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Souls of Mischief - Spark

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Artist: Souls of Mischief

Album: Spark

Label: Chocolate Industries

Review date: Mar. 10, 2003

Won't You Be My Savior

Chocolate Industries is a label that has succeeded, not only because of their eclectic vision for raw talent, but also for their clever marketing schemes. While their compilation entitled the Urban Renewal Program packs enough star power to stand on its own, it was their decision to release a series of creatively packaged singles in support of the project that has pushed it into novelty status. As the third release in the series, and the first follow-up to the full length, “Spark” may very well be the strongest of the bunch. We’re talking about RJD2 and the Souls of Mischief here, a compelling package of the future’s sound and one of the past’s founding examples of group dynamics.

On the last single, “Wylin’ Out,” which paired electronic/hip hop crossover Prefuse 73 and hip hop heavies Mos Def and Diverse, Def Jux’s RJD2 took on only a supporting role by producing the track’s remix. “Spark” sees him on center stage, assigned to do what many long time hip hop fans feel is a lost cause – rejuvenate the seemingly tired Souls of Mischief whom haven’t released a solid project since 1995’s No Man’s Land. But many will agree that if there’s any man fit for the job, it’s the red hot RJD2 who has proven that he possesses the rare ability to illuminate whomever he’s working with, and “Spark” is no exception. The track is a furious reminder of what he laid on us on “Wylin’ Out,” this time using a more soul and jazz infused anchor, with spots of psychedelic tinkering that has now become one of RJ’s signatures. His drums sound full and lush, expanding the track’s aural walls to full capacity. RJ’s streak remains in tact, and there’s no reason to think it’ll end anytime soon.

Momentum is not in favor of the Souls of Mischief, however. One more dud could prove fatal to the once legendary foursome, but even despite their dismal track record as of late, they still attract heavy interest in anything they do, and this time it’s nice to know that many listeners won’t walk away disappointed. While emulating the intensity and utter chemical perfection exhibited on ’93 Til Infinity is out of the question, “Spark” is about as close as Tajai, Opio, Phesto, and A-Plus have ever gotten, a mere decade after the fact. Each emcee delivers quick and passionate verses, and it’s the summation of all individual parts that, pardon the pun, creates the much needed spark between the participating parties. There’s no point in claiming comeback just yet, but “Spark” proves that the Souls definitely still have the ability to create infectious tunes that shadow the carefree vibe of the early 90’s, and they owe a lot of credit to the man behind the beat.

The track’s remixes do a good job of honoring the idea that a remix must be drastically different, but the original does such a good a job as it is that it unconsciously sets boundaries for what’s sonically acceptable. RJ’s own remix adds a unique dramatic quality, but tends to sound a bit awkward given the original’s sheer explosiveness. The old school-influenced Edan takes a crack with his own remix, powered by a thick drum break and isolated intervals of bass and guitar riffs, and as talented as Edan is at respecting the old school aesthetic, it’s likely to be too minimalist for the average taste, especially in comparison to its two predecessors.

So as the final hidden interlude comes to an end, given that you have the patience to wait the 20 or so minutes for its appearance, it is difficult to draw an absolute conclusion. On the one hand, RJD2 will undoubtedly continue to produce bangers, so long as his supply of untapped vinyl and aural senses don’t escape him, while the Souls of Mischief nearly redeem themselves for eight years of lost time. But the single fails to take that extra step, mainly due to its lackluster remixes. Regardless of any shortcomings, “Spark” (the song) should almost be considered a must listen, simply because so much ground is covered in the three minutes and thirty-three seconds of playing time.

By Brian Ho

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