Souls Of Mischief Break Down The Making Of “93 ‘Til Infinity”
Young Brooklyn MC and 2013 XXL Freshman Joey Bada$$ dropped "95' Till Infinity," a cut from his newest project Summer Knights, back in June, a clear nod to Souls of Mischief's "93 'til Infinity," a song that dropped twenty years ago which still, clearly, has a much major influence today. Did Souls of Mischief know what they created when they put this song out two decades ago at the age of 18? This year marks the 20th anniversary of the group's seminal album 93' Till Infinity, one of the most influential albums in hip-hop history. The rap crew from Oakland, California was in New York City to perform at SOBs July 3rd as part of their Still Infinity tour, and before the show, A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai swung by the XXL office to break down the making of their signature track "93' Till Infinity" from start to finish.—Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
Origins of the Song
A-Plus: "It was originally a song called “91 ‘til Infinity” I made [when] we were still in high school and hadn’t been discovered yet. It was a slower, more somber beat. And i remember I wrote my rap and I spit it to the dudes and I even remember that it was so emotional I might’ve shed a tear, 'cause like it was on some ‘be together forever’-type shit, And the song never ended up getting done. But we rehashed the idea when we got the record deal a year later. Our world was a lot different, and it was just like, 'oh remember that ’91 ‘til Infinity’, let’s do a ’92 ‘til Infinity.' Oh but this album ain’t going to come out ‘til ’93 so let’s call it ’93 ‘til Infinity.’'"
"As far as the beat, I had originally given it to Pep Love, because I just made beats and if somebody wanted them, I’d give it to them. I ended up giving that beat to Pep Love while we was recording [the album], and when the fellas heard it, they was like, 'Yo man, you can’t be giving away tight beats while we’re working on an album, we’re working on our first album my dude.” So it started the rule in Souls of Mischief to where if we’re working on an album, the producers got to play beats to guys working on the album first. Ultimately I had to take the beat back from Pep Love, and then we recorded “93 ‘til Infinity.” It’s like an opposite vibe from the original song. The original song was like, it was victorious but it was more like melodic and somber and slow and emotional and shit. And the rap was too, it was about friends and being together and we’re going to stay tight and all of that shit, but this one had more of like a fun vibe to it—I don’t know, just a happy, fun, good energy vibe.
Phesto: "I was just like, 'That’s it,' because I feel—mind you, this is twenty years ago—but the way I remember it is we had finished what we came to do that day, and I think he kind of threw it on more as an after thought than like, “Hey, we’re coming to the studio, I got this new beat.” So we had finished what we were going to do and he was like, 'Oh I’ll play a beat that I made.' And then he played it and we were just all—it was one of those things where soon as it came on, everybody was like we gotta use it."
Opio: "We were deep into the album—maybe halfway done or something, more than halfway. We had a good, nice body of material we were working with already that I felt like had a lot of strong songs and we had covered a lot of bases just because, if you listen back to that album, it’s a lot of concepts and stories. So we tried to have a balance between trying to really flex lyrical skills and dexterity and still maintain the—someone that’s not just totally into hearing braggadocios rhymes. So we had all these stories, and we had this little formula going on of, it’s either a concept or it’s a story or it’s just a lyrical song. And that song, when it came into vision, it just added a whole other dimension to what we were building on. It was like okay, this can be the chill song where it’s more like a song for people to enjoy universally. Because the beat just has this warm tone to it that automatically makes you feel good and puts you in a good mental space. So we felt like the music was already there, so we could use that to our advantage and kind of paint this picture of a song that everybody would like. Some of the subject matter we were talking about, it [was] for niche audiences—it wasn’t for everyone. And that song definitely was something that we could go home and let our parents hear."
Tajai: I was more concerned about being able to actually use [the beat]. And then I remembered that '91 ‘til Infinity' concept. When I heard the beat—it was just like, we gotta do this now. I mean we wrote that record hella quick. We did it then, like, 'Oh we gotta do this right now. We trippin,’ we need one of these.” And then it turned out to be the title track, you know. 'Cause we weren’t going to have a title before we made that song."
Opio: "I think we knew that we were going to split up the verses cause we had done little experimentations of how we were going to break up songs—sometimes it was 16 bars, sometimes it was 12 bars, sometimes it was 24—we had done all these combinations already, so we wanted to experiment with something. We were like okay, let’s shorten the verses and make us each able to get on every single verse. I do remember that being something that we were really trying to actually accomplish, to get everybody on every single verse. So it really didn’t matter who went first—this time you get the whole Souls of Mischief experience quick, and that was dope."
Opio: "The video director we had worked with in the past, Michael Lucero—who has passed away, RIP—he worked with Del the Funky Homosapien [on] at least two videos, right? And we would go to the videos with Del and Michael. We would be with Del and he would go meet with Michael and talk about the concept and we would go to the editing rooms, and watch some of the footage—we kind of developed this friendship. We were like, 'Yo, we want to do a video with you.' He did a lot of videos for other people—'Stress' for Organized Konfusion, 'Woo Hah!!' remix with Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Busta Rhymes where they were like painted gold in silver—he always had a dope concept behind what he was doing.
"He was like, I can get you guys a really dope video and I can get all these other people to work with you on this video if we go to these cool places. We filmed in Yosemite. So it was really his vision and what he wanted to do. And he had kind of developed that—there’s this thing where we kind of wipe our hands across the screen—it’s called a talent wipe—which wasn’t no crazy graphic effects, it was our hands. And he did this cool editing thing, and I think it was the first time it got used, if I’m not mistaken, but he was just a very talented person who was really dedicated, and he really wanted to give that video his best effort. All those people worked really hard. We were young and excited as well but they worked their asses off. They stood on the sides of cliffs and they were just like doing all this shit but they were excited because we were going to all these cool places. So we gotta give all the credit to Michael Lucero. He was a genius and a pleasure, a joy to work with."
Reception and Impact
Tajai: "We sitting here twenty years later having this conversation, and we were 18 when we made it. We couldn’t even think twenty years into the future, let alone that we would have [such an] impact. It’s crazy, 'cause the impact is stronger now than then. We have never been the ones to get good reviews in magazines, we never been media darlings, it’s kind of like we been on the outside the whole time. That’s why we’re independent. So to see that actual influence that it has on everybody now, there's no way we could have imagined that. We didn’t even know hip-hop would be this big, the way it is now. When we were coming out, hip-hop was still like barely—if you heard a Tribe Called Quest song on the radio, first of all, it was after 9pm, and second of all you were like, 'Tribe is on the radio!' You’d call somebody because the only thing they played was Hammer, Vanilla Ice—wack, weak ass rap. We never thought that it would have this sort of mainstream, like, we’re going to other countries and ‘something ‘til Infinity’ is their logo. It’s a trip; [we] never would have imagined it."
Opio: "It wasn’t talked about in the Source magazine. Rap Pages did, but that was a west coast magazine. But it wasn’t like we were always on MTV or always on BET or nothing like that, it was—there were people that recognized that song and saluted it. And it was also a younger generation, 'cause it was older, established people that were working in the industry at that time and it was more like, there were other things that they were trying to touch on. And that younger generation, people that were our contemporaries and younger, really gravitated towards that song, 'cause it was a movement of youth culture, similar to what’s going on now. All these young cats coming out and spitting and the way they dress, what they talk about, it represents something that is bigger than you really actually get to see in mainstream media. That’s, I think, the beauty of that song—it wasn’t promoted, it’s not this big corporate entity that pushed it, it evolved organically, and people's natural love for that song has helped it to continue on this long. And they always pass it on."
A-Plus: "I might have a skewed or different view as a producer. A producer likes every one of their tracks for the most part, something about it. If they allow it to exist to where it gets to ears, if it don’t get erased or thrown in the back somewhere, a producer always going to like it. So when everybody likes your track, that’s something I remember. I remember listening to the whole album and being like, 'Maybe we can win.' I knew we had a dope album. It was hella conceivable for us to, to me, to fully fall into the category of maybe only selling 100, 200, 300 thousand or whatever."
Tajai: "If you went Gold and were hip-hop, that was as big as it was going to get unless you were LL Cool J. It was a subculture. I mean, literally, WKCR, Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show, those were the people that were playing us. It wasn’t getting played on the radio until '93 ‘til Infinity' came out. Then it was like, 'Oh, this might really bubble.'"
A-Plus: "The feeling was that we gotta good album, shit got a shot, maybe. The prospects was good cause the label liked the album, we were super happy with the album. We coulda just been happy we had a deal. But it just had a good vibe to it, you know? I would not have disappointed if we sold 150,000 because we seen that happen to dope ass albums at that time."
Opio: "It was more about the respect of our peers. Tajai and A-Plus had been working to get to that point for so long. When we created '93 ‘til Infinity,' the album and song, it was like we had eclipsed everything that we had done prior to that. To come correct was something that we had all been working for for a long time. We took it serious even though we were young. We took on that challenge as young men, not as young boys, and so once we finished the record, we put in a lot of work and mind power into that and it paid off. You can hear it when you listen back to the record, we were like, 'Okay, we actually did what we wanted to do.'"