For Souls of Mischief’s latest album they take it back to the days of the past. They rented a town home on San Francisco's Montezuma Street with 20-year super-producer Prince Paul and recorded Montezuma’s Revenge in its entirety. It’s a welcomed break from the electronic collaborations that take place and the project benefits from the tight-knit chemistry and the organic approach that they took to make the album. The album isn’t flawless but Souls of Mischief delivered an album that rightfully stands beside their first two releases, dating back a decade-and-a-half.
Prince Paul is a star addition to this project. He has a keen ability for creating albums that sonically flow from start to finish, a trait that played a role in De La Soul's legendary status. He may be far removed from hit records that garner spins, but he fosters a sonic narrative which each emcee is forced to match. Tracks like “Postal” show how talented and detailed of a producer he is while on “For Real Y’all” the emcees ride a dope bass line and a vibing sample. The song is blessed equally with dope verses and a catchy hook. It proves to be arguably the best song on the album.
The Souls of Mischief have a full grasp on the skill of sharing a verse. You can tell they’ve done it for close to 20 years, yet the passion for their craft still is reflected in each bar. On “Fourmation” the emcees go back and forth over a simple, but effective track. Meanwhile, on “Proper Aim” each emcee kicks a dope verse that lyrically complements the verse before. Tajai starts the track off strong with lyrics like, “I stress the maximum effort / I can’t relax 'cause I’m reppin' / so face the fact that I’m fresher / and take it back to the essence,” that highlight a dope cut. A-Plus, Tajai, Phesto, and Opio are consistent throughout, well aware of their individual boundaries, but not shy about pushing them. They are comfortable in their own skin and it’s quite evident on “Home Game” a track that makes you wish summer was right around the corner.
The album isn’t without flaws. The group constantly toes the line between brilliance and obscure. Tracks like “Poets” leave the listener yearning for a bit more from the crew. The Souls' common "I’m-better-than-you" tracks may actually be better than most recent releases, but they’re nothing revolutionary, and they fail to match up with some of their classic cuts in the Hiero catalogue. Prince Paul puts forth a righteous effort, but even he is guilty of delivering some off the wall beats or bland sample like “You Got It” or “Hiero HQ.” Even these so-so efforts, that are occasionally seen throughout the 18 tracks, are passionate records. They go hard on every verse and that alone is commendable.Listen To LaLaLa
Souls of Mischief prove that they can still put out a dope consistent effort and have fun doing it. While Hip Hop is stuck in the age of conformity, the Bay Area originators of the abstract are still pushing the limits and making music that feels good to them. The bottom line is Souls of Mischief know who they are, and who their audience is and isn’t. They aren’t trying to become a group that they aren’t and after 20 years of kicking rhymes, they still have plenty more to say. The end result comes out fresh, even if the occasional track misses the target. Montezuma’s Revenge may have been created by Prince Paul, but it’s told by Souls of Mischief and it is quite the entertaining adventure.