Exclusive: Souls of Mischief Shed Light on Their Long-Awaited Return

Exclusive: Souls of Mischief Shed Light on Their Long-Awaited Return
Since the last release from Souls of Mischief, the West coast rap beacons have all but disappeared. Despite the steady stream of both solo and crew drops that have held the four-man team as firm fixtures on the international tour circuit, returning to the formation last heard on 2000's Trilogy record never seemed a necessity, until now.

So, what sparked the sudden reunion of the group's Tajai, Phesto, Opio and A-Plus? Well, fans may have the relentless poking and prodding of close friend and long-time admirer Prince Paul to thank. In fact, the storied producer not only managed to coax the men into suiting up for the recently released Montezuma's Revenge, Souls of Mischief's fifth studio album, but also signed on as sole producer and guided them back to the type of no-nonsense rhymes that first caught his attention.

"I was on tour with [Paul] and Handsome Boy Modeling School, trying to promote my first solo record Triangulation Station," say Opio in an Exclaim! interview of the early beginnings of Montezuma's Revenge. "I've known him for years, and he just kinda approached me and was like, 'I've been a fan of Souls of Mischief for a long time, and I've always wanted to work with y'all.' And it wasn't like he was just a fan of '93 Til Infinity – he knew the solo records, followed all the Heiro projects, and he really knew a lot about what we were doing and how to really work with us."

Opio goes on to explain that the determined producer simply wouldn't let the subject die, and that after enough needling, he took the news back to his Souls of Mischief crew who "were immediately like, 'Hell yeah! Of course we wanna work with Prince Paul.'"

Now, avid Paul fans will surely recognize that the last Handsome Boy Modeling School record hit shelves back in '06, which still adds up to about three years of some serious rock pot cooking — a long time for any project, even one from a team with such a solid and patient fan base.

To that point, however, crew leader Tajai's answer is simple: "We're not on that microwave tip, and our real close fans understand that." The bellicose mic-man does acknowledge, though, that not all fans have had a personal seat on the bandwagon since the release of Souls of Mischief's ground-breaking debut disc, 1993's 93 'Til Infinity.

"You got a lot of kids coming up who may know us from 3rd Eye Vision, or Full Circle, or they may even know us from "If You Must" off of the Tony Hawk [videogame soundtrack], you know," Tajai says. "They're used to getting their music a different way, and they want that rapid, rapid, rapid. But man, we don't do it like that."

The "different way" the veteran rapper alludes to no doubt means the Internet, and looking back, the early adoption of this invaluable tool by Tajai and his Hieroglyphics family was like an early case study of the music industry's current state of affairs. Sparked by the decision to go independent with their trailblazing Hiero Imperium label back in the mid-'90s, the boys quickly took to the Internet for show and merchandise promotion and to maintain fan interaction in a way that we now view as simply the natural course of doing business. Of course, time often has a way of displaying the accidental as intentional, and Tajai is quick to admit that none of this really owed itself to any sort of grand plan.

"I don't think at any time in our career were we so forward thinking that we thought we were going to be one of the premiere independent labels, and that we would be an example or a template for all the sort of underground stuff that happened afterward," he explains. "There's no way you can even conceive of that – it's only possible in hindsight. But now that we know the magnitude of what we've done, we're definitely gonna continue in this vein because I think we're sort of just at the tip of the iceberg."