull back and soak in the whole thing at the meta level - the song works either way. When hip-hop is done right, you should be able to listen to the same song multiple times and get different experiences. Time and time again on "Montezuma's Revenge" that's exactly what happens. One gets the feeling Domino and Prince Paul bounced ideas off each other the same way the four rappers of SOM do in a cypher, and that creativity manifests itself repeatedly in songs like the head-nodding "You Got It," the symphonic and beautiful (yet almost ironically titled) "Postal" and the relationship tale of woe "Lickety Split."

While it's too early to have the advantage of perspective gained sixteen years after "'93 Til Infinity" was made, and the bootleg preventing drops do interfere here and there, this has the makings of a brand new classic set to shake things up all over again. It's perhaps fitting that Prince Paul is so heavily credited for his contributions, because even though not every track on this promo has production notes, one can note from the production of this album his demented genius influenced even songs produced strictly by the Hiero camp. Since the members of Hiero were no slouches behind the board to begin with (most interchangeably as good at rapping as at making beats) the result puts the word gestalt to shame, because it's even greater than being greater than the sum of its parts - and when it gets that great it's just art period.

Music Vibes: 9.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10

Originally posted: November 10, 2009
source: -

"Souls of Mischief "Montezuma's Revenge" Review"

Album Review: Souls of Mischief – Montezuma’s Revenge (2009)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Potholes
Support! Souls of Mischief – Montezuma’s Revenge
Well it’s been a minute, hasn’t it. It seems all too fitting that we’re witnessing the resurrection of the Hieroglyphics’ fantastic four about a damn-near decade since their last collective contribution. Even though so many years have passed by, Montezuma’s Revenge is proof positive that the chemistry among this group remains animate. As we happily welcome back the familiar faces, Prince Paul comes forth to share his legendary production with the emcees. It has been a long time coming, but Souls of Mischief returns with a decent LP that is most definitely worthy of a listen.

I would have been complacent with an exclusively Domino-produced album, but Prince Paul’s presence is what holds Montezuma’s Revenge together. It didn’t take too long for the rugged n’ raw “Won!” to win me over, with its striking guitar riff providing the Souls with a skeptic-silencing debut to the album. “Proper Aim” coasts on a suave bass line for an easy head-nodder, while “Poets” is as beautifully two-toned as Mos Def’s “Quiet Dog Bit Hard”. The track that I keep bringing myself back to is “Fourmation”, which is so De La in the best way. There’s no stretch in saying that Prince Paul is the king on this record.

Montezuma’s Revenge is an undeviating listen, which is a testament to the non-Prince Paul Hiero producers. “Tour Stories” is a formidable single for the Souls, with an ambient atmosphere holding hands with the art of storytelling. I still can’t believe these dudes have been going hard since ‘93. Opio’s robust work on “For Real Y’all” is a killer, with both speakers playing tug-of-war with an unearthly resonance while a triumphant drum line marches forward. I’m a big fan of consistency in a hip-hop album, which is why i give praise to the handful of sound tacticians on Montezuma who held their own in the presence of hip-hop royalty.

There’s a pulse. I’m elated to announce that the veteran Souls of Mischief have passed the test of time with flying colors. Montezuma’s Revenge achieves stability from front to back, barely diving into underwhelming territory. Del gives the fantastic four a “warm, warm welcome” in the album’s introduction. I’m giving them a warm, warm welcome back.

- Potholes in My Blog


93 'Til Infinity (Album) ◄ (9 versions) Jive ... 1993
93 'Til Infinity (Single) ◄ (6 versions) Jive ... 1993
That's When Ya Lost (12", Ltd, Blu) Jive 1993
Get The Girl, Grab The Money & Run / Later On / In Front Of The Kids (Single) ◄ (2 versions) Jive 1994
Never No More (Single) ◄ (3 versions) Jive 1994
The Rarities EP (12", EP, Promo) Jive 1994
No Man's Land (Album) ◄ (4 versions) Jive 1995
Rock It Like That (12") Jive 1995
Unseen Hand (12") Industry Records 1996
Focus (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Hiero Imperium 1997
Focus (Shooting Stars/Step Off) (12") Hiero Imperium 1997
Airborne Rangers / Groundbreaking (12") Industry Records 1999
The Extravaganza / Looking Over A City (Single) ◄ (4 versions) Mo Wax ... 1999
Medication / Acupuncture (12") Hiero Imperium 2000
Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Hiero Imperium 2000
Soundscience / Bad Business (12") Hiero Imperium 2001
Spark ◄ (3 versions) Chocolate Industries 2002
Montezuma's Revenge (2xCD, Album) Clear Label Records 2009
Phat & Phunky Dance Stance Compilation V (LP) Take A Ride (A+ Mix) Attic Records Limited 1995
Urban Renewal Program (CD, Comp) Spark Ninja Tune 2002
Process Of Elimination (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) Airborne Rangers Industry Records 1999
Appears On:
Rapperz Are Danger (12") Rapperz Are Danger (Mi... File Records 1994
The Extravaganza / Looking Over A City (12") The Extravaganza (Stre... Quannum 1999
Tommy Tee Presents... (12") Lethal Dosage (Main) Tee Productions 2001
An Hour-Long Mix Of Grand Central Tracks By Aim (CD, Mixed, Promo) No Restrictions Grand Central Records 2002
Hinterland (Album) ◄ (3 versions) No Restriction Grand Central Records ... 2002
Hinterland (Sampler) (12") No Restriction Grand Central Records 2002
No Restriction (Maxi, Single) ◄ (3 versions) No Restriction, No Res... Grand Central Records 2002
Schlack Schlack MK Besch (Cass, Comp, Mixed) No Restriction Mikrokosmos 2002
1973 Recon (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Ubiquitous Masters On Broadway 2003
Many Styles (2xLP) Ya Feelin It Fat Beats 2003
Sleeping Giant (CD, Mixed) Spark Clear Label Records 2003
Ubiquitous / Pull Out Your Cut (Remix) (12") Ubiquitous (Main), Ubi... Masters On Broadway 2003
Grand Central Translation - A Mix By Qool DJ Marv (CD) No Restrictions Grand Central Records 2004
Triangulation Station (Album) ◄ (2 versions) Drivers Wanted Hiero Imperium 2005
Underground Crown Holders (2xCD) No Restriction Grand Central Records 2005
Powerhouse (CD, Album) Aftershock Fouth World Music 2006
Supreme Lyricism Vol. 1 (CD, Comp, Mixed, Ltd) Extravaganza Giftstribution 2006
Jack Of All Trades (Album) ◄ (2 versions) How We Do Fat Beats 2007
My Last Good Deed (CD) Right Quick Hieroglyphics Imperium Recordings 2007
Truth Spoken Mixtape: Volume 1 (CD, P/Mixed) Extravaganza Quannum 2007
Tracks Appear On:
A Low Down Dirty Shame (Music From The Motion Picture) (Comp) ◄ (4 versions) Get The Girl, Grab The... Jive 1994
Freestyle Frenzy Vol 1 (LP, Comp) Freestyle (Nov 92) Liberty Grooves, Dolo Records 1994
Jive West 25th Vol.1 (2xLP) Good Feeling (Full Len... Jive 1994
Rap Attack (3xCD, Comp, Box) That's When Ya Lost Disky 1995
Bored Generation (CD) That's When Ya Lost Epitaph Records 1996
Hiero Oldies Vol. 1 (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) Cab Fare ('95 Remix), ... Hiero Imperium 1996
Jus' Jeepin' Again (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) '93 Til Infinity (LP V... Elevate 1996
Beats & Lyrics (Industry Hip Hop Compilation: Issue One) ◄ (2 versions) Unseen Hand Industry Records 1997
Hip Hop Hurray (CD) '93 'Til Infinity Disky 1997
Rap Attack (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) That's When Ya Lost Disky 1997
Hiero Oldies II (Cass, Comp) Break A Leg ('92), Ste... Hiero Imperium 1998
Streetwise Rap & Hip Hop (2xCD, Comp) '93 'Til Infinity Super Doubles 1998
Extravaganza (12", Promo) The Extravaganza (Stre... Mo Wax 1999
Hip Hop Don't Stop (The Greatest) (2xCD) '93 Till Infinity Virgin 1999
Process Of Elimination (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) Airborne Rangers Industry Records 1999
Quannum Spectrum (Comp) ◄ (7 versions) The Extravaganza Quannum ... 1999
Needle Addicts Presents... (Cass, Mixed) 93 'Til Infinity 2000
The World Traveler (Cass, Mixed) Airborne Rangers Not On Label 2000
Hiero Oldies Volume One (CD, Comp) Souls Of Mischief, Ste... Hiero Imperium 2001
Hiero Oldies Volume Two (CD, Comp) Batting Practice (Orig... Hiero Imperium 2001
Live At The BBQ (CD, Mixed) 93 Til Infinity Not On Label 2001
Original (CD, Comp, Mixed) From Now Til Infinity Not On Label 2001
Recon-struction 2 (CD) Let 'Em Know, That's W... Triple Threat Mix Tapes 2001
Scratch Vol 1 (Comp) ◄ (2 versions) 93 Til Infinity Rawkus 2001
90 Platten 90 Minuten (Cass, Mixed) 93' Till Infinity Shining e.p.a. 2002
AnotherLateNight (Comp) ◄ (3 versions) 9



In an era when most rap albums are accomplished by emailing beats and verses back and forth, Souls of Mischief’s Montezuma’s Revenge was created the old-fashioned way, with the MCs – A-Plus, Phesto, Opio and Tajai - and producers – Prince Paul and Domino - in the lab together from the beginning to the end of the recording process honing and perfecting each song to create a magnum opus. “We rented a house across the Golden Gate Bridge near Point Reyes. We stayed in the house for at least a month,” explains Opio. “Prince Paul came out, we had no TVs or distractions, we just did music every day. It kind of seemed like he might be a slave driver, but it didn’t come to that, he just let us do our thing. We knew he wanted a highly stylized album, so we just focused on the styles.” “It was cool, because Paul was making us do stuff over, and he really did help produce the record,” adds Tajai. “He had concepts, and its good to have an outside perspective - it was a great process.”

The result is a cohesive, creative hip-hop album, the kind of project you’d expect from veteran MCs like Souls of Mischief under the auspices of a genius producer like Prince Paul. Souls first encountered Prince Paul while touring with A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul back in the day. But it was on a more recent tour with Handsome Boy Modeling School that the seeds of this collaboration were planted. “He came at me like ‘I’m a big ass fan of SOM, and I’d like to do a record with y’all,’” recalls Opio. “I wanted to just ask him for some beats, but in my mind it seemed corny to ask Prince Paul for a beat CD and I didn’t know how to go about it. On the last day of tour he said ‘I’m hella serious about doing this record.'" Opio brought the idea to the rest of the group, and the rest is history.

So what exactly is Montezuma’s Revenge? “We recorded on this street called Montezuma Street in the boonies. When we came back that was the working title, because it was called Montezuma house,” Tajai recalls. “The deeper meaning is this album will make you crap yourself.” The final product features 18 tracks worth of the quality hip-hop you’ve come to expect from Hieroglyphics, with cover art by esteemed illustrator Steve Lopez (famous for his illustrations of Erykah Badu and others).

After a rousing intro from Del the Funky Homosapien, SOM re-introduce their fans to their no-holds-barred lyricism on “Won 1”. The next track, “Postal”, talks about relationships from an honest perspective. "Tour Stories", the first single from the album, is a favorite of Opio’s. “When we first heard that track the hook just came to mind right away,” he explains. “The vibe of the song is really representative of our lives because we tour so much.” Another highlight is “Poets” where the four MCs utilize wordplay and double meanings to illustrate their tales. One of the pinnacles of Montezuma’s Revenge is “Fourmation” where the Souls pass the mic back and forth displaying a mastery of the style.

Souls of Mischief’s first LP, 93 'Til Infinity (Jive, 1993) debuted at #14 on Billboard's R&B charts, placing at 109 in the top 200. Their second album, No Man's Land (Jive, 1995) came in at #27 on the R&B charts. In 1995, Souls of Mischief members A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai joined forces with the other members of the Hieroglyphics crew including Del, Domino, Pep Love, and Casual to create a new independent label- Hieroglyphics Imperium- to publish and market the collective's, and individual members', releases. In 1998 Hieroglyphics released Third Eye Vision, their first album as a group. Souls of Mischief also released Focus in 1998, the first album on which they exercised complete creative and marketing control over their own material. In 2000 SOM followed up with the LP Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution. Hieroglyphics released their second group album, Full Circle, in 2003. In the midst of touring and recording, Souls of Mischief remained active as a group as the members released solo projects including Tajai’s Power Movement (2004), Opio’s Triangulation Station (2005), A-Plus’ My Last Good Deed (2007), and Opio’s Vulture’s Wisdom, Volume 1 (2008). Montezuma’s Revenge is a futuristic return to the vintage Souls of Mischief sound, with stellar production from A-Plus, Domino and Prince Paul (De La Soul, Gravediggaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School), who brings his unique comedic bent to the project. Even the most die-hard Hieroglyphics fan will agree after sampling Montezuma’s Revenge – it was worth the wait.
Bio written by: - Walasia "MJ" Shabazz