93 Still Infinity: Catching up with Tajai [Interview] (Exclusive)
Calgary, AB – The legendary Souls of Mischief crew are wrapping up their North American 93 Still Infinity Tour. The tour celebrates the 20th anniversary of the iconic 93 ‘Til Infinity album, as well as SOM’s two-decade stint as a crew. The boys are also in the studio, working on their upcoming concept album, There Is Only Now. The album includes collaborations with some key industry players, including composer-producer Adrian Younge, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad (who is making a cameo appearance as the album’s narrator).
This week, founding Souls of Mischief crew member, Tajai, took a break from the studio to get on the phone with HipHopCanada. We chopped it up about There Is Only Now, Kendrick Lamar, hip-hop’s longevity, and more. Check out our exclusive interview after the jump.
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: So starting off, let’s talk about the new album. What’s going on with it? I know it’s a concept album.
Tajai: We got a lot of stuff going down here. It’s cool working with Adrian [Younge]. He does all of the stuff live. So that’s good. It’s basically a record where it’s not all freestyle or just straight-ahead rap songs. It’s a lot of stories.
HipHopCanada: I know you guys got Ali Shaheed Muhammad on board. He’s going to be narrating it.
HipHopCanada: How’d you talk him into that? Because I know he’s a pretty reserved guy.
Tajai: He’s family. You know what I mean? [A Tribe Called Quest] brought us out on our first real tour so we’ve been down for like 20-what years. So he’s just a good dude and lending a hand to the project. It’s like having your big brother on it.
HipHopCanada: Word. So you guys are doing your 20th anniversary tour, and celebrating your big hit, 93 ‘Til Infinity. What’s the best thing that happened to you in 1993?
Tajai: Coming out with the record. The whole album—being able to travel the world and tour and live your dream. It’s still going. We’ve literally been working since then.
HipHopCanada: So, in your opinion, what made the album such a classic in the hip-hop community?
Tajai: The hip-hop community made it a classic. I can’t be objective. I mean, that’s not my favourite record that we’ve done. It’s our first record that the hip-hop community saw as representing us. It definitely wasn’t something that the mainstream picked up on. It has longevity because it must speak to kids. Because we were kids. Our fans now are 17, 18. I mean, they’re kids, too. So I’m assuming it’s not because it’s some old-school stuff, but because it’s current. It sort of deals with what they’re going through right now. Which is unfortunate because a lot of stuff that we’re talking about hasn’t improved as far as gang violence…and all that.
HipHopCanada: No doubt. Speaking of the kids, Joey Bada$$ recently released the “95 Til Infinity” track. He’s only 18. What’d you think of it?
Tajai: It was dope because he didn’t remake the song. He just did his own thing.
HipHopCanada: And is there a particular homage track that anyone has done that stands out to you?
Tajai: I’d say that one, or the song “Step” by Vampire Weekend. ‘Cause they changed it. They didn’t just do the song over.
HipHopCanada: That’s what’s up. So I wanted to ask what your thoughts were on the recent Kendrick Lamar verse on Big Sean’s “Control” track.
Tajai: It was dope. It wasn’t just dope. I mean, that verse off “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” was like… He’s following up a good volume of work with more good work. All the hoopla and shit is like [that comedy routine by] Eddie Murphy: The guy is starving. You give him a Saltine, it’s going to be the best fucking cracker he’s ever had in his life. You know what I’m saying, though? Kendrick is dope. And he’s following the actual true code of the scene. Everybody should have that mentality. You look back at our music, what we stand for, and what we talk about—it’s exactly what he’s saying on that verse. I think it’s just crazy because the mainstream is exposed to it. Squares are always shocked by shit…because they haven’t seen it. But when the bar is set low, and someone says, “Fuck that bar. I’m going to go to the original bar,” people are always amazed. The bar is low.
Tajai: That doesn’t take anything away from what [Kendrick] did. It’s not even his dopest verse. He’s coming off an album that’s going to be a classic in the future. It’s not like he’s just some guy calling out names on a song for shock value. He actually is a talented artist. And he just happens to be in the mainstream.
HipHopCanada: So is he capable of taking hip-hop to a new level?
Tajai: No. Hip-hop has never left that level. Mainstream fans have left that level. You know what I’m saying? Like, what the fuck? Fans can have anything that’s out. Buy the Black Opera’s album. Hip-hop has nothing to do with this mainstream shit at all. The mainstream shit is pop records. [Hip-hop] is past the level that they’re going to bring it to, anyways. It’s been past that level for decades.
HipHopCanada: It’s ‘til inifinity, no doubt. So are you guys planning to do hip-hop indefinitely? Or is there some end goal in sight?
Tajai: No. I’m starting to be an architect. In fact, I’m working on designing a cupcake shop right now.
HipHopCanada: Sorry…On designing a what?
Tajai: A cupcake shop. That’s my first job. A casual sister hired me to design her cupcake shop. It’s going to be in UC Berkley on the campus. It should be open in the fall. It’s like a 1950s sort of home.
HipHopCanada: Sounds like a fun venture. I’m sure the SOM fans will be hitting that up, pronto. So I should probably let you get back to the studio. Do you have any last words for the HipHopCanada community?
Tajai: Look deeper than the surface. I’m not going to say 90 per cent of the stuff is wack. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg. And support your own artists. You got all kind of cats up there that are dope, that have been doing fly rap music. So support them.
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Photography courtesy of Hieroglyphics
Souls of Mischief in Concert: Aug. 21 – Aug. 22
Souls of Mischief performs in Calgary at Commonwealth Bar & Stage tomorrow night. Doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets are $20. On Aug. 22, the boys will be at Venue Nightclub in Vancouver for their last Canadian performance of the tour. Doors open at 10 p.m. and tickets are $30. See you Hiero-heads there.