Souls of Mischief
93 ’til Infinity
Jive/BMG Records, 1993
93 ’til Infinity is one of those lost West Coast hip-hop gems, and twenty years later, the least we could do is honor its legend as our “Album of the Week”.
The striking characteristics behind 93 ’til Infinity are pretty easy to mount, but even twenty years later it’s hard to wrap thoughts around how incredibly precise and perfect this record really is. A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai not only supply smart verses that demand attention, but the fact of the matter is that the bars these MC’s spit are reminiscent of those coming from a seasoned veteran, not a meddling group of California teenagers. At the ripe ages of 19 and 18, Souls of Mischief swing kingpin lines of life and actuality over bass-dominated West Coast trudging production and mixing East Coast influence. “Tell Me Who Profits”, the album’s second-to-last song, sees the group interchanging bars and throwing together one of the most thought-out songs of 1993. On the song’s sixth verse, Opio starts the next barrage of bars: “I can fool with the school system/ They take facts and twist ’em/ Into knots, right up the blocks/ A spot, to get a 40/ Around the corner get craps.” Right after Opio’s last line, Phesto jumps in, as if he’s Opio’s right-shouldered half conscious: “Perhaps these is traps, to keep us tapped?”
It’s this precision and attention to detail regarding storytelling that is spread all over 93 ’til. The album opener “Let ‘Em Know” is more straightforward as far as presentation, with all four MC’s exchanging their own verses, but it seamlessly smashes the eardrums with riveting flow and diversity among each verse. The subject matter is rather corse compared to the record’s other heavy hitters, but “Let ‘Em Know” wins because it opens the album with a bang. “Here I go again Return of the Jedi, red eye/ Use my lightsaber to take guys that pick my flavor/ I pounce and trounce on emcees when I slay ya/ Remember the days you parleys ’em to the left/ Cuz I get deffer than senior citizens with Alzheimer’s.”
The everlasting glory behind 93 ’til Infinity stands because of its beautifully layered consistency. Souls of Mischief sling intricate stories about Oakland life that are disguised in smart lines that touch the deepest hip-hop caverns, and the production takes the best of groups like Gang Starr and A Tribe Called Quest and swirl them into a East Coast/West Coast mesh. Driven by the East Coast jazz sound and deep rumbling bass/percussion combo, 93 ’til Infinity is a West Coast record with an original hip-hop sound. Mix all of this up, and out comes one of the best records of the Golden Age.
For most people, the end of the 80’s to the middle 90’s is considered hip-hop’s Golden Age. At this time, artists such as Public Enemy, N.W.A., De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, the Beastie Boys, OutKast, Tupac, Nas and Wu-Tang Clan were releasing albums that have become classics. Within that, each region of the country was developing its own particular hip-hop sound. The West Coast was raw and in your face, with heavy-handed bass riffs, characterizing the heat of a California day. This is the type of sound found on 93 ‘Til Infinity, the 1993 classic from Souls of Mischief.
West Coast life is presented with honesty as A-Plus, Opio, Phesto D and Tajai, members of the Hieroglyphics collective, rap from their perspective. Listening to this record twenty years removed from its release, the audience is able to get a sense of what these kids lived through in the early 90’s. Comparatively, you can listen to a record such as good kid, m.A.A.d city by Kendrick Lamar, where he describes his life on the West Coast, and ask, how have things changed in the past twenty years? Have things changed at all? What’s interesting is that the words on 93 ‘Til Infinity still carry a great deal of relevance to today’s society.
For instance, on “Live and Let Live” A-Plus says, “Yo, I shall not kill, I will if I have to/ You say I’m the one promoting violence, well I ask you/ Have you ever heard the sound of bullets passing you?” Later on the record during the title track, the group goes in and describes their escapades with marijuana and nights out trying to find a girl. As Tajai explains, “I’m posted, most kids accept this as cool/ I exit, cause I’m an exception to the rule/ I’m steppin-to the cool spots where crews flock to snare a dip.” I’m immediately reminded of Kendrick’s song, “The Art of Peer Pressure” when he says, “We on the mission for bad bitches and trouble.” Twenty years later, are adolescent males and their approach to life really that different? As the hook goes in 93 ‘Til Infinity, “This is how we chill from 93 ‘Til.”
With guest appearances from Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Jay Biz and Casual, 93 ‘Til Infinity stands as a classic hip-hop record. For me, this album is a way to go back in time to get a better understanding of what life was like on the West Coast back in the early 90’s. On top of that, going back and listening to a record such as 93 ‘Til Infinity can help us to understand present day artists like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul or Pac Div. If only we could do this type of stuff in history class.
Listen to the album here!