By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY — Souls of Mischief are a staple to every true hip-hop devotee, and are well known by casual listeners due to the massive success of their classic track “’93 ‘til Infinity” off their debut album of the same name. They have strayed away from the limelight of major commercial success, and by doing so have become true icons in the underground hip-hop world.
Their most recent album There Is Only Now (2014) was produced by Adrian Younge, who played all the instruments himself and created the samples for the record from the sessions. This created a classic, analog feel to the tracks, typical to golden-era hip hop, which featured samples from jazz, soul and funk records from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“People don’t necessarily have the nostalgia for that era right now, so they don’t necessarily pick it up,” said SOM member Opio in a phone interview. “There’s just so much good music out there, so many talented, hardworking artists that don’t necessarily get that nod. People aren’t really going out and searching hip hop. You know if you’re a real, real, true, true head, you’ll go out, you have the Internet, you’ll go online, see stuff, you’ll check out shows, there’s so much dope shit out there.”
Many are heralding this new SOM album as precisely the thing that modern hip-hop music sorely needed; a return to the golden era of strong, well-crafted lyrical content, set over top of organic melodies and grooves.
“I think everybody knows that it’s kind of unhealthy to just consume that much misogynistic and materialistic nonsense. There has to be balance. It’s cool for something to be super raunchy and crazy but there has to also be something that’s positive and uplifting, and the scales are just tipped in the favour of everything that’s unhealthy for you,” said Opio.
Opio talked about how the change in the media regulation laws, which allow for media conglomerates to hold monopolies over what’s being broadcasted. It’s a change he sees as the core of the problem with modern hip-hop and pop music in general.
“There’s so much money being made in hip hop, there’s a machine pushing that and that’s the problem. It’s like the person that hides behind that door, the Wizard of Oz, the unseen guy that stands at the top of the food chain and writes all the tracks and never gets any blame for any of the music.
“While someone might point at a Chief Keef or something and be like, ‘He’s bad, he’s bad for hip hop,’ or 50 Cent or whatever, and just be like, ‘This guy is so violent, it’s his fault!’ But what about the guy that’s making it all possible? That’s making sure he’s on that radio station? That’s making sure he’s on all of the television stations? These people that hide behind closed doors and you never hear their names.”
However, they have not let this corrupt their passion for creating great music and staying true to progressing their art. “There are some people that really, really care about certain nuances of the art, and how the production style is and the lyrical make-up and all that. There’s a lot of that out there,” said Opio.
On top of the new SOM record, Opio is currently in the studio working on a new solo project.
He also stated that while it’s too early to tell, all the group members enjoyed working with Younge so much that the prospect of another album with him in the future is not outside the realm of possibility. He also said the same about the potential for another Hieroglyphics project, a collective including Souls of Mischief, Del the Funky Homosapien and others. Regardless of what’s to come, Opio’s attitude regarding development will remain unchanged.
“I think you always try to evolve and grow as an artist and just push yourself every single time.”
Souls of Mischief play at Commonwealth on February 11th.AB, Alberta, Commonwealth, Opio, Souls of Mischief