“When we said we’d be here ’til infinity,” pointed out Californian hip-hop outfit Souls of Mischief with reference to their 19-year-old debut album 93 ’til Infinity, “that **** wasn’t a joke, it was the truth. It’s a lifestyle.”
This was a show for those who identify themselves with the style of rap that might broadly be defined as old school, and it put forward a persuasive case for that most divisive of assertions in popular music – things ain’t what they used to be.
The crowd were mostly young, fresh-faced and loosely adorned with the slouchy rap uniform, but the three bearded, middle-aged MCs on stage (down from the usual four, although aided by their skilled DJ Lex) mixed up the classic and contemporary in a way that alienated no-one. The room simmered with the energy of a packed crowd the like of which Electric Circus has rarely seen and the energy of the performers. To a sparse backing of electro breaks, reconstituted soul basslines and wordless female vocal samples, they rapped with focus and barked invention, albeit heavy on the cavalier racial epithets that characterised the gangsta rap school they most certainly don’t belong to. Tracks came fast and unbroken by banter, from raps like Batting Practice and That’s When Ya Lost from the debut album to solo jams like Full Speed and Let It Roll.
93 ’til Infinity was the night’s best-received track, the chorus of Limitations (“MCs should know their limitations”) the most telling. As exponents of “real” hip-hop, Souls of Mischief’s limitations remain minimal.