Tajai, of the seminal rap group Souls of Mischief and active member of several other projects and crews including rap collective The Hieroglyphics, is no stranger to gun violence. Growing up with fellow group members in Oakland, California, one of the United States’ most notoriously dangerous cities, violent crime and urban warfare became an integral part of their developing social consciousness. In their latest video for the track “Gun Fever,” edited by group member Casual, The Hieroglyphics address America’s ongoing fetishization of violence, particularly the mainstream media’s current obsession with guns. Rife with images that juxtapose our government, elected officials and media reports against the violence perpetrated with guns at home and abroad, the video could not appear at a more relevant time in our larger cultural discourse, although that wasn’t necessarily the group’s original intention.
The track was originally “recorded in the summer of 2011, pre-Trayvon Martin, pre-Newtown” and was “expressing what was going on in our neighborhood,” Tajai recalls. Though he believes violent crime in general has decreased in Oakland and perhaps the rest of the country as well, Tajai acknowledges how his own personal relationship to a larger society that romanticizes guns, violence and destruction has changed over time. “I feel safer, but I’m grown,” he states. “As a kid, there was a lot of fear and fascination with violence…our national anthem is about bombs…the glorification of violence is par for the course in American culture.”
Indeed, social commentary has always been a critical aspect of The Hieroglyphics’ material, its members all having grown up in an era where early rap music was, as Tajai explains, “more reflective of an anti/countercultural point of view.” This is clearly evident in the “Gun Fever” video, the message of which Tajai acknowledges has become more politicized, poignant and provocative “because of the current climate of the country.” Arresting, engaging and thought-provoking subject matter continue to drive The Hieroglyphics to do what they do, and Tajai admits there’s no easy solution to this dangerous facet of our culture, “Pandora’s box is open…life is cheap now…I wish I could be a pacifist, but I’ve been raised in American society and Oakland society where violence is real.”
DJ Toure, famed DJ/producer and member of the legendary Hieroglyphics crew, will release his new solo album, Toure’s Theory: Session One, on February 19th. Though the album was originally slated for a 2012 release, the year wound up being one of the busiest of Toure’s career, as he split time DJing for Kelly Rowland in Moscow with producing tracks for artists including E-40, Too $hort, Freeway, Devin The Dude, Phonte, Droop-E, and others. Now, with the album finally on its way this winter, Toure is unveiling a string of new music, including the recent release of album single “She Likes It (Remix),” and today Toure is releasing a new EPK giving fans a look inside his musical journey.
In this personal and revealing EPK, directed by Dylan Freitas-D’Louhy, DJ Touré details his Oakland upbringing, which included growing up with fellow Bay Area & Hiero artists Casual, Tajai, Opio, and A-Plus. While giving us a look at some of his live performances as well as time in the studio, Touré, talks about his relationship with music, and how it started at an early age. “Music has been a big part of my life from day one,” says Touré, calling it “a big inspiration.” He leaves us with images of artists involved in his new album including famed Philadelphia rapper Freeway and, of course, his Hieroglyphics crew.
Tajai, one-fourth of the mighty Souls Of Mischief, is proud to release his new album, Machine Language. A collection of new songs and previously released material that serves as a prelude to Tajai’s forthcoming official album, Rap Noir, Machine Language is out now via Tajai’s own label, Clear Label Records, and is available for purchase through Tajai’s Bandcamp.
For the production on Machine Language, Tajai worked exclusively with Sleeprockers, a Sacramento- based crew comprising DJ’s Rated R, Nocturnal, Mr. Vibe, Wanted, and Kwes, and the five-man group, with over 30 years in the game collectively, brings a cohesiveness to the project founded in their blending of drum breaks, live instrumentation, and turntablism. And since this project serves as an unofficial release of sorts, Tajai decided to enlist a range of his peers to collaborate, with artists such as Tech N9ne, Ras Kass, B-Real of Cypress Hill, DJ Revolution, Crooked I, and The Pharcyde making appearances, along with Tajai’s own Hieroglyphics crew.
Machine Language also serves as a springboard for the rest of Tajai’s Clear Label Records roster, along with forthcoming projects from partner labels Pushing The Beat, Clearbeat, Noor Science, and more. Collectively, in the coming months, fans can look forward to projects from a range of Bay Area and west coast talent, including League510, Cisum Tomorrow, FAMSYRK, Moses Music, Beeda Weeda, Dolla Will, and Shady Nate. Next up witll be Soul King’s album, scheduled for release this quarter through Noor Science.
It’s been two months since the Hieroglyphics crewmember A-Plus released his Pepper Spray EP, a project that remixes Red Hot Chili Peppers classics and serves as one-fourth of his ongoing Tribute Series, and he has no plans of stopping soon. After releasing music videos for the songs “Give It Away” and “Road Trippin,” the Souls Of Mischief member is excited to return with trippy visuals for his latest single “Can’t Stop.”
“The main inspiration for the video was the fact that I had absolutely no budget or way of getting it done when I started the process,” says A-Plus who tapped his good friend and producer of the group Chosen Few, Unjust, to direct. “Truly, if it weren’t for him, it would have not gotten done.” Also noting the efforts of Jordan Fierro, one of the cameramen on set, A-Plus and crew were able to come together and deliver a video that pairs a mix of special effects with creative performance shots from A-Plus and AAGEE, not to mention a few special cameos from the Hieroglyphics crew.
New Album Released With DJ Toure; Casual Preps He STILL Think He Raw For Fall Release
Long time fans and supporters of the Hieroglyphics will be stoked to hear that Casual, prolific MC and original member of the mighty Hieroglyphics crew, is back with a new release, The Hierophant, a collaborative project with Hiero DJ and producer DJ Toure. “A Hierophant is a person who deciphers arcane knowledge,” explains Casual when discussing the title of the album. “I’m releasing this album to help fund my next album, He STILL Think He Raw. Please support. With this, as well as my other albums, I attempt to make classics.” Currently, He STILL Think He Raw is scheduled for a fall release.
The Hierophant is available now for download through Casual’s Bandcamp page and features Tajai of Souls of Mischief, fellow Hiero member Pep Love, and Thomas Pridgen, former drummer of The Mars Volta.
Bay-Area super group Hieroglyphics are back in a big way, releasing a new song “Reputation” in conjunction with a series of paintings inspired by the group from When Art Imitates Life (W.A.I.L.) – Hiero served as the guiding creative force behind the Hieroglyphics Legacy and Monument Series paintings. From music to art to clothing collaborations, and more, the legendary Hiero crew has certainly earned quite a “Reputation,” and the aptly named song celebrates the Hiero legacy. This no-frills track is all about the flow; synthy guitar riffs and bare bones beats leave the listener free to focus on the killer verses – these seasoned veterans need no embellishment. “Sorry that we kept you waiting… sort of like a test of patience/had to come up with the best arrangement,” A-Plus tells fans, who definitely won’t hold the group’s absence against them with a new track out and their upcoming West Coast tour to look forward to.
Hieroglyphics member and Oakland native Casual releases a video for “Rock My Shit” from his upcoming album He Still Think He Raw produced by DJ Fresh. From the get go the camera focuses on Casual and his car, alternating between the engine, Casual’s toothpick and screeching tires. The song breathes Bay Area from its snappy bass drums to drifting electronic snowflakes and echoing synths. Not to be overshadowed by DJ Fresh’s efforts behind the boards, though, Casual is a true tour de force on the mic. “This album is full of braggadocio, which at my age seems immature,” says Casual. “But being able to boast and say clever egotistical things is still a big part of hip-hop, and this album allows me to express that side of myself.” For fans anticipating Casual’s deeper side, rest assured the wait won’t be long, as he’s currently prepping a second album for 2011,The Hierophant, which will continue to display the emcee’s diversity.
He Still Think He Raw, being released in 2011, will feature Mitchy Slick & FAB, Grouch, Young Gully, Hongry, Yukmouth, and of course members of Hiero.
When it comes to music, people like to pretend our world fits neatly into black and white, hip-hop and r&b, rock and rap. But is it possible that one artist can bring the rock, the soul and the pop music lover together in one blissful Technicolor orgy? If anyone can, it’s Bay Area musician Chris Marsol. On his bold debut album, “Butterflies, Lipstick and Handgrenades” (Clear Label/Hiero Imperium), Marsol fuses together rock, soul, pop and electro, resulting in a record where no two tracks sound the same. Arranged and produced by Marsol, “Butterflies, Lipstick and Handgrenades,” drops March 30, 2010.
Marsol and his band made this record the old-fashioned way: they got together at FM studios in Berkeley, CA.“It was a 24 hour recording session split up into two days,” explains Marsol. “Before the session, we rehearsed over a period of months to solidify the arrangements. Then we all tracked our parts simultaneously, in one huge recording room so the music had an organic sound. We recorded it exactly the way we play it live at shows.”
How did this rock artist end up on one of the Bay Area’s most esteemed hip-hop labels? “In 2007 my business partner gave Hiero’s owner Tajai (of Souls of Mischief) some of my music. Unknown to us, Tajai had been listening to it while on tour. When he got back, a meeting was set up and we decided to work together.”
“I want my label to represent quality music in general, not just underground rap,” explains Tajai of why he signed Marsol. “Chris has talent and energy that the world needs to see.”
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of Haight-Ashbury, Marsol is the product of the hippie movement, Psychedelic Rock, the Black Panthers. Admittedly, he wasn’t around during the revolution, but the spirit of art, freedom, and progressive thinking still illuminates the Bay Area — and Marsol’s music.
“As a child, I didn’t discriminate between genres of music,” notes Marsol, who includes Pink Floyd, Cream, Stevie Wonder, Nirvana, Genesis, Stone Temple Pilots, D’Angelo, Radiohead, and Hall and Oates among his favorite artists. “I only distinguished between what I liked and what I didn’t like.”
At 6, Chris was singing in his church choir and stealing the spotlight, dancing at his family reunions. By 11, he was locking himself in the bathroom, writing and recording his first songs with a Radio Shack tape recorder. At age 17 he taught himself how to play the piano and eventually taught himself the guitar.
When asked about the meaning of the album title, Marsol shrugs, “There’s no meaning until you create one.”
Smooth vibes from Charles Cooper’s saxophone open up the latest offering from Oakland’s Chosen Few, which also features lyrical acrobatics from Opio and Pep Love from the iconic west coast collective, Hieroglyphics. Titled ”Girls Gone Wild,” the song is a precursor to the Chosen Few’s upcoming album, New World Symphony, and although it will not be making an appearance on the album, the group is giving it away now to allow listeners an early taste of what to expect from the Bay Area crew. “Girls Gone Wild” doesn’t seek to resurrect the ghosts of spring breaks past, but instead touches “on the delicate balance of media influences and personal connections to what defines success for women in the, yet still, inequitable social norms of the world” says Cooper. Featuring production by beat maestro Unjust, “Girls Gone Wild” serves as a worldwide wakeup call to see through the media-manufactured smoke and mirrors, and, adds Unjust, encourages people everywhere to “foster their own individual shine.” While rhymes and horns are at the front of this creative storm, at Opio’s suggestion the song closes with audio from the movie Fame and the rest, as they say, is history. Chosen Few’s New World Symphony will be available on January 9, 2010 via Hiero Imperium Records.
Hiero Imperium Crew Embarks On 35 Date, Worldwide “Montezuma’s Revenge Tour ’09”
In anticipation of the November 10th release of their newest Prince Paul-produced effort, Montezuma’s Revenge, Oakland, California hip-hop crew Souls Of Mischief are gearing up to set out on the “Montezuma’s Revenge World Tour ’09,” a tour consisting of 35 dates over one and a half months throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. They will perform for 19 dates here in the US and 16 in Europe with stops at Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Helsinki, and Berlin, to name a few. Being one of the most globally expansive tours to date for the legendary group, emcee/Hiero Imperium CEO Tajai explains what he’s looking forward to about this particular tour saying, “It’s a new album and a new beginning for us. Also, the fact that it truly is a world tour makes it exciting. We plan to hit Japan, Australia and New Zealand as well as a Canada and the rest of the US next year. We even have a show in Bulgaria. That should be exciting!”
Souls Of Mischief, a group that has built a a notoriously strong fan base since the 1993 release of their first, now classic, album 93 ‘Til Infinity, is looking forward to seeing their fans’ reactions from around the globe to the new music of Montezuma’s Revenge. As always, the crews’ dedicated worldwide fans can expect nothing short of spectacular, high-energy shows. The legendary Prince Paul will be making cameo appearances as the tour progresses, and group Swollen Members will be joining the tour for a handful of dates as well.