Saturday, September 28, 2013

93 'til (2013 and) Infinity...

Exactly 20 years ago today, Oakland rap group Souls of Mischief dropped their debut album 93 'til Infinity. The album was produced by the Hieroglyphics stable of beatsmiths (some of whom could also spit) including Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Domino (not to be confused with the Long Beach rapper best known for the single "Getto Jam"), Casual, Jaybiz, and A-Plus. Most people will remember this album for its title track "93 'til Infinity" alone, however, the record as a whole is a bonafide classic and deserves recognition for its uniqueness, particularly considering the era (and region) in which it was released. Gangsta rap was the predominant "brand" of hip hop at the time, even casting a shadow over the East Coast. However, an "alternative" style of hip hop was also bubbling on both sides of the country. Between 1989 and 1992, West Coast "gangsta" rap was kicking down doors with albums like Straight Outta Compton, The Chronic, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted, No One Can Do It Better, Death Certificate, Efil4zaggin, We're In This Together, and O.G. Original Gangster. Meanwhile, during that same time span, albums like 3 Feet High and Rising, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, Sex Packets, I Wish My Brother George Was Here, The Low End Theory, and Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde were holding it down for the "alternative" rap scene.

Image via Lance Dawes

Enter 1993. The same year that gave us Doggystyle, It's On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa, Black Sunday, Lethal Injection, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., and Bangin on Wax, also provided "alternative" classics like Midnight Marauders, Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space), Buhloone Mind State, 21 & Over, and, of course, 93 'til Infinity. Souls of Mischief's debut album is overlooked by many, I feel, despite the fact that it's arguably the best overall entry from the Hieroglyphics' collective catalog. The album is soulful, jazzy, lighthearted, and fun. The same can be said for the samples on the album (and featured on my sample set). Just listen to Billy Cobham's "Heather", Freddie Hubbard's "Sky Dive", or The Ramsey Lewis Trio's "Collage" to truly appreciate jazz music's contribution to production and stylistic evolution in hip hop. Delicate horn riffs or keystrokes paired with rough, dusty drums is just so definitively "hip hop"; 93 'til Infinity's production puts that on full display.

For this sample set (re-)release, I'm trying out AudioMack. At first I thought I'd make the music available for download on their site, but when I realized they have a 200MB limit on .zip files, I scratched that idea. I uploaded 160 kbps files onto AudioMack - the highest bit rate that'd fit - for the purpose of being able to stream the music without downloading it. Of course if you wanna download it, you can click the "Buy Album" link on the AudioMack page (misleading, right?) or just go right here to pick it up. Let me know if you like having the streaming option for these sample compilations. Also, let me know which 1993 rap albums you'd like me to discuss and dissect in the coming months. Best believe I'll be re-upping my Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) sample set for the album's 20 year anniversary.

One more thing. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention two other great hip hop albums released on this day in 1993: KRS-One's Return of the Boom Bap and Spice 1's 187 He Wrote. (Shouts to hip hop historian Dart Adams for his encyclopedic knowledge of... everything. Oh, and Up North Trip's Evan Auerbach, too! Read his NPR piece on the "10 Great Rap Release Dates of the 1990s.")

Turn It Up!!

...oh, and happy birthday, Dallas Penn!