As part of the mighty Souls of Mischief crew, A-Plus ushered in a new style of Bay Area rap with the group's breezy and effortless "'93 'Til Infinity" anthem. Also a mainstay in the Hieroglyphics movement, the rapper and producer has been involved with releases from Del, Pep Love, and Casual, and earlier this year released his own Pepper Spray EP project, which is hooked around giving songs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers a hip-hop make-over.
Here then, A-Plus looks back at five of the most notable musical projects he's been involved in since his early-'90s introduction. It's a set of anecdotes that includes the perils of living with Prince Paul in a house full of spiders, the musical gatekeeper role of George Clinton's pet dog, and the revelation that "'93 'Til Infinity" was originally a Pep Love song.
Souls of Mischief, '93 'Til Infinity (1993)
"A lot of those songs were recorded when we were still in high school. It was basically our dream come true; we'd been dreaming about record deals since we were about eight. We ended up on a label with a lot of artists we were listening to at the time. We recorded the whole album in about eight days. We recorded at Hyde Street Studios, with an engineer called Matt Kelley, who went on to engineer a lot of our work.
"For a lot of the sessions, we were coming in early in the afternoon and staying until however late was needed. Whenever someone in the [Hieroglyphics] crew was recording, we'd all be there; if Del was recording, we'd be there, participating, helping out with whatever album was being recorded. We'd all give each other feedback. It was a real friendly competition, but that kept everybody edgy and trying to outdo the last thing they did. It was like, "What rhymes with this?" And a bunch of people would give like 15 different versions of how they'd do it. If somebody didn't have enough energy, we'd just say, "Energy, energy, energy!" to pick it up.
"I remember I'd go home after the sessions and try and make some beats before I'd go to sleep. In the morning I'd go to the studio with Pep Love; I made a beat that night and he really liked it and I gave it to him. When I went to the studio to play it to everybody, the Souls was like, "Yeah, we need to use that!" I told them I'd already given it to Pep. They were like, "We're in the middle of the album and we need that beat." So I had to take it back from Pep. That beat ended up being the "'93 'Til Infinity" song. That was nearly a Pep Love song! Pep was gracious about me taking it back, and it ended up being our main single."
Souls of Mischief, No Man's Land (1995)
"We had a whole different mentality by the time of this album! So we delivered the first album, and everything did good, even though Jive admittedly dropped the ball on the marketing. So we went in for a meeting, the label sat us down and said, "We're not gonna be a hip-hop label any more. We're gonna keep a few hip-hop acts like KRS-One and you guys, but we're going to turn into a pop label. For your next album, can you take more of a pop direction?" Then, the specific quote was, "Can you make an album that sounds like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince?"
"We said we weren't going to do that. They said if we didn't, they'd shelve the album and put an end to our careers. So we made the exact opposite [of what they wanted]. We were all pretty agitated and pissed off. We just wanted to show them we weren't a pop group. They put the album out, but tried to shelve it and didn't give it any promotion. They held us in limbo; we were begging to get off the label. But after months and months they let us go -- finally! So that's why No Man's Land is how it sounded compared to '93 'Til Infinity."
Hieroglyphics, 3rd Eye Vision (1998)
"We left our label; Casual left as well before he did a second album; Del left Elektra 'cause there was a big buyout. We'd had offers from other labels, but were soured by the process, before so around '96 we decided that we'd try and do it ourselves. We'd go and do shows, tour, and try and generate money to try and record and put out the album. We formed a company, made a shit lot of money and put it out ourselves.
"The main focus for that album was actually meant to be Pep Love -- he was in negations with labels, but that went sour when we lost our deals, so we used that album to kinda put him out there. He'd been on Souls of Mischief albums before, but this was a way to present us as a crew and introduce Pep Love to people over the years.
"Making music felt liberating again. The main thing was the creative control. Our beef with the label was they understood we weren't a pop group, so we were really sour about that and what they were asking from us. Creative control was the main part. Recording it felt pretty much like the first album. It felt really good, and we could see the fruits of our labor: When the album would sell, you'd get more than a small percentage 'cause you're not paying back to the label."