Souls Of Mischief's Tajai Reacts To Vampire Weekend's "Step" Interpolation
Exclusive: Tajai of the mighty Souls Of Mischief admits that he never heard of Vampire Weekend when they requested to pay homage to "Step To My Girl" for their "Step." He reveals new S.O.M. album.
Last week, Brooklyn, New York-based band Vampire Weekend released a lyric video to one of two singles from their May album, Modern Vampires In The City. The song "Step" is an interpolation from an early 1990s demo recording by Oakland, California Hip Hop quartet, Souls Of Mischief. Souls' original, "Step To My Girl," was among the demo recordings that helped Tajai, Phesto, A-Plus and Opio land a deal at Jive Records. Although the song was later included on the 2003 compilation, Hiero Rarities, Volume 1, it remains absent from all of S.O.M.'s five albums.
Souls Of Mischief "Step To My Girl" & Vampire Weekend's "Step"
HipHopDX contacted Tajai this afternoon, to get his take on Vampire Weekend's version, and what it may say about Souls Of Mischief's far-reaching musical influence. "[Vampire Weekend] approached me [before I] heard the song; I've heard the song now. But I didn't know anything about them; I'd never heard of Vampire Weekend [at that point]," admitted Tajai, who is currently in a Masters program for Architecture. Reportedly, the band led by Ezra Koenig wanted to use the same title as the circa-1991 original. Tajai asked that Vampire Weekend not do that, as he explained today. "Nah, that's wack" Elaborating, Taj noted, "They used a portion of my line and the cut for the concept...it's cool, it's homage." With Souls Of Mischief's biggest hit, "93 'Til Infinity" regularly covered in songs since its release that year, Tajai added, "It's way better than all the fake '93 'Til's' out there." He further applauded the XL Records stars for taking it a step beyond the basic. "I'd rather somebody interpolate and build from a concept than not. It's crazy that we were never able to put that song out, so it's interesting that they're gonna profit from it. But it's good to inspire good music." Now versed with the group a bit more than when he was contacted, Taj adds, "I like the song and the group seems cool."
With Souls Of Mischief never able to officially release "Step To My Girl" due to sample clearance issues, Tajai was asked if he believes the look from the gold-selling band could still bring shine to an independent veteran Hip Hop outfit. "It's a trickle-up effect," he confirmed. "If you look at our catalog, we don't be re-making songs. We sample and stuff. But if I sample [Funkadelic's] 'One Nation Under A Groove,' the chorus won't be 'One nation under a groove.' That's just not me musically." The veteran emcee/producer says that copying is not part of the Hip Hop aesthetic. He pointed to a 1990 example of a fellow Oaktown emcee involved in bringing shine to a Rick James hit from nine years earlier. "Rap is about pulling things out of context. Even [MC] Hammer, the song wasn't called 'Superfreak,' it was 'U Can't Touch This.'"
The Souls Of Mischief "93 'til Infinity" Complex
Tajai did clarify, and say that he liked some of the fellow emcees who have paid tribute to Souls' biggest single, which deftly sampled Billy Cobham's "Heather." Name-checking The Underachievers' "The Mahdi," Kidz In The Hall's "Wheelz Fall Off '06 Til)" and Big K.R.I.T.'s "Somedayz," Taj continued, "There's a difference between the guys who chop it up and make a new beat and the guys who rap over it."
Revisiting "Step To My Girl," Tajai was asked to reflect on what the song means to him today. "I'm glad people like it. That's the most I'm gonna say," he answered with a laugh. "We made that song when we were 15. I'm glad that I shared it with it the world, and that other people find a common thread in it. We made that song—almost—to get signed. That and 'Cab Fare.' It's crazy too, 'cause those are two of our most popular songs, both of which have never come out." "Cab Fare" was built upon the theme to the show Taxi, created by none other than a regularly-sampled Jazz musician, Bob James. James would later collaborate with Hip Hop artists, including X-Ecutionerz' Rob Swift.
Souls Of Mischief Sixth Album In Recording
With Souls Of Mischief recently performing at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas this month, Tajai was asked about the status of the group. The foursome last made Montezuma's Revenge in 2009 with heralded De La Soul producer/Stetsasonic member Prince Paul. Slim on details, Taj did hint that S.O.M. may likely keep the guest-producer format. "We are recording a new album; I can't say with who. But it's gonna be crazy; it's gonna be insane."
The tough critic, who released his Power Movement solo in 2005 admitted, "I've already heard half of it. We're making a really good album right now, with a lot of special guests and a crazy guest producer. This'll be one of the best albums we've ever made."