Souls of Mischief – There Is Only Now (Linear Lab)

Storied Oakland, CA hip hop quartet return with impressive sixth LP

Released Aug 19th, 2014 via Linear Lab / By Sam Bennett
Souls of Mischief – There Is Only Now (Linear Lab) Souls of Mischief, hailing from Oakland, California are a fantastic 4 piece hip hop group with an incredible back catalogue. Their 1993 album 93 Til Infinity features some classic tracks, including the seminal title track. There Is Only Now is their latest effort, entirely produced by Adrian Younge, and it's an album packed with funky beats and intelligent rhymes that takes you back to the nineties when hip hop was at its most authentic.

Tracks like 'Time Stopped' and 'Panic Struck' see the Souls of Mischief flowing over some great jazz influenced instrumentals. In an age of over-produced, commercialised rap music dominating the charts and radio stations, it's so refreshing to hear some veterans of the genre still producing quality albums. The way the lyrics on this album are crafted, and the flows employed by the four members of Souls of Mischief, have a definitively throwback, old school feel. This album is a concept album, inspired by a near fatal incident involving all four rappers at the beginning of their career in 1994. It tells tales of love, loss and revenge in the form of an album based on a 1990s crime epic.

There Is Only Now features some stellar guest verses. Busta Rhymes appears on ‘Womack's Talent’, taking the character of the villain of the story. Busta's blistering flow and fantastic diction and tone is one of the reasons for his success and the respect he demands, and this track is no different. Busta Rhymes has such an aggressive way of tackling a beat, and it always comes off sounding dope. This takes me back to his appearances on tracks by A Tribe Called Quest and this only enhances the nineties feel of the project. Snoop Dogg also makes an appearance on the title track. Snoop is a rapper who demands a huge amount of respect for obvious reasons, however his guest appearances in recent years have been rather lacklustre, and it's great to hear him drop a verse over an authentic, 1990s inspired instrumental, which allows the Doggfather to prove he can still spit a classic verse.

The production lends itself to Souls' style perfectly. The funk and jazz inspired backing provides the perfect backdrop for some real hip hop rhymes. The fantastic bassline on ‘Meet Womack’ again take you back to albums such as The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. Incidentally ‘There Is Only Now’ features Ali Shaheed Muhammed (of ATCQ) narrating the album through a series of interludes. ‘The Synopsis’ features an interesting drum loop and some funky guitar lines, and some abstract flows from the Souls, combining to make one of the standout tracks from the album.

There Is Only Now is another great album from some veterans of the hip hop genre. Souls of Mischief have put out some quality music in the past, and this 19 track album is yet another in their very consistent catalogue of music. Jazz inspired hip hop is hard to pull off, but this album is an absolute masterclass in sampling and old school flows. It's always nice as a fan of 90s hip hop to hear artists who made such an impact two decades ago still putting out albums like this one.