SOULS OF MISCHIEF - 93 'til Infinity
In 1991, with his first album, Del tha Funky Homosapien had demonstrated that other ways existed for the Californian scene, apart from gangsta rap. Two years later, 93 'till Infinity made the same statement, thanks to atmospheric beats, complex rhymes, and lyrics not too outrageous, and extraordinarily mature for rappers as young as the Souls of Mischief.
Before having reached their twenties, A-Plus, Phesto, Opio and Tajai, all members, like Del, of the Hieroglyphics crew, delivered what remains the best album ever recorded by the Bay Area collective. Starting with the heavy bass and mad saxophone of "Let’ em Know", the Souls of Mischief set the tone. Like their colleagues from the East Coast, these four enjoyed delicate jazz rap, but they added to it some controlled craziness which made a difference.
Their beats knew perfectly well how to play with ruptures or variations, for example with this piano appearing suddenly at the beginning of each verse on "Live and Let Live", or with the many surprises scattered on "Anything Can Happen". Mostly dedicated to battle exercises, moving from ego-trips to assaults against wack rappers ("MC's should know their limitations", Del was repeating on the chorus of "Limitations"), their rhymes were full of assonances, especially with "That's When Ya Lost", a real blueprint for poetic hip-hop. These MCs being bold, they were using some incredible vocabulary, saying unlikely sentences like "mindless spineless vertabraetless with menengitis" ("Never No More").
All of this differed from usual West Coast rap. However, the gangsta world was not too far. The Souls of Mischiefs were reporting its vicissitudes in a humoristic mode ("What a Way to Go Out", "Anything Can Happen"), they had an acute view on it, as demonstrated with the excellent "Tell Me Who Profits". They were also dealing with street life issues ("Live and Let Live") and sex ("A Name I Call Myself"), but with tortuous, astute and subtle lyrics.
Then, why did a record so close to perfection never meet any big success? Maybe a hit was missing. This album had none, that's true. But it had even better; it had the eponymous track, "93 'till Infinity", one of the most incredible song ever proposed by rap music, with its evanescent music and bitter trumpet, ideal beats to approach the track's main topic: the art of having fun. Never has a track, or even an album, so well named. As from 1993, until infinity, this record has never lost and will never lose any flavor.
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