Souls of Mischief :: 93 'Til Infinity :: Jive/Zomba
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Vukile Simelane

    1. A person considered as the perfect embodiment of an intangible quality; a personification
    2. A person's emotional or moral nature
    3. A sense of ethnic pride among Black people and especially African Americans, expressed in areas such as language, social customs, religion, and music.
    4. A strong, deeply felt emotion conveyed by a speaker, a performer, or an artist.

mis·chief  - An inclination or tendency to play pranks or cause embarrassment.

Take 4 parts lyrical dexterity, add a smidge of humor, a dash of caustic, dry wit that would make Larry David proud, top up with a heap of realism, and pre-heat the oven to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, and out pops one of the illest rap albums in the past decade. This startling debut is a sonic work of genius, from the get go to the "Outro." Tajai, Opio, A-Plus and Phesto seamlessly exchange hardcore verses on "Let Em Know," and do just that; each drop kick and flip pronouns and similes to no end, asserting themselves in your booming system. Tip and Phife had chemistry akin to 3000 and Antwan Patton, but these cats even have similar timbres to their oratory flows, and that Californified accent just fucks wit ya head. When these young MCs slipped this LP onto our store shelves, it went unnoticed, and relegated them to the doldrums of the underground (read: mediocre record sales); but that is not the criterion to which this encyclopedia of West Coast life will be judged. Arguably the most talented of the four (read: my favorite), A-Plus expectorates one of his best verses on the LP, on only the second track; an ode to the street mentality entitled "Live and Let Die." A-Plus calls out all punks and let's 'em know that if it's kill or be killed, he ain't gon hesitate:

"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?
Ever thought of going out with someone blasting you?
Willing to be killing maybe is a great sin but
it's not appealing when bullets penetrate skin what
pain when a brain leaves a stain with the quickness
So I get a fool if I think that I'm on his shitlist
With the swiftness of a glock nine
So now who got your back? Cuz my gat got mine
Find a brother with some dreads and now you figure you're gonna kill him
Well I grab my gun when I see one I'm gonna fill him
Why should you live in fear thinkin someone is gonna get ya?
I bet ya, before he gets me he'll be on a stretcher
So no nigga pulls a trigger on the S-O-M
And if there's more than one I'll have to kill the rest of them
Buckshots, leave a body ripped, cuz I got equipped
with a shotty quick, that nobody wanna riff with
Get split open with the fury of the lead G
Rat-a-tat, tat-a-tat, flat is what your head be
Dead see, why don't brothers wanna let me function?
When I pull it, kids be eatin bullets like a luncheon
Adam got a magnum and I tag em with this weapon
Be threatened, cuz Adam be pullin a pistol if you're steppin
I don't like it but I guess that that's the way it has to be
Live and let live but then you're dead before you're blastin me"

I ain't said shit bout the funky Primo-esque piano, nor the Marsalis-like horns. This is some funky ass shit, with ill verbals to boot. Pounding basslines and crashing cymbals characterize "That's When Ya Lost," where bigging up the cornucopia of talent in the Left Coast is the order of the day. The effortless transition into "A Name I Call Myself" is admirable, as well as the wordplay and pop cultural references infused within this cut. Though a ton of the verses are showcases for their vocal adroitness, deeper subject matter and content is scattered all over, as they flip scripts "like a dyslexic actor." Take "What a Way To Go Out," a cautionary urban tale about packing the latex, being strapped and slangin' boulders. If that last verse don't scare ya ass into subscribing to Durex in this day in age, then I don't know what will. A somber and moody jazz groove is "Never No More," the type of shit you listen to waiting on the city shuttle, and Opio defines the term flow:

"I'm coming tighter, your rhymes are alright-a
Little reminiscent of the poetry I write
a-stoundingly, you're sounding like me, might we
Step outside and settle this? I cause catastrophes
I laugh at these cause my shit is astonishing
Demolishing, you and your following I'm swallowing
MC's like I was a black hole ramsack those
wack flows who chose to oppose
I don't suppose, dare or where my stubble grows
Reverses the process, god bless you swing and whoa it's you!
Opio, disposes of crews like snotty tissues
I rip through bodies with corkscrews you wish you never tried"

Until infinity will be the day that "93 'Til Infinity" ceases to be timeless and hypnotic, harmonic, soul-fulfilling and downright pimpin. You can bump this whether you wanna "roam the strip for bones to pick," or when you need courage before you "dial the seven digits" to "call up Bridgette." If there ever was a platform for these young cats to floss their chemistry, there it went. Mr. Bob Dobalina then comes through with his inimitable voice, providing the hook on the 9th track:

"MC's should know their limitations, their limitations
MC's should know their limitations
MC's should know their limitations, their limitations
MC's should know their limitations"

That hook sums up the modern rap game, and desperately needs repeating in this day in age of self-indulgent rhyme and rap schemes. Another advisory anecdote is "Anything Can Happen," whether it be drive by cappings, or tidal waves in SE Asia. Tajai does a strong Stephen King impression in painting a high definition picture:

"...I knew this kid was swift
Paid was how his mind logged, so he got his grind on
But now it's years later
I say "Hey" ta him
He flash his fronts fulla +AU+, and "Hey you!"
The warning drove from a Seville as it sped by
Lead fly, ratta-tat-tatta, his blood spatta
I strive ta, see the driva with my eye
Moms grabbed sky, and caught lead in her thigh, I
put her behind the trash can, dashed to my man
It was too late, it's sad that Ramel was perforated
Waited and sweated, for the medics as my moms bled
Even if he was alive at the scene, by now my man Ram's dead
The cops do not care
'cause our skin has too much shade in it'
They'll dismiss this as some niggas misbehavin'
But I'll never forget the driver of that blue Seville
And live for the day to bust shots in his grill
But still, I can't do this alone
My crew's line, so I slip two dimes into the pay phone"

Wonderful rhythmic linguistics aside, these Hiero members know how to mesh narratives into their own personalities, giving them cohesiveness rarely heard on multiple-themed tracks. If this LP doesn't help you "Make Your Mind Up" about the talent of the Left Coast, then maybe A-Plus will be more convincing than:

"Hieroglyphics is
Gonna twist a kid's cerebellum
If he lives, then I tell 'im
I'll leave his head swellin'
When tellin' fellas about the 5-6
Live it's me investigatin' fly chicks' privates
I got a plan, I got a plan, a strategy
Adam be mad a G mad at me cause I got a fatter salary
Actually, you will be cookin' like bottom ramen
Never top, cuz you'll never stop the atom (+Adam+) bombin
Hiroshima, Nagasaki, don't copy
The manuscript - man, you slipped, you're sloppy
Joe Schmo, never no more, I'm clever and you're
never gonna score cause I'm sure I'm better and pure
Like cannabis, and if it's possible I'll drop a new
Line with the lyrics, live is the spirits
And soul, I got plenty in me, eeny-meeny-miny-mo
Slo-Mo, approach yo ho, yup
Cuz I'm the man and you can read it in Genesis
A-D-A-M, the A-P-L-U-S
One and the same, runnin the game on fly chicks
Real tight, so they feel right with the 5-6
And it's like that, and that's how it is, G
The skins I cross get tossed like a frisbee
Search and find lines of life in my scripture
Screens make me seen so the keen get the +picture+"

The un-timeless boom-bap of the outdated "Batting Practice" still does just enough to let the Hieros big up their version of the MLB. The sample from Jigga's "Coming of Age" is utilized on the political and penultimate "Tell Me Who Profits" posse cut about the "Paper Chase." The "Outro" allows them the opportunity for the gratuitous and obligatory shout outs to "Earl, Ray-Ray, Sasha, and all dem muh'fuckas at 7-11."

The painstaking construction of rhyme structure is evident throughout this opus, and it has been accomplished flawlessly. If true poetry could be captured its rawest, feral form, bottled, packaged without additives or preservatives and tele-marketed nowadays, I doubt it would still sell to the culture-less and tasteless consumer populace that snaps up copies of 50 Cent and his minions like an insatiable pack of ignorant hyenas. "93 'Til Infinity" serves up a massive slice of 'fuck you' pie to those with the TRL request line on speed dial, and will forever remain as a fossil for how great this art form used to be.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 10 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9.5 of 10

Originally posted: January 4, 2005