In the early ’90s, Souls of Mischief (of Hieroglyphics fame) cemented there place in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame with the release of ’93 Til Infinity. The album was ahead of its time and a topnotch crew of young, talented MCs from Oakland, California wanted to successfully prove to the world that west coast heads were pushing musical innovation as much as their east coast counterparts. Songs like “’93 Til Infinity,” “That’s When Ya Lost” and “Anything Can Happen” sound as fresh and vibrant today as when they were a decade or so ago.

On Vulture’s Wisdom Vol. 1, Opio put his best forward in the hopes of garnering respect for his skills as more than a just a laid-back member of S.O.M. More than anything in the world, the lyrics on his second full-length disc proves that he wants to be respected as a standalone MC. Although there are a few moments that showcase the Hiero rhymesayer’s brilliance, much of the album falls short of expectations, particularly due to the unrefined nature of his songwriting abilities that threatens to make his fans fear repeated listens.

A majority of the highlights on Opio‘s second album occurs when he directs his lyrical ammo on wack rappers infesting the Hip Hop industry. Over a hazy guitar sample on “To The People,” the ample wordsmith breaks down his ill combination of Bay Area slang, witty metaphors and old-fashioned braggadocio to dismantle the weaklings who claim that they deserve the title of “emcee”. “Guilty as Charged” is another blazing track that showcases Opio‘s ability to utilize intricate wordplay and vivid imagery as a means of putting him ahead of the pack. Last but not least, “Stop the Press” is an ominous jam that fuses the emcee’s precise rapping with contemporary Oakland funk to scare potential “busters” from ever touching the microphone (or jumping on YouTube, for that matter.)

Even with Opio‘s lyrical precision, Vulture’s Wisdom Vol. 1 reaches low points due to the “raw” nature of the songs. Most of the tracks do not carry dope beats and, at best, sound half-finished. For example, “Some Superfly Shit” excels at displaying the wordsmith’s ability to juggle metaphors and rhymes with focused effort but the song’s instrumental sounds like it was cooked up a few minutes before the recording session. Also, “I Need a Money Tree” is a song that manages to bog down Opio‘s entertainingly witty observations with a third-generation G-Funk knockoff. “With or Without You,” “Don Julio” and “Original Lyricist” also suffer from the ill-fated marriage of wack loops and better-than-average rhymes that make this particular release a disappointment to listen to.

Opio‘s newest release, Vulture’s Wisdom Vol. 1, is an admirable display of the Oakland rapper’s lyrical prowess, especially when he unleashes his wrath on those who claim to represent the art form but are just simply masquerading. However, the Souls of Mischief affiliate’s second album loses its ability to captivate listeners due to the lackadaisical approach to beat-making, making this joint unworthy of being heard more than once. Let’s hope that the veteran emcee will soon get together with his cohorts to make a new S.O.M. album that sounds “fresh-to-death,” or at the very least, concentrate on a solo album that uses better beats to accommodate his impeccable delivery.