Souls of Mischief - There Is Only Now (Review)

 Souls of Mischief - There Is Only Now (Essence of Hip-Hop)

"There is Only Now" is the sixth album from legendary West Coast hip-hop group Souls of Mischief (consisting of emcees/producers Opio, A-Plus, Tajai and Phesto). The album features guest appearances from Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Scarub, Ali Shaheed Muhammed and William Hart and is produced entirely by prolific hip-hop producer Adrian Younge. It was released on August 26, 2014 via Linear Labs LLC.

1) K-NOW Intro - Quick intro by Ali Shaheed Muhammed (of A Tribe Called Quest) setting up the story.

2) Time Stopped - The first song on the album finds Souls of Mischief starting the narrative and rapping about chilling at a party before a black truck rolls up and let off some shots at our hosts. The rhymes are dope and the beat is nice as well, featuring live instrumentation that grows in intensity when the action breaks out. Dope shit.

3) Womack's Lament (featuring Busta Rhymes) - This song is a Busta Rhymes solo track and it turns out that he (as Womack) is the shooter in the black truck from the first song. He is salty about Souls of Mischief saying they are better than him on the mic and things turn violent when he kidnaps Tajai. The beat is appropriately dark and Busta actually sounds really good over it. Dope.

4) Panic Struck - Opio, Phesto and A-Plus escape and start talking about how they are going to get Tajai back while Tajai himself describes some of the details about his kidnapping over a jazzy instrumental. As on the past few tracks, the beat is dope and everyone rips it.

5) K-NOW Interlude 1 - Skit.

6) Another Part of You (featuring William Hart) - This cut finds Tajai being told that he knows what he did while the other members of SOM try to figure out exactly what happened and why. The instrumental is real nice and actually has two parts to it, with the first having a darker vibe and the second picking up the pace and raising the energy level of the album a little. The song ends with a flashback in time to a Souls of Mischief appearance on Rap City (which is actually the catalyst to Womack seeking them out). Nice.

7) All You Got Is Your Word - This song is probably my favorite joint on here so far, with Souls of Mischief flowing their asses off over a banging instrumental. The beat is fire, with more organs and horns over lively drums, and everyone rips it as they kick some rhymes calling out wack emcees. Near the end of this "flashback", SOM start to wonder if the guys who kidnapped Tajai were the guys they battled in the parking lot after their Rap City appearance. I'm really feelin' this one. That beat is fire and the energy is infectious.

8) There Is Only Now (featuring Snoop Dogg) - I believe this was the first single released in promotion of the album and it's real nice. The rhymes center around a young couple who are in love, but are being told by those around them that it wont work (which is Snoops contribution). As far as the beat, its a little more laid back than the previous two, but its just as dope.

9) Meeting of the Minds - This song tells the stories of Womack (who is not a nice guy) and Miriam and Stoney (the couple from the previous track). It turns out Womack has a thing for Miriam, but Stoney doesn't really see him as a threat. As for the production, the beat is nice and features some bells during the chorus and a prominent drum and bass line during the verses.

10) K-NOW Interlude 2 - Skit.

11) Miriam Got a Mickey - The beat on this track has a psychedelic/drugged out feel to it, which goes along with the subject matter of the song nicely as SOM rap from Womack, Miriam and Stoney's perspective as Miriam is drugged by Womack. We find out that the drugs cause Miriam to lose the baby she was carrying, which leads into the next track.

12) Stone Cold (featuring Scarub) - Living Legends member Scarub makes an appearance on this track and plays the part of Stoney as he contemplates getting his revenge on Womack. The beat is fire and helps portray the angst that Stoney is feeling while Scarub spits his venomous rhymes. Another banger.

13) The Synopsis - The beat on this cut features some ill guitars and rolling drums for SOM to do their thing over, as all four emcees just kind of sum up the story so far. Ali Shaheed Muhammed closes out the song with some more narration about how Oakland is being overrun with violence, which leads into the next track.

14) Ghetto Superhero - As the title of this song implies, this cut finds SOM playfully rapping about Oakland's "Ghetto Superhero" who will be the one fighting violence and cleaning up the town. The rhymes and instrumental sound like something straight out of the comics or a Saturday morning cartoon, but this one isn't hitting me quite as hard as the others. Still, not bad by any means and the narrative needed a little bit of lightheartedness.

15) K-NOW Reprise - Skit.

16) Narrow Escape - Souls of Mischief receive a ransom phone call from Womack and head out to pick up Tajai, who they happen to see escaping from his captors and snatch him up before they can retaliate. Lyrically the song is on point and the beat is pretty good as well, but some of the production is starting to blend together a bit (even after the unique sound of "Ghetto Superhero").

17) Finally Back - The beat on this song is probably the hardest so far, with a dark pianos and a crazy vocal sample on the chorus (at least I think its a sample).  Lyrically SOM get a little darker on here as well as they contemplate getting back at Womack for what he has done.

18) The Last Act - The final song on the project has Souls of Mischief ready to spring their trap on Womack, but hesitate as they try to figure out how to get him out of a public area so they can do the deed. The rhymes are frantic as the team tries to figure out what to do and the beat compliments the hectic feel of this part of the story. While SOM are debating what to do, Stoney steps in and solves the problem for them. Very dope track.

19) K-NOW Outro - Skit.

I'm going to rate the album

4 / 5

because it's really good. The rhymes on here are top notch, with each member of the group ripping every verse while playing multiple parts in the overall storyline. SOM stick to the script throughout the entire album and make the story easy to follow despite all of the various characters weaving in and out of the narrative. As far as the beats go, Adrian Younge delivers nicely as well and adds a cinematic feel to the album. When the characters are in trouble, the beat takes on a hectic feel. When the characters are contemplating murder, the production gets darker to compliment their thoughts and feelings. My only complaint about the album is that some of the production starts to blend together a bit by the end of the project. I spent most of my time focusing on the rhymes and the actual production almost became part of the background for me, which might have been intended. Either way, the album is really dope and is probably my favorite Souls of Mischief album since "93 'til Infinity".


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