These ol’ stories told so well they done go and get theyselves sold. So they’sa tell us some fiscal flowers gon bloom on us now. That there’s only some time called ‘now’ that we gots to worry about. And we’sa try so hards to be in them times called ‘now.’ But who’s out of their cotton-picking mind today? All but a few and so we construe confused—just saying we all screwed. So who worries about the ‘now’ when the future, if any, leaves a proper lived ‘now’ as a worthless sacrifice? And the past is a bunch of proofs we gotta keep doing wrong like we is. When this ‘now’ got us losing our livelihood, when they have to take from us like it’s not just law but science. And when we gotta pray and wait for a mystery up there, somewhere, never over here, to bring us food, clothing and shelter. Nobody want to be beaten and killed even when they got their hands up?! See me a uniform my run is born! You checking an unloaded BB gun?! A nigga been done ‘now.’
So who saves their souls in the ‘now’? In the world of the Black and talented, mischief is a natural solvent used to blacken us. If it’s just a path from the young times to the moments we aint gon grow no more, we just better off returning to ‘now.’ Now is where the Souls of Mischief dwell and it is beyond the ignorant #yolo hashtag if you been doing the knowledge right. In a story of revenge there is an emphasis on making extreme decisions with rigid principles applied. This is why “All You Got Is Your Word” and “There Is Only Now” are the two tracks that are complementary statements of understanding here. It is that moments of pending war can be rooted in honor and reactions to savagery may require a fiery response. On this LP, Adrian Younge produces and guides Souls of Mischief through a story that is not a fantastical improbability but an extreme reality that could happen.
In today’s universe of millions of nigga rappers and wigger stylists, where suburban pop and niche markets abound everywhere, Souls of Mischief set themselves back in 1994 to amplify the isolated violence of a lone wack rapper hating. In doing this Adrian Younge is able to utilize the controlled chaos of the 4 Souls MCs over a fluctuating score that has live potency with each deeper listen.
As lyricists, Souls telling a story propels them to display their greatest and rarest gifts of MCing ever displayed on wax. The supremacy of Souls of Mischief is immediately rooted in their perfect synergy. They are a four man crew that literally can blend into each other’s verses. On such crisp, sparse tracks from Younge, the Souls’ clarity and enunciation is addictive in every tempo possible. As Opio leads off “Meet Womack” with a slow tempo (“meet Womack/a cold cat who rolled crap/sold crack/to his uncle and was never pro-Black/no tats, looking clean cut but he really dirty/bro strapped with the thirty-eight/ pimp slapped your girly…”) and Phesto, at just one notch a higher tempo rolls off him (“girly off the cognac/snap Kodak/and ball sacks/of the Prozac and toe back/until he cold lapse/foes yap/and gon rat/bureaucrats while the phone’s tapped and he tell them hold that…”). Then A-Plus repeats it rhyming right off Phesto’s last bar (“Hold that! And it’s known fact …a fool lady got a thing for Miriam but she been with a dude lately/too shady/that’s how his mind work/when he find twerk/he don’t like Stoney like I make the shorty mine jerk…”) with another bit of energy added while Tajai recites A-Plus’s last line and continues the rhyme (“all in your face is a reminder/any …that ain’t feeling him riding with riders/see mack a real rider/the chick need guidance/couple seconds beside her she’ll see that he about it…”). A literal lyrical relay verse that is the result of massive talent and years of preparation for ultimate performance. These are the routines that made Hip Hop founded on Cold Crush and The Furious Five the epitome of supreme interplay.
Throughout, the energy that makes these four MCs so distinct and made 93 Til Infinity a classic album is here as well. There is their take on phrased vignettes as A-Plus’ energy leads off on “The Synopsis” while Tajai’s articulated follow redirects and dives us into Phesto’s enhanced menace with Opio’s higher pitch concluding as the final exclamation. Each track is rhymed properly by all of them. “Finally Back” is a tough track, where their anger in revenge—a revenge that seems savage in reaction but who has ever asked what is the penalty for allowing violence upon us to slide? Does it not invite minions more to attack us?! So on “Finally Back” their fluidity is achieved by cut statements and precise pausing as their conversation leads to explosive action. Each set of verses is a conversation with all its dynamic pitch fluctuations, emotional outbursts and countless techniques that vary from MC to MC blending un-alike tempos to a master track.
The unity of the Souls is in their themes that become the unifying choruses as on “Panic Struck” building with, “parallel universe, the world in which I dwell/It’s the mastery of fear not the absence of fear/Courage in the words you hear, I spit some truth in your ear.” Then “All You Got is Your Word” noting the word is bond regardless to whom or what as A-Plus adds on “my word’s the only thing I can give and still keep.” It leads to the title track that will become the understanding that leads to the culture of actions Souls’ take to born some equality to their situation by “The Last Act.” That “The past is an illusion, there is only now!” The conclusion of the story is a samurai’s truth but it’s a universal understanding that all warriors must see.
Musically, Adrian Younge continues his excellence achieved on Ghostface’s Twelve Reasons To Die LP. Because of Younge’s unique studio configurations rooted in pre 70’s equipment only, it may be assumed his sound is an automatic result. Instead, it’s an expectation he achieves with hard work. The arrangements, with Souls, must be far more complex and the Funk Jazz ruggedness is pure throughout. His drum work is some of the best today because they contain all the elements ready for dissection. “Miriam Got a Mickey” has a bass thump on the verses where the drum snares come through sharp, but still allowing the nice snare work to highlight every time it reloads to another MC. The triple thud of “The Last Act” drums pound and let add ons as the bassline to deepen on the second MC, A-Plus, keeping the sirens driving consistently. Musically, chimes, bells and organs offer intensity while the bass, drums, snares and high hats are the real hooks. Hooks that are displayed through great arrangements as he isolates acapellas, amplifies successive verses and brings growing intensity to the story’s plot twists. Adrian Younge is currently answering to what a great Hip Hop producer does—take MCs and offer them a forum to make another supreme work. Even if you expect it from Ghostface and Souls, achieving it is incredible.
Now, answers aren’t found at the end of this story just as no MC can answer your own life. But the way is there. The way of excellence in making Art, the wisdom of understanding that can power your mind to motherfucking think now, being in the ‘now.’ ‘Now’ is where you will always be at and with insight to the past, the pressure of its assumed action it forces today can be overcome. Overcome so supremely you start to write your own history, now. With There is Only Now, the past of Souls of Mischief’s greatness was left as an illusion. That they only have one classic debut album and not countless great works (as 99’s Focus LP or the strong Montezuma’s Revenge of 09 or the stellar solo releases over the years or the massive ill contributions to Hiero LPs, etc….). Instead their now is a 4 man cohesiveness that is a complete rarity in all recorded Hip Hop and that this brother Adrian Younge got scores for them to shine on. This is the only ‘now’ embraced here. Y’alls knowledge that now?!