Souls of Mischief are one of the hardest touring groups in any genre of music and have been for many years now. The blessing this brings is that having missed them when they were over in November we were able to catch up with Tajai, Opio and Phesto last month as part of their tour to promote their limited edition box set album in conjunction with Carhartt, which features a shirt with a patch.
How did the Carhartt collaboration come about?
Tajai: We did an in-store last time we were here and they were like, 'yo we should do a tour'. The good thing about Carhartt over here is they got their ear to the streets and really know what's going on with the youths. That would've been a hard thing to do in the States where it's more of a stodgy work based label, over here they got the streetwear and really know what's goin on with the kids. We been rocking it the whole time though cos you know work wear is hip hop.
Have you been surprised by the response to the single Postal and the album on the internet or from younger fans who haven't been exposed to you from day one?
T: It's great. I hope whenever you discover SOM it's a good thing. It's a good starting point for a lot of people too, and if they then go back the kind of records we make are timeless. So it's not like it's an old style of music because in terms of rap we were so advanced, lyrically. It's only just catching up to it 10-15 years later, so it's not like kids can't follow what we're saying or the beats are too different. We've always been in this timeless zone, cos we came just after the golden era and came before the platinum era or whatever so the music has always gotten into this timeless zone. It's good the young fans are picking up on it, I mean we probably have more fans under the age of 21 than over 21 which is good.
A lot of kids are learning about the golden era of hip hop via the internet and social media, do you use social networking to stay in touch with your fanbase?
T: Wherever the people are we try to plug in. Twitter, Bandcamp, Facebook all of that. R.I.P. MySpace!!
Opio: More than social media websites we actually go and touch people face to face with the music. We tour a lot, we travel, we dedicated to that so people actually have a chance to walk up to us and ask us questions, talk to us about stuff in the flesh rather than get some response that's already programmed into a computer. It can get hectic trying to do it online sometimes. Normally when people talk to us it's not really like a personal experience. SOM always been for the people and with the people, so I think people who followed us over the years and follow us right now probably at least half those people have had a chance to meet us in person and to talk to us.
What made you record again as Souls of Mischief after nine years out of the studio?
O: It wasn't like for a whole entire nine years we hadn't recorded any music together but a full length SOM album hadn't been done. It didn't really dawn on us until after the record came out and everybody was like 'yo what took y'all so long to come out with a record.' The main thing was having the opportunity to work with Prince Paul that catapulted the whole group into making the record - that was the impetus.
The album is called Montezuma's Revenge that's slang for diarrhoea isn't it?
O: Yes it is, but if you look at why it's slang for diarrhoea from a world history point, how does that come about? Montezuma is Mexico and it's a curse on the Europeans coming over there and colonising it and what happened as a result of that. Also we just trying to show our respect for all cultures, when people think about Hieroglyphics they only think about Egyptian hieroglyphics, but you see pyramids all over the world and it's all coming from the same mindstate, you feel me?
What's next for Souls of Mischief and the Hiero crew, any more releases this year?
O: I got my second in a series of records. I did Vultures Wisdom Volume 1 which came out last year and volume two is coming out this year. It's coming out summer, it's mastered and the artwork's getting finalised so it'll be out soon.
P: I got a record coming out too, it's called Background Check and that's coming after Opio's album, maybe fall or winter.
Who do you currently rate in hip hop?
O: Jay Electronica, his shit is dope. Fashawn, he dope. Guilty Simpson, Black Milk, Slum Village and I'm definitely bumping the new Freeway & Jake One.
What about UK acts?
T: I fuck with Wiley but I know everyone over here is like; 'aaaahhh that's pop' but I don't know, I fuck with Wiley! We don't really get exposed to anything that isn't from the States man. I mean we don't even get exposed to underground rappers from the States on the radio - let alone UK acts. We living in communist Russia in '87 right now, except we gotta choice but we just choose not to fight it.
It seems those of us who are exercising our freedom of choice, young or old, are still checking out Souls of Mischief as they remain as relevant to hip hop and enjoyable to listen to as they did back in 93.
Words: Mark Rahaman
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