Tag Archives: Tajai

Summer 2012 Tour Mixtape Download – Hieroglyphics

To promote their upcoming Stateside summer tour the mighty Hiero crew release this quality mixtape project featuring music from the likes of Pep Love, Casual, A-Plus and more from the Imperium vaults – download here.

Still Rockin’ – Souls Of Mischief

Bay Area website TheFormat.Com interviews legendary West Coast collective Souls Of Mischief.

New Joint – Tajai / Mr. Brady / Just Brea

Tajai & Mr. Brady ft. Just Brea – “That Soul” (Clear Label Records / 2012)

Soulful head-nodder which appears on both the Souls Of Mischief member’s recent album “Machine Language” and Brady’s own “Labor Of Love Vol. 1” project.

Live Review – Souls Of Mischief

Venue: The Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 11 March 2012

Introduced to the rap world in the early-90s as proteges of Ice Cube’s cousin Del The Funky Homosapien, Oakland’s Souls Of Mischief have built themselves an impressive reputation over the years as being staunch purveyors of quality underground Hip-Hop packed with impressive verbal gymnastics. Transcending the traditional boundaries of subterranean rap, the West Coast crew have managed to maintain an audience that includes OG golden-age heads, alternative music fans and skateboard-pushing teenagers. So it wasn’t a surprise to walk into London’s Jazz Cafe for this particular gig and see an eclectic crowd waiting patiently for the Hiero crew representatives.

Following DJ Lex’s efforts to put the crowd in a Cali state of mind with a medley of West Coast classics from 2Pac and Dr. Dre, Opio, Tajai and Phesto Dee (no A-Plus) arrived onstage decked out in sunglasses and a variety of Hiero t-shirts and hoodies. The trio barely paused for breath before launching into an opening salvo of bangers, including fan favourite “You’ll Never Know” from 1998’s Hieroglyphics album “Third Eye Vision”, dropping their rapid-fire verses over the track’s soulful production to audience cheers.

Aside from Opio politely asking the soundman to adjust the monitor levels and  Tajai asking for the spotlight to be dimmed, the show was free from any interruptions, allowing the threesome to slickly run through a selection of cuts covering all periods of the crew’s career. Yet whilst it was clear Souls were performing a very polished and familiar set, the crowd definitely didn’t witness a group on auto-pilot simply going through the motions on the European tour circuit for the sake of a quick buck.

With those in attendance swept up in the energy and intensity of the performance, at times it felt like the three Souls were actually a new group determined to leave their mark rather than twenty-year veterans who already have an incredible musical legacy and dedicated fanbase.

Throughout the show, the group switched effortlessly from performing as a cohesive unit to then allowing each member to take centre-stage individually, with Opio acting as frontman, Phesto performing “Full Speed” from his new solo album and Tajai dropping a blistering acapella rhyme.

After bringing things up-to-date with “Tour Stories” and the punchy “Proper Aim” from the group’s last album, 2009’s “Montezuma’s Revenge”, the crew then cleverly caught the crowd off-guard with an unexpected twist. Given that many would probably have expected SOM’s timeless classic “93 ‘Til Infinity” to be the night’s grand finale, it came as a welcome surprise, when, following a brief intermission from Opio commenting on Hiero’s longevity, the track’s melodic opening sample from Billy Cobham’s jazzy “Heather” filled the venue accompanied by thunderous roars of approval and a sea of raised hands.

The group continued to plunder their back-catalogue with a handful of cuts such as the brilliant “That’s When Ya Lost” and bass-heavy “Never No More” (prompting Opio to say that, just as it was when the group debuted in 1993, no matter how many wack artists are embraced by the mainstream, the underground will always be around to deliver quality Hip-Hop).

Although having member A-Plus along for the ride would have only added to the performance, that was an afterthought rather than something playing on your mind during the show. One-quarter of Souls might have been missing, but as a fan it didn’t feel like you were necessarily missing out, as Opio, Tajai and Phesto dropped their rhymes with a masterful clarity and precision honed by years spent rocking venues worldwide.

Ending the show by giving heartfelt thanks to all who’ve supported the Hieroglyphics movement over the last two decades, the group jumped offstage ready to man the merchandise stand for eager fans keen to take home a momento of the night.

93 ’til infinity indeed…

Ryan Proctor

Souls Of Mischief performing “That’s When Ya Lost” at The Jazz Cafe.

Album Review – Casual

Casual

“He Think He #Rapgod”

(Casual1.Bandcamp.Com)

Ask any group of rap fanatics to discuss the most talented clans, posses, crews and cliques to have put in a claim of lyrical dominance over the years and the likes of Wu-Tang, Juice Crew, Flavor Unit and the Hit Squad would no doubt all be championed. But no such debate would be complete without Oakland’s Hieroglyphics collective being given a well-deserved mention.

First introduced to the rap world by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien on his 1991 debut “I Wish My Brother George Was Here…”, the Hiero crew spent the 90s simultaneously impressing listeners and obliterating wack emcees on releases from Souls Of Mischief, Extra Prolific and the cocky-but-likeable Casual. With albums produced by in-house crate-diggers such as Domino and Mike G, Hiero brought a next-level lyrical element to West Coast Hip-Hop at a time when gang-related rhymes from the like of Ice Cube (ironically Del’s cousin) dominated Cali’s sonic landscape. Now, nearly twenty years after the release of his 1994 debut “Fear Itself” (my personal favourite from the first wave of Hiero albums) and Casual is determined to take another step towards rap god status with his second album this year.

Like the solid “Hierophant” project released some six months ago, “He Think He #Rapgod” would have been more than enough to satisfy Casual fans in its own right if it had been the sole 2011 release from the Left Coast lyricist. Yet irrespective of the quality of both projects, neither are being considered ‘proper’ albums by Casual, with the Hiero member gearing up for the 2012 release of “He Still Think He Raw”. So with that in mind, why go to all the trouble of dropping two back-to-back releases which are effectively promotional tools when a mixtape project full of freestyles over popular beats would have sufficed for many artists looking to create a buzz? Well, as Casual states simply on his Bandcamp page, “Rapgod don’t do mixtapes, but I got albums fo that ass tho.”

Opening with the title track “#Rapgod”, Casual is joined by Souls Of Mischief’s Tajai and Pep Love, with the trio performing verbal gymnastics over Gully Duckets’ spaced-out production. Accompanied by a Phife Dawg vocal sample and a synthesized sound effect reminiscent of a Decepticon transforming in slow motion, Casual drops typically boisterous boasts, promising that “Every verse you hear is reverse engineered from the first one.”

Part of Casual’s brilliance as an emcee over the years has not only been his ability to pen pummeling multi-syllable barrages of wordplay, but also his talent for making such effective use of simple one-liners. Lyrics here such as “I’m venerable, you’re vulnerable” are delivered in such a way that Casual’s passion for bullying language and putting words together to embarrass the competition can clearly be heard.

“Baseball” is a sparse, head-knocking track featuring Casual, Killer Ben, Tristate and Planet Asia hitting verbal home-runs over subtle funk-fuelled guitar-licks, whilst the GKoop-produced “Lieza” has the Oaktown vet switching up into story-telling mode, weaving a graphic tale of a mistreated woman over an ominous, tense soundscape.

The brilliant “Flamethrower” finds producer Domino resurrecting the drum break heard on Big Daddy Kane’s late-80s favourite “Rap Summary”, with the “Pharoah of the Hiero crew” Del unleashing “rhyming pyrotechnical bonanzas” with effortless ease. Meanwhile, Toure mixes old-school 808 thumps with haunting chants for “Dogon Don” as Casual drops self-assured verses with the calm confidence of a king holding court in his own palace (“Enemies we pop at ’em, Break ’em down to the fraction of the size of an atom when I rhyme at ’em…”).

Still sounding as sharply entertaining and lyrically superior here as he did on his cult classic debut two decades ago, Casual, along with his Hiero homies, represents a dedication to the craft of lyricism that should make many of today’s so-called emcees feel ashamed to even attempt to claim the title. With “He Think He #Rapgod” Casual proves yet again that real lyricists don’t die, sometimes their skills multiply.

And remember, as Casual himself says, if you see a rap god, pay tribute.

Ryan Proctor

Casual ft. Del – “Flamethrower” (Casual1.Bandcamp.Com / 2011)

New Joint – Casual / Tajai / Pep Love

Casual ft. Tajai & Pep Love – “#Rapgod” (Casual1.BandCamp.Com / 2011)

Gully Duckets-produced track from the Hiero emcee’s new digital project “He Think He #Rapgod”.

New Joint – DJ Toure / Nio Tha Gift / Tajai

DJ Toure ft. Nio Tha Gift & Tajai – “Freestyle” (Hiero Imperium / 2011)

A taste of what to expect from Hiero deejay Toure’s upcoming album “Toure’s Theory” which will be released via the Interdependent Media label.