‘93 ‘Til Infinity touches a new generation

Students and faculty alike were buzzing as they gathered in the small lobby area in front of Francis Coppola theatre last month for a private screening of the documentary “’93 ‘Til Infinity: Celebrating 20 Years of Souls of Mischief.”

For some of the students, the iconic song “’93 ‘Til Infinity” was released before they were old enough to speak, let alone rap along to the lyrics. However, the song is as important to youth culture and Hip Hop as it was over 20 years ago.

The legendary rap group, Souls of Mischief, formed in 1991 in Oakland, California. The group is composed of four emcees, A-plus, Opio, Phesto Dee and Tajai. They are also part of a larger collective called Hieroglyphics.

The film, made by long-time friend of the group Shomari Smith, chronicles the group’s early years as well as follows them along the way to their energetic performance at the 2011 Rock The Bells music festival.

Smith knew that the “be yourself” message that made the group so revolutionary was one that wasn’t just relevant in the early nineties, but one that applies to every generation.

“One of the things I really like to stress is that year in ’93 was the era where I was in college. It was sort of a coming of age time for me, so I wanted to share it with those people who are going through that time in their life,” Smith said.

The college years are definitely seen as a time of change and growth for most. For many it is also the first time in their lives that they start feeling like they can express themselves and truly be who they are meant to be. The film’s core message makes a college campus a great place for sharing the triumphs of four guys who were coming of age, so to speak, in the same way that many of the students at SF State are.

“You have a group of guys who did something that wasn’t done for their time. They released music and had a lyrical style that was not heard yet and was monumental because it spawned the emcees that came after them. They spawned the Eminems and they spawned the Kanyes and the Pharrells and these different guys who watched them and saw them so they took something either from their personal style or their lyrical style or just something that overall touched them and they took the next step,” Smith said.

A lot of the students in attendance were particularly excited to see the members of their favorite group sitting alongside them in the audience. For Tajai, A-plus and Phesto, who were all in attendance, this was their first time seeing some of the final edits to the film since its first SF State airing last spring in the Africana Studies, Hip Hop Workshop class taught by long time friends of the group Hip Hop historian Davey D and the “DEF professor” Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer.

The group member’s respective faces expressed a gamut of emotion in the 30 or so minutes after the film as students and others in attendance, praised, critiqued and asked questions. Students were seemingly in awe as Tajai and A-plus expressed how amazing it is that Shomari was there to document these moments and took time to tell their story.

“I think [the movie], it’s awesome ’cause you don’t remember everything you did, especially the things you’ve tried to shut away in your mind ’cause you’ve tried to forget them. So it’s great. It’s a great experience seeing the final product. You don’t realize you’re making history while you’re making it. It’s like a good thing to do a retrospective of it,” group member Tajai Massey said.

The group members also shed some light on their philosophies on life and it’s easy to see why students can relate.

“I think we’re all students and we’re all trying to elevate and increase our mind power and Hieroglyphics kind of represents that style of Hip Hop or that style or lifestyle where we’re constantly trying to push ourselves to the limit. I think that we’re all in the same boat,” Massey said. “We just happened to make records that came out already.”

The group’s longevity, combined with their insights on music and life, make it easy to see why so many different people from so many walks of life can identify with them.

“They’ve been in the game for the longest, you know, so they have a lot of wisdom and all that to provide to the new artists and I’ve been listening to it and I was born in ’93,” sophomore Edgar Campachaña said.

As surreal as it is for the students, it was equally as awe-inspiring for the artists.

“Like A-plus said, we were just kids making music, and then we’re celebrating it 20 years later. Like, that’s crazy at that age. You haven’t even been alive 20 years, so how can you picture 20 years into the future,” Phesto said. “To really just process it, it’s a little difficult, but we’re grateful, very grateful.”