Home / Show Reviews / Live Review: Souls of Mischief at The Middle East, Cambridge, MA (6.17.23)

Live Review: Souls of Mischief at The Middle East, Cambridge, MA (6.17.23)

This year marks 50 years since the birth of hip hop and a milestone for rap group Souls of Mischief, who released their debut album 93 ‘til Infinity three decades ago. The California natives brought their West Coast flair to the Middle East club in Cambridge, MA on June 17 during their “93 ‘til Infinity 30th Anniversary Tour.”

It’s been a long journey for Souls of Mischief (composed of emcees A-Plus, Phesto, Opio, and Tajai), who banded together as childhood friends trading rap verses. Phesto reflected on their first time performing in the Boston area as a supporting act for De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

“It was one of those times we’d never forget, being on tour with them,” Phesto told the crowd. “We learned so much from them [by] watching them rock every night.”

Souls of Mischief emerged onto the Bay Area music scene in 1991 with the Hieroglyphics crew. Their jazzy beats and breezy attitudes likened them to their New York-bred contemporaries De La and Tribe, amid the rise of the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. While East Coast acts are often hailed as the progenitors of alternative hip hop, Souls of Mischief helped carve out a similar niche in an area where the hard-edged sounds of gangsta rap took precedence throughout the 1990s. The release of 93 ‘til Infinity helped redefine the scope of West Coast rap; the record served as a vignette of everyday life for four Oakland, CA teens and was embraced for its playfulness.

Bringing that same playful energy to their set and displaying chemistry built by 30 years of friendship, the Souls were in high spirits as they powered through cuts from their debut and 2009 album Montezuma’s Revenge, as well as two Hieroglyphics covers (“Powers That Be” and “You Never Knew”).

The group was accompanied by DJs Breakbeat Lou and The Architect, who took a moment during Souls of Mischief’s set to play a medley of East Coast hip hop classics, connecting artists from Brooklyn and Long Island down to Boston. Both DJs also served as opening acts, preceded by South Carolina rapper Raw Wattage.

The show drew a crowd diverse in age, ranging from fans who grew up with Souls of Mischief cassette tapes to younger generations who discovered the group through Spotify. While the venue stirred restlessly between opening acts, a group of 20-somethings sporting colour-block windbreakers and baggy low-rise jeans entertained themselves by starting a breakdance circle in the middle of the floor. An onlooker could have mistaken the scene for a hip hop gig in the early ‘90s, if not for a man standing two feet away in a pair of the infamous MSCHF big red boots that went viral this year.

Following a message preaching love and respect for one another, Souls of Mischief asked the crowd to unify by swaying from left to right and chanting the hook on Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.

“We look like The Temptations,” Tajai joked as the four rappers slid their feet in unison.

But nothing brought the fans together quite like show closer “93 ’til Infinity,” which had the venue singing along to every word at full volume. It’s a song that seems to have prophesied its enduring legacy.

Souls of Mischief are touring into fall 2023. Tour dates can be found here.

Souls of Mischief Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Apple Music

About Parisa Vafaie

Parisa Vafaie is a Master of Public Policy student in Canada with a background in journalism. Her simple pleasures include chai lattes, well-curated playlists, and CDs packaged in jewel cases.

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