From the bowels of the bustling metropolis of Oakland, California, four artists emerge with the determination, skill and pure talent to change the face of Hip Hop. The four combine to form Souls of Mischief; a feisty band of microphone marauders and beat plunderers.
The Souls of Mischief have been honing their skills for nearly two decades in the Oakland area. They all hail from the same area in East Oakland and have attended school together since elementary; their lasting friendship strengthened by their mutual interest in music. Battling hosts of MC’s from far and near, and gaining fame as stunning lyricists, these four young men; A-plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai, along with their musical family, Hieroglyphics, have worked at their craft until it has become like a sharp-edged sword, cutting through boundaries of sound and style. "We started out trying to be definitely different, and most definitely better than the stuff that’s out there", remarks the energetic, mad scientist-like Phesto.
Looking at their track record, the Souls have achieved these goals and are continuing down their path of excellence. Their 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. Although both albums were received well by the Hip Hop community, neither achieved the type of success enjoyed by more mainstream acts. "We just want to make good music", says Tajai, "sales are important, but we aren’t going to compromise our music’s quality to sell". This attitude is central to the Souls’ unique style and appeal.
Atypical of what has been dubbed the "West Coast Sound", the Souls’ music, lyrical structure and content challenge the listener to actually LISTEN to what is being said and pay attention to the subtle nuances of beat and scratch which accent their lyrics. According to the smooth-flowing A-plus, "We’re trying to present a broad spectrum and redefine what it is to be West Coast, and more importantly- Hip Hop in it’s entirety". Straying from empty gangsterisms and other forms of negativity, these brothers try to constantly add to the quality and depth of Hip Hop.
This is a very precarious position in a world where artists of a positive nature rarely reach critical acclaim, yet the Souls embrace the challenge. As a result, their work has been embraced by the Hip Hop community all over the globe. They have been billed with the best and brightest of the industry, including tours with A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Common Sense, The Alkaholiks, Pharcyde, The Roots, KRS-ONE, Wu-Tang Clan and others. They also brought their Hieroglyphic show, which includes Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual and the Prose to fans throughout the United States, Canada and Japan. This worldwide exposure has made their style one of the most loved and reproduced in Rap.
The Souls’ lyrics and production can currently be heard on the Hieroglyphics debut LP, Third Eye Vision (Hiero Imperium, 1998) available through their own Hiero Imperium label. This project represents a new direction for the Souls, as they are able to team up with their Hieroglyphic brethren (Casual, Del, The Prose, Domino) and create more energetic rhythms and styles. As the first release on their own independent label, Third Eye Vision has enabled the Souls to have complete creative and marketing control over their own material.
The Souls also have an independent album in circulation entitled Focus (Hiero Imperium, 1998) which has been making a lot of noise on the underground since its release in early 1998. At present, the group has just released a new album: Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution (Hiero Imperium, 2000) and is collaboratiing with the Pharcyde on a project tentatively titled Almyghty Myghty Python.
So what is it to be a "Soul of Mischief?" The name seems to imply a much darker, more nefarious group of characters than those described. "We make mischief on the microphone– we came to wreak havoc on the mic", Opio chimes in. It seems that somewhere in their essence, at the base of their psyche, there is a nagging voice which keeps telling these young men to break the standards. By taking lyricism into realms uncharted, and even into some areas which would be better left alone, they express this mischievous soul and break ground in the Hip Hop industry. Their courage and determination to challenge the status quo of rap make them innovators in this field of imitators.