This is a gem if ever there was one. Souls Of Mischief’s cult hit of the early-90s is one that endures among hip-hop heads and casual listeners alike, patently because it sounds like very little else from the era that spawned Death Row, Bad Boy, Ice Cube, Tupac, Snoop and Biggie. Almost a direct, averse reaction to G-funk gangsta rap in the same way fellow Oakland rhymers The Pharcyde made tricked-out soul beats into a legitimate art form a year earlier, 93 ’til Infinity is an album full of jazzy, understated beats that sample some of the best African-American music of the last half century. But the sound that endures is the loping minor chord progression of drummer Billy Cobham’s sombre jazz tune ‘Heather, ramped up to a nice coasting speed and forming the basis of this title track. Cobham’s a bit of a dark horse in this downtempo world; he was also sampled by Massive Attack for the opening track to Blue Lines. But this is probably the sweetest example of breathing new life into an old song.
Certain rap lines just stick for longer than others. It’s the reason that we can all recite ‘H to the Izzo’ off by heart but stall when we get to other Jay-Z joints that aren’t ’99 Problems.’ Some cross over into common lexicon even though many of the utterers may not know from whence it came. I talked about this phenomenon with Greg Gillis, the man behind Girl Talk earlier this week. He noted that many of his fans would come to shows singing along to samples that he’d put on a record that they never would have been exposed to earlier, but more importantly, never would have known. There are certain ephemeral, usually quite simple lines, he reasoned scientifically (for he is, at heart an engineer) that everyone knows. ‘I was a terror since the public school era.’ ‘If you don’t know now you know.’ ‘Hey, how ya doin, sorry you can’t get through.’ To that we can add perhaps the most obscure but nonetheless vital, ‘This is how we chill, from 93 ’til…’
Two things that I’ve always loved about this song. First, none of the four members of this crew finish their verses on time before another one jumps in. It’s this great montage of voices from high to low pitch that really lends the idea to a whole lot of nutty professors sitting around the blunt-edged cauldron dropping science. Just like in The Pharcyde, there’s at least one guy here (I think it’s Opio) who sounds like he’s just escaped from a mental institution, all jumpy vibes and shit, but still mellow. just like the post-jazz they riff on, Souls Of Mischief are romantically, uncannily weird. Second, the texture. That phased in, muffled synth pad that opens the tune is counterposed with that harsh sax siren and those kicking drum breaks. Like having sex as compared to kissing, ’93 Til Infinity’ hits you at all sensory angles and with the combination of voices riding over the top, result in a stone cold musical orgasm. Even if you don’t think you know this song, you know it. Girl Talk knows it. And we all know that they never tell us what comes after ‘until.’ That’s the best part of all.
Souls Of Mischief – ’93 ‘Til Infinity’