Souls Of Mischief

Imagine yourself in a cabin somewhere deep in the San Francisco woods.  You have no phone, no TV, no internet, and basically no connection to civilization.  Also imagine that you’ve relocated to this cabin on the beckon call of one of Hip Hop music’s most formidable producers, Prince Paul.  Now imagine that you aren’t you, but the mighty Souls of Mischief, and when left with no other choice or activities, are set to musically run free under the guidance of said legendary producer.  Well, we can now stop with the imagining, because that was exactly the scenario for the Souls’ most recent release, Montezuma’s Revenge, an album recorded over a 6 week period at a cabin in the wilderness.  The location was not initially a choice made the by crew, but by Prince Paul who wanted to attain the maximum amount of focus on the music, as Souls of Mischief’s A-Plus tells us, “Prince Paul wanted us to have the same working environment that we had early in our career when we really just were around each other all the time recording.  Getting a house out in the boonies in seclusion accomplished that.  In hindsight it was a great idea…”

We expound on the great idea that was recording with Prince Paul, the historical significance of the collaboration for Hip Hop culture, as well as their feelings on “’93 Til Infinity”.  While some groups may view their biggest hit with annoyance, it’s a concept the Souls just can’t understand as Tajai said, “That’s kind of a crazy concept to say the song people love you for is a curse.  When you look at other people, I could see how Milli Vanilli’s biggest song is a curse because they didn’t make it.  I could see how if you make a song and say, ‘this song is stupid, but people are going to love it’ and that becomes your biggest song, then yeah,  I could see how you could get tired of it.  But we were making a song about our regular life and it says so much to increase and enrich our regular life that it can’t possibly be curse.”

Check out the full interview below.

RubyHornet: The recording process for this album is interesting to me, and I’ve heard you guys say that it creates a different element to the album.  When you decided to rent the house and seclude yourself, was that decision made based on your tastes and pleasure, or did you also feel that it was necessary just to get everyone focused and make it so you had to put your energy into recording?

A-Plus: I feel it was completely necessary.  First of all, it was Prince Paul’s idea.  But that being the case, I feel it was definitely necessary.  We’re all grown adults.  Three of four of the Souls have kids, and have lives and things that we do.  When we first started recording, all we did was hang around each other and record.  This was from like 8-18.  When real life starts to kick in, you got all these other things going on and Prince Paul was like, ‘I need y’all to focus to make this album right.  If y’all can’t focus, it’s not gonna come out, and I’m not gonna f**k with it.’  So, Ok, it sounded like a good idea and then after the fact it proved to be a good idea.  We were focused, and Prince Paul wanted us to have the same working environment that we had early in our career when we really just were around each other all the time recording.  Getting a house out in the boonies in seclusion accomplished that.  In hindsight it was a great idea and it’s definitely not the first time we’ve done it either.  With Hieroglyphics’ Full Circle album, all of Hiero rented a house in Venice Beach for the whole summer and lived together and just recorded.  It wasn’t the first time being in a system like that, it wasn’t brand new, and we were like ‘hell yeah.’  It’s tried and tested already, and we definitely don’t want to blow this opportunity with Prince Paul either cause he was like, ‘if it doesn’t sound good halfway through, we’re gonna scrap the program.’  It was a great idea.

RubyHornet:  When you listen to the record, can you hear the vibe of what it was like to be in a forest, with no TV’s and a natural environment?  Do you hear it in Prince Paul’s production or other evidence of the mood the environment put you in?

Opio:  I think once we settled into the spot, it was a little unnerving just not having any cellphone service, no TV, none of that.  Once we got to work it was just like riding a bike again.  It’s still the same process, rocking the mic, writing rhymes, you can basically do that anywhere. I think that it created a vibe, a very precise work environment where we wake up, we work, we pass out.  It’s just the grind that we were on, I think that comes through in the music… It was the same process just in a different environment.  Once we got to work, all that other stuff, the wilderness and all that were in the background.

RubyHorent:  Was it hard for you to stay still for 6 weeks?  You guys tour extensively as a group, as well as with solo projects.  Was it hard to stay in one place for 6 weeks?

Tajai:  I think it was a welcomed break to be posted up.  We do 200 shows a year, I think being able to  be in one place with the homies, and we got Prince Paul, that’s just an incredible experience.  We go away a lot to record records, but when you have the element of a guy who does put a little bit of pressure on you to excel it made it a real rewarding experience.  I think we were apprehensive at the beginning of it, but once things started coming together it became really easy because we were there just to do that.

RubyHornet:  I want to talk a little bit about the apprehensiveness.  I read in another interview that you guys went through a lot of beats, and really worked together to make sure things were just right.  When you first started working with Prince Paul in the house, was it hard to tell him, or take you time to learn how to tell him you weren’t feeling something he was doing?  He is Prince Paul, and I know you guys have had relationships for a while, but never worked with each other.  Did you have to learn each other and learn how to tell him, ‘I’m comfortable with this… I’m not comfortable with this’?

A-Plus:  To be honest with you, I think it became easy.  Paul said some things before we got there and we listened to some things before we got there, so we stepped into the situation ready to work with Paul.  Once we started listening to beats, that part all came naturally.  I don’t recall any problems or rifts at all in the creation process between us and Prince Paul.  We were basically up there like, ‘we respect this guy and have an amazing amount of respect for him.’  Everything he said was on point, just as we thought.  Anybody that’s done as much as he has, you would think he’d be a certain way when you meet him and you’d think he would have it down and know what to do and all that, and he did.  It wasn’t even like a drill-seargent type thing.  He was in control of the situation, at the same time, he let us control it too.  He wasn’t there directing everything like ‘you guys do this, you guys do this, you guys do this.’  He was the extra OG ear there and had profound suggestions throughout the process as long as we were willing to be open to everything he said, and everything he said was on point.  It was like, ‘oh, hell yeah, that’s a great idea.’  There wasn’t any learning to get along there, it was instant.  The apprehension was more of getting used to the environment and the system.  We were in seclusion.  Preists went into seclusions to perfect their minds, it does have an effect on the psyche.  We did have to acclimate, but it certainly had nothing to do with our interaction with Prince Paul.  That s**t was instant!  We were making good stuff from the first beats we heard to the first songs we were making, it was on. 

Souls of Mischief

RubyHornet:  Keeping with that, and what you just said.  Through what Prince Paul was telling you and what he was suggesting, did you gain any new insight on him and how he works that you may not have known in the past, that allows you to say, ‘oh, I see why he has been able to be a part of such classic records and get the best out of the artists that he works with’?

Opio:  For me, he has a crazy music collection that spans the history of Hip Hop, a lot of eclectic pieces I never heard.  And he studies music, he listens to all of our records.  Not just “’93 Til Infinity” or the Souls, he listened to all the Hiero records, all of our solo records.  He knew a lot about us.  I didn’t really know that about Prince Paul, that he was such a student, I always looked at him more as a teacher.  Obviously to be a good teacher you have to be a good student.  I didn’t really put two and two together and really imagined all of his wealth and knowledge, and how he came to get that.  I don’t think he manipulated Souls of Mischeif, or played mindgames with us, but he’s a master.  The way he was communicating his ideas to us and what he wanted to get in the studio, it was very effective and with ease.  A lot of times when you work with someone else and they tell you to do something or they want something from you, especially as an artists (artists are real sensitive), it can create a real uncomfortable vibe and f**k s**t up a little bit.  But when he did it, it was just smooth.  He knew who he was working with.  He knew A-Plus, he knew Opio, he knew Tajai, Phesto, and that we’re all different and he had to interact with us differently.  For him not knowing us, he definitely knew us through the music and he took the time to get to know what he was getting into before hitting the studio.  It worked out perfectly.

RubyHornet:  Were there ever talks between you guys about the significance of the collaboration to fans, as well as the historical significance that may not truly show it’s face til years later similar to the way people look at Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix collaborating with other great musicians? 

Tajai:  I just hope people will see it in that light man.  The problem with Hip Hop, maybe because it’s a young art form, or because the people they’re promoting it to are such youngsters, and now they’ve grown up completely in Hip Hop that they don’t look at it in context.  For somebody who is a music lover, for even them to look at it that way, would be very forward thinking.  Prince Paul is a guy who’s music has been so important in our development, to be able to work with a master like that is just a crazy, crazy thing.  I think people can see the significance if you look at it in context.  I think the problem with this is just that Hip Hop, we’re not looking at it.  We’ve allowed the media to shape our view of it, so we’re not looking at it in complete context as far as on the scale of music like Jazz, or Rock, or anything like that.  I think it will go down in the history books man. 

RubyHornet:  Speaking of music nowadays, how it’s digested is also reflective of how it’s fed to give to kids.  A lot of music is marketed very much online these days, with supplemental videos and behind the scenes footage that gets watched, and posted.  It seems like this kind of living situation would lend itself easily to such marketing techniques.  Do the videos exist? And if not, is there a specific reason?

Opio:  We have some pictures and stuff that we took.  We talked about it, but I think just because even though we’ve done it on tour and stuff, all of that is a little bit intrusive.  You’ve got a camera right in your grill and you’re trying to do your thing or whatever.  We just wanted to be up there, and it was so far removed from everything we couldn’t just call someone and have them come through.  For us to stay there for the amount of time that we were, cameras would have had to of been part of the whole thing.  It was a combination of those things that made it to be where we didn’t super-document everything. We did some footage cause we understand the historical significance but we wanted to make the environment only focused on music, and not really about the side antics or whatever.  It’s not really that exciting sitting there writing raps and stuff… It’s kind of a slow going in terms of the arduous process of recording and mixing and doing all that kind of stuff.  We didn’t really have any crazy documentation.

“Dead Man Walking” starts with audio, that I believe is taken from the Full Circle Tour DVD and what happened in Chicago with Opio getting arrested and the group decided to continue with the next show.  Was there any debate about putting that on the record?  I guess it would speak to the maturity and tightness of the crew to put it out there and relive it so to speak.  Was there any apprehension about that clip?

  That clip was put in there by Prince Paul in post-production, so it didn’t happen while we were there.  Once we heard it, it fit.  Also, the song “Dead Man Walking” there’s actually a part 2/2.5 to that song.  But it wasn’t as cohesive as Prince Paul wanted it to be, there were other skits and stuff involved in the bridges of the songs, but they didn’t make the album obviously.  That clip, once we heard it, it was part of the finished album and it didn’t seem out of place.  It’s not difficult for us to relive it at all.  Real is real, and it happened and we’re all better for it.  It’s not something that we frowned on at all when we heard the album. 

  When we put that out on the DVD we knew it would be for some excitement and that people want to see that kind of stuff.  We weren’t mad about it or sad about it, it was real life being exposed.  To me, that was one of the highilights of that DVD. 

Also, if you haven’t seen the DVD and you don’t know that’s Opio, basically that skit goes with the song so perfectly.  I don’t know if people really understand “Dead Man Walking”.  We’re all playing the same person at different points in their career.  It’s not like we’re talking about four different perspectives.  If we were to do a visual for that, it would be the same guy from the first verse to the last verse.  I think the Opio skit worked well, because it’s that guy talking.  It’s not necessarily Opio.  Only our real fans know it’s Opio. 

RubyHornet:  I read that the title is like you guys saying that you’re going to make people s**t themselves.  That can be taken many different ways, such as from someone who is anticipating your music reacting like, ‘oh, this is so dope!’  Are you also speaking to someone who is not familiar with your music, or just the music scene in general… Who is s**tting I guess?

A-Plus:  Hahaha… you are correct.  When we came up with the name we thought of all the different ways you could take Montezuma’s Revenge, from the aspect of revenge bringing terror to all these people and you getting sick is revenge from the G-d or the King.  But also the literally meaning of, ‘yo, you’re going to s**t yourself.’  We thought of all that and one of the things is that this a good time because all of that fits.  You are correct.  This is art and it’s subject to interpretation.  We kept that in mind when we thought of the title and we thought about press too.  We’ve been around a long time, and we can anticipate the questions we’re going to be asked.  It’s really cool to hear somebody that knows our music that’s interviewing us, that said all those things that we thought about.  It makes us feel good about it just hearing you say the question in such a way.

RubyHornet:  Someone in another interview asked you if “’93 til Infinity” was a gift and a curse, and I’ve seen that question asked to a lot of groups about their biggest hits.  Some groups are like, ‘yeah, it gets boring to play it.’  You guys had an interesting take and said, ‘how could it ever be bad?   A lot of people know us from that record.’  You were really proud that it was a record that came out organically, and it just shows people latching onto something that you guys all felt at that time.  Has that always been the case?  What’s influenced that attitude?

Man, when you’re family is able to eat, and you’re able to pay for your kids’ dentistry, tour the world on somebody else’s dime and see different people and eat exotic foods, to me that’s like blocking your blessings to even think about.  I don’t care how bored you get playing stuff.  People love you for a reason, and if that’s reason, love is love… That’s crazy to me.  When we were young artists we didn’t understand that, so maybe after a year of playing it constantly, we  were like, ‘we got to switch it up.’  We don’t make it the centerpiece of the whole show, but it’s definitely a high point and it’s a way to expose people to something else that we’re doing.  That’s kind of a crazy concept to say the song people love you for is a curse.  When you look at other people, I could see how Milli Vanilli’s biggest song is a curse because they didn’t make it.  I could see how if you make a song and say, ‘this song is stupid, but people are going to love it’ and that becomes your biggest song, then yeah,  I could see how you could get tired of it.  But we were making a song about our regular life and it says so much to increase and enrich our regular life that it can’t possibly be curse.

  It’s weird man.  We’re fans first and that’s how we came into this music.  To be mad at having fans, or to be bored with having fans is just a weird concept for us to take.  It’s like, ‘wow, people know us and love us for the song.’  And once again, when people make commercial hits or real pop-corny stuff and it goes real big… a lot of people grow.   Everybody grows, or most people grow we should hope, and people grow past that song.  Now, s**t, if I know that something I don’t like at all or doesn’t represent me at all is the only way people know me, well it might get a little overbearing at times but we were just from the gut with that song and we’re still very much like that song in every way.  Even as grown as we are now, that song still represents us.  That would be a major reason why that song isn’t a thorn in our side or stone in our shoe.  It’s organic and real and we’re still proud of it.  If we weren’t proud of it, then I could see being like, ‘Ok, I wish people knew me for a wholesome song or something people enjoy.  Something that’s not buffoonery or coonery ten years later.

Souls of Mischief