Hip hop for those who like to pretend the past two decades never happened.
Adam Kennedy 2009
Pitching respected underground artists at doomsayers currently contemplating hip hop’s imminent demise would somewhat fudge the point that rap’s pop chart-troubling incarnation is slowly strangulating the genre.
Yet veteran Oakland group Souls of Mischief’s comeback album, almost a decade since their last, proffers up a plethora of arguments countering and concurring with the original argument. And that’s without examining the titular connotations of naming a re-up record after, it seems, traveller’s diarrhoea.
The chief conundrum is a stylistic one. Birthed from the same fertile 1990s American ‘alternative’ hip hop scene that unleashed De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, as with many of their contemporaries the basic SoM template has remained effectively unchanged.
Still, reconvening was a logical step: their individual solo careers hardly went inter-stellar during the interim, despite garnering cult acclaim as part of expansive west coast crew Hieroglyphics, alongside Gorillaz collaborator Del tha Funkee Homosapien. In one breath, SoM – MCs A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai, joined for the entire returning journey by De La Soul/Handsome Boy Modeling School production king Prince Paul – kick against everything their supposedly artistically barren cousins represent.
Simultaneously, little on Montezuma’s Revenge possesses the mind-blowing futuristic impact to suggest they couldn’t have comfortably conceived the album pre-hiatus. Nobody can dispute that the foursome display seasoned verbal skills throughout, but sadly that focus rarely elevates the actual songs above workmanlike, Prince Paul’s imaginative contributions outshining the mouthpieces on Proper Aim, Fourmation and various others.
SoM even appear to poke fun at the position they find themselves in via skit Mr Freeman, among a handful of between-track filler nodding to Prince Paul’s predilection for such diversions. “Stop doing that old school s***, son,” advises a Morgan Freeman impersonator. “You need to let it go.”
Credit where it’s due, though: Montezuma’s Revenge confirms that SoM’s 1993 debut album, 93 ’Til Infinity, was no empty statement. This is hip hop for those who like beats that boom-bap, lyrics that run deep, and a general nostalgia-bleeding vibe that sticks fingers in ears and pretends that the past two decades never occurred.