93 'til Infinity
When Souls of Mischief, still teens, named their debut 93 ’til Infinity, did they somehow know they were about to enter the canon of underground rap? Or that these gymnastically rhymed, groove-infused, witty, and endlessly cool songs—especially the titular one—would go on to inspire an LP (Outkast’s first), a film (Jonah Hill’s 2018 release Mid90s), and multiple remakes and samples (by J. Cole, Tyga, and Kanye West, to name a few)? Nah, these hood-raised Oakland smarty-pants had no idea—they were invoking infinity out of simple youthful hubris and exuberance.
The title track is one of the great anthems of finding one’s chill in an unchill environment. Over the sampled sparkling marimba of jazz fusionist Billy Cobham, the quartet, members of the outside-the-box Hieroglyphics hip-hop collective, celebrate good times (“Here's a 40, swig it, you know it's frigid,” says Opio) and get over on jealous crews and fun-hating cops. But this is no West Coast gangsta barbecue jam. While G-funk dominated the national conversation, these Cali kids offered an alternative—brainier than Pharcyde, more stoned than Tribe—where bright, battle-rap-tested voices finish each other’s clever sentences over warm standup bass and grimy upbeat drums. With Souls' take on gun violence on “Live and Let Live,” they examine all sides via vivid narrative. When they brag about sexual prowess on “A Name I Call Myself,” they manage to also brag about their skilled lyricism. Later in the record, Del tha Funkee Homosapien delivers a hook: “Emcees should know their limitations”—but here, Souls’ potential feels infinite.