Souls of Mischief
In an era when most rap albums are accomplished by emailing beats and verses back and forth, Souls of Mischief’s Montezuma’s Revenge was created the old-fashioned way, with the MCs – A-Plus, Phesto, Opio and Tajai - and producers – Prince Paul and Domino - in the lab together from the beginning to the end of the recording process honing and perfecting each song to create a magnum opus. “We rented a house across the Golden Gate Bridge near Point Reyes. We stayed in the house for at least a month,” explains Opio. “Prince Paul came out, we had no TVs or distractions, we just did music every day. It kind of seemed like he might be a slave driver, but it didn’t come to that, he just let us do our thing. We knew he wanted a highly stylized album, so we just focused on the styles.” “It was cool, because Paul was making us do stuff over, and he really did help produce the record,” adds Tajai. “He had concepts, and its good to have an outside perspective - it was a great process.”
The result is a cohesive, creative hip-hop album, the kind of project you’d expect from veteran MCs like Souls of Mischief under the auspices of a genius producer like Prince Paul. Souls first encountered Prince Paul while touring with A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul back in the day. But it was on a more recent tour with Handsome Boy Modeling School that the seeds of this collaboration were planted. “He came at me like ‘I’m a big ass fan of SOM, and I’d like to do a record with y’all,’” recalls Opio. “I wanted to just ask him for some beats, but in my mind it seemed corny to ask Prince Paul for a beat CD and I didn’t know how to go about it. On the last day of tour he said ‘I’m hella serious about doing this record.'" Opio brought the idea to the rest of the group, and the rest is history.
So what exactly is Montezuma’s Revenge? “We recorded on this street called Montezuma Street in the boonies. When we came back that was the working title, because it was called Montezuma house,” Tajai recalls. “The deeper meaning is this album will make you crap yourself.” The final product features 18 tracks worth of the quality hip-hop you’ve come to expect from Hieroglyphics, with cover art by esteemed illustrator Steve Lopez (famous for his illustrations of Erykah Badu and others).
After a rousing intro from Del the Funky Homosapien, SOM re-introduce their fans to their no-holds-barred lyricism on “Won 1”. The next track, “Postal”, talks about relationships from an honest perspective. "Tour Stories", the first single from the album, is a favorite of Opio’s. “When we first heard that track the hook just came to mind right away,” he explains. “The vibe of the song is really representative of our lives because we tour so much.” Another highlight is “Poets” where the four MCs utilize wordplay and double meanings to illustrate their tales. One of the pinnacles of Montezuma’s Revenge is “Fourmation” where the Souls pass the mic back and forth displaying a mastery of the style.
Souls of Mischief’s 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. In 1995, Souls of Mischief members A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai joined forces with the other members of the Hieroglyphics crew including Del, Domino, Pep Love, and Casual to create a new independent label- Hieroglyphics Imperium- to publish and market the collective's, and individual members', releases. In 1998 Hieroglyphics released Third Eye Vision, their first album as a group. Souls of Mischief also released Focus in 1998, the first album on which they exercised complete creative and marketing control over their own material. In 2000 SOM followed up with the LP Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution. Hieroglyphics released their second group album, Full Circle, in 2003. In the midst of touring and recording, Souls of Mischief remained active as a group as the members released solo projects including Tajai’s Power Movement (2004), Opio’s Triangulation Station (2005), A-Plus’ My Last Good Deed (2007), and Opio’s Vulture’s Wisdom, Volume 1 (2008). Montezuma’s Revenge is a futuristic return to the vintage Souls of Mischief sound, with stellar production from A-Plus, Domino and Prince Paul (De La Soul, Gravediggaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School), who brings his unique comedic bent to the project. Even the most die-hard Hieroglyphics fan will agree after sampling Montezuma’s Revenge – it was worth the wait.