Souls of Mischief Interview: Montezuma’s Revenge

01/25/2010

“Let me let you know something. Stop doing that old school shit,” advises Morgan Freeman to Souls of Mischief, “I assisted many rappers all the way from Webbie, Rich Boy, to D4L.” It’s actually a Morgan Freeman impostor on Souls of Mischief’s new album, Montezuma’s Revenge. The group better known as half of the Oakland crew, Heiroglyphics, explained that the skit is about “the old versus the new,” which is an appropriate subject since this is their first release in almost ten years. A lot of artists have come and gone, and the essence of hip hop isn’t exactly what it was in ’93. SFCritic spoke with Tajai and Opio before their release party at Mezzanine (Jan. 28th) about just that—‘93 till infinity.

SFCritic (SFC): How was it getting back together as a group for Montezuma’s Revenge?

Tajai: We always work together as a group. As far as getting back in the studio together that was fantastic. We tour probably a 100-150 shows every year with each other, let alone another 100 on our own.

SFC: Even on your guy’s solo-project since the last album you have been working together?

Opio: Yeah. We do solo-projects, but we tour all those records as Souls of Mischief. For me personally, it has been an eye-opening experience to see how people react, “Man—Souls of Mischief got to get back together,” because it’s almost like we never were apart.

SFC: Being such a tight crew, how was it working with Prince Paul? Was it totally business, or were you guys all going out and getting burgers or something?

Tajai: A little bit of both man. We isolated ourselves by moving to a house in the middle of nowhere. We were cooking and stuff together. We kicked it and everything, but when it came down to it we were together to make some great music.

SFC: Who was the cook in the group?

Opio: (Chuckles) Man we were just using the microwave. It was our favorite cook.

SFC: You’ve been grouped with The Native Tongues crew (East Coast), but as a group you are a fixture in Bay Area hip hop. Did you ever think of packing your bags and working in a bigger market like LA or NY?

Tajai: No, because you know part of what makes our music special is that it’s homegrown. I think moving from our home would change a lot. We’re not some nomads. We are trying to build up our community.

SFC: How did you feel about the hyphy movment?

Tajai: I think any kind of exposure for the Bay is great thing. I think they tried to turn into a movie thing, rather than just letting it be what it is, which I think kind of killed it. I mean, the reason we are so hyphy is because we don’t have a club scene. It was for kids to get their energies out.

It sort of ate itself alive because were not like LA where cats will have all these great functions to jerk and dance. We don’t have those types of spaces for youth. Really, the kids don’t have anywhere to kick it so it’s hard for it to sustain itself. Hip hop is an expression, but when you start talking about a movement, a movement has to have a direction.

SFC: “’93 Till Infinity” is your ubiquitous hit that people recognize. It’s gotten you fame, and given you a bar to step to. As you continue to try and grow from that single, is the song a blessing or a curse, or both?

Tajai: It can only be a blessing. How can that be bad? Anytime it comes on it brings joy and makes people feel a certain way. It’s bigger than what we even intended.

If you look at our releases the reason why there is time in between them is we are trying to craft exactly that level. I think it’s a high bar, but you know I’m not objective at all, but I think we are matching it and even exceeding it as Souls of Mischief, with Prince Paul, with some prospective on the world, in 2009 when there is a drought of real rap shit.

Opio: We didn’t go out to make hits. We went out to make true hip hop. We accomplished that in a song. I think it’s more a classic record that has withstood the test of time more so than a super-hit record that was a smash at one period in time that might have gone platinum

SFC: On tracks like “Hiero HQ” or “Proper Aim” you bring battle raps, but unlike 50 Cent or Joe Budden you never really attack particular artist, why?

Tajai: Me personally, I don’t feel like there are any artists I feel that way about. If I’m trying to establish supremacy over everything, why focus on the individual as far as lyrics. There isn’t anybody I feel that way about. It’s never been that way either.

SFC: I don’t want to get too much into, but with your whole “Mr. Freeman Skit,” why did you choose those artists (Webbie, Rich Boy, D4L)?

Opio: That’s a comedy. Prince Paul creates these skits that are really funny.

Tajai: To me when he was like “I helped out Webbie” and then says “I helped your boy Beeda Weeda” and that’s an artist I put out–basically, he’s talking about old versus new, not about what’s fresh or whatever. We were making fun of ourselves too.

Opio: The spirit of competition is what we thrive off. Maybe some people do it for show, for record sales, or to increase their visibility, but for us it really is about the competition. All the other sideline, hoopla, we don’t involve ourselves in that, especially living in Oakland. Talk about somebody here you’re going to get approached. We live like that all the time.
Souls of Mischief perform at The Mezzanine on January 28th. Advance tickets are $15. Doors open at 8pm.

This article is republished from SF Station.