Q&A with Souls of Mischief’s Tajai Massey by Thembisa S. Mshaka @putyrdreams1st @TajaiMassey

For all you soulheads who witnessed the Golden Era of hip-hop, it’s mind-blowing to realize this, but many of your best-loved releases are hitting their 20th anniversary milestones. Such is the case for ’93 Til Infinity, the seminal classic by Souls of Mischief.  Few of hip hop’s great artists even reach this milestone, let alone have a documentary made to mark the occasion; think of all the greats who were brilliant and prolific but taken from us far ahead of their time. Unlike 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G, Big L, Freaky Tah of the Lost Boyz, Heavy D and so many others, the Souls squad and their Hieroglyphics crew are still standing.

Still touring. Still growing the Oakland creative and cultural community, with events like Heiro Day. Still reaching new fans across the globe. As director Shomari Smith’s documentary feature Til Infinity: Celebrating 20 Years of The Souls of Mischief prepares to wow the festival circuit, soulhead Contibutor-At-Large Thembisa S. Mshaka caught up with one-fourth of the group for a conversation about coming of age as an MC, making a living at it, and living to watch your own movie about said life twenty years later. This is how Tajai chill from ’93 Til…

1. I had a chance to see the film. What struck me most about it was that at its core, Til Infinity is as much a celebration of childhood friendship as it is about hip hop.   What struck you most about it?
Really, the same thing. I have never chronicled my or my friends’ lives in the manner that Shomari did, so it was extremely interesting to see how our journey together has shaped up. It was really great to see how we have stuck together throughout the years and how our unity has been our strength.
2. I learned a lot about the early days of the group before it gelled into Souls of Mischief. What was the best part of becoming Souls of Mischief for you as a kid?
Having something to belong to that meant something to us. We had our own group, with our own style, language, and goals. It gave us purpose and solace in a messed up time and place.
3. The film is a loving homage to Oakland. Do you think the seldom-seen side of calm neighborhoods and lush nature will surprise audiences?
I hope not but our PR is terrible as a city.  Oakland was a great and terrible place to grow up, however we made the best of it.  The scenery was beautiful though!
4. Now, the thing you did because it was fun is also how you make a living and feed your family. Does that taint it at all, or make it sweeter?
I enjoy the fact that I can feed my family doing something I love.  However, it is not the only thing I love, and I hope that I will be able to grow beyond just being a musician.Very seldom do people get the opportunity to combine their hobbies/loves and vocation, so we are extremely fortunate for that!
5. I loved the part of the film that covered the group’s label negotiations. What lessons do you think the film can offer today’s artists, given the current state of the music business?
I don’t even know if labels matter any more. You kind of have to use them as a bank, and a means of marketing something that has probably already become popular on a local level.  The deals now are all 360 and rarely offered unless an artist has established a buzz.  There is no artist development on the label side so be self-contained.  And keep your PUBLISHING by all means.
6. What’s the biggest thing that being a Soul of Mischief has taught you personally?
Success is not measured in money.  Influence can be deeper and more widespread than one can perceive from traditional metrics.  Keep your day job.
7. After 20 years of recording and touring, and being part of the highly recognizable global brand Hieroglyphics, do you ever feel like rock stars? Please share a rock star moment you may have had somewhere in the world for our readers that even blew you away.
When we hopped off of the plane for our first time in Brazil, we got the newspaper.  The main headline was that Hieroglyphics was coming to town, followed by a small article on Jay-Z becoming president of Def Jam.  As we rolled to our hotel, the Freeway graffiti was huge Hiero signs.  It was like we were in a bizarro world!
8. I believe it’s going to be a festival darling. What would you like to see happen with Til Infinity?
I would like it to be viewed by as many people as possible, music lovers or not.  I think the tale is a powerful one about sticking to your guns and pushing forward regardless of what the industry is doing and what your surroundings are like.
9. What’s next for Souls of Mischief?
We have a new album called “There is Only Now,” produced by the super-talented Mr. Adrian Younge.  Our first single, of the same title, features Snoop and we just completed the video.  It should be out soon!
Thanks for taking the time to chop it up with soulhead.com!

 

Thembisa S. Mshaka is the author of Put Your Dreams First and a filmmaker. Her new short First Kiss premieres online November 21st at www.freesworld.com.

Check out the teaser here:

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