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Interview with Tajai (Audio) — Hieroglyphics Imperium, 1997

As Hiero’s popularity exploded online in 1997, we sat down with Souls of Mischief’s Tajai & discussed the crew’s newfound independence.

“This is some Jumpin’ Jack Flash shit.”

Tajai referenced the 1986 movie starring Whoopi Goldberg upon meeting Stinke in person for the first time

Live ’97

In the mid- and late-1990s, when I was the Webmaster for the official Hieroglyphics website, Souls of Mischief’s Tajai and I would speak on the phone, and I would inquire about the latest happenings with the Hiero Crew and write about it on the website.

We didn’t record many of our conversations, which is what makes this one from June of 1997 special during a really interesting and exciting point in the Hieroglyphics timeline.

The author & Tajai performing at the Projecto: 2501 release party, 2001

Here are just a few of the topics covered in the 7-minute interview:

  • Tajai is still attending college at Stanford University
  • Audio mixing on Hiero’s first independent album, 3rd Eye Vision is nearing completion
  • “After Dark,” the very first single released on the fledging Hieroglyphics Imperium record label, is just a week or two away from release
  • The Hiero B-Sides cassette is nearing its debut release on the website
  • And much more

The Interview

Originally appearing on Hieroglyphics Dot Com in RealAudio, a technology that delivered streaming audio to web browsers for the very first time, the interview was conducted over the telephone — the kind that plugged into walls — using a pre-paid calling card for long-distance fees, and recorded onto an answering machine’s cassette tape.

Below, please listen to the interview in a more modern audio format, MP3:

Tajai of Souls of Mischief speaks with Stinke, the Hieroglyphics.com Webmaster, June 1997

For a full transcript of the interview, continue reading.

Sleeping Giant

Stinke: Alright, so what’s been going on?

Tajai: Man, I been chilling. Just finishing up school [at Stanford University]. Trying to finish up this [3rd Eye Vision] album, finish mixing, and get the promotions cranking.

Stinke: So where you think ya’ll are at right now? The mixing is almost done?

Tajai: Yea, we only have 4 songs to do, to mix. And then connectors and skits. But, after that, mastering is like a day or two. And then we just want to press up [vinyl]. I mean, the [“After Dark“] single’s coming out on Big Daddy [Records], ya know?

Stinke: In what, a week or two?

Tajai: Yea, should be out hella soon. On vinyl and all that kinda shit.

Stinke: So, after that gets mixed-down and mastered, what’s the next step after that?

Tajai: I guess we have to put together our artwork and everything. See what the response is, see if we need to drop another single, or if we should just drop the album. Because time is, you know, ticking.

Stinke: So, you’re still looking at a summer [1997] release, basically?

Tajai: Yea, oh yea.

Editor’s note: 3rd Eye Vision was repeatedly delayed, eventually making its debut in March 1998, nine months after this interview.

Stinke: And promotion is starting to finally get cranking now, right?

Tajai: Yea, we’re getting a lot of magazine articles, going to be in Rap Pages, going to be in 4080. This lady from VIBE just called me. So, it’s starting to move. I’ve been trying to get a little buzz going as far as on the industry tip, calling press and stuff like that. Calling a couple of radio fools that I know. Just to get it going.

I just want fools to know it’s there, you know? I’m not really tripping if it’s played all the time, or even played at all, really. I want fools to buy it, and know it’s out there to be purchased, ya know?

Stinke: Has it been easier for you, or perhaps for the crew, to work independently as opposed to with a record label? Have there been any differences?

Tajai: I mean, the only difference is you depend a lot on charity because it’s real expensive recording a record. And…You depend a lot on more hard work, I guess. All you gotta do when you’re on a label is rap, you know? Make some beats…Really, you know? That’s it.

Now, everybody has a job and has to put money towards the album and is trying to get all the t-shirts and all this kind of stuff so that everything’s straight. We’re actually working. It’s more work now, but it’s more fulfilling because you’re working for yourself. Whereas before, there was the illusion you were working for yourself, but you’re working for someone else.

Stinke: You think it’s been beneficial for the entire crew as a whole?

Tajai: Oh yea. It’s brought us together hella more than we were, say, at the point when we all were getting paid [from the major labels] and everything. Just because we have to rely upon each other to do everything. There’s no “Outside,” nobody you can call on the outside, it’s pretty much all of us…You know how it is.

Stinke: Yup…So, what can we as fans be expecting next?

Tajai: Just a phat single, “The Who,” “The Who Remix,” two different vibes. Then, “After Dark,” hopefully we have a video for “After Dark,” something crazy. Then probably the album will drop after that, with maybe “You Never Knew” as our next single or something like that. And we’ll definitely probably come out with a video and all that kinda stuff for that.

Just watch out! Ask for us, request us in your record stores, and request us for shows. I’m not really even tripping if we never get played on the radio, we never get played on the video channels. If ya’ll come to the show, and ya’ll pick up the album, we’ll be able to continue making music.

Stinke: Now, just to clarify because I get a lot of email regarding this question: [3rd Eye Vision] will be available in retails stores such as The Wall…

Tajai: Yea, nah — The album is going to come out like a normal album.

Stinke: See, now everybody listen…

Tajai: It’ll probably be better distributed than, say, 93 ’til Infinity, for instance.

Stinke: OK, because that’s been one of the top questions that we get sent into the email.

Tajai: Yea, we’re trying to get it to everybody. And for those who don’t, there’s mail order!

Stinke: Of course.

Tajai: That’s the whole point of having that – is that there’s nobody that’s not gonna be able to get serviced, you know?

Stinke: Since you brought that up, what can heads expect next for the online store?

Tajai: Alright, in the online store we got this tape by DJ June 22, the infamous Hiero B-Sides & Hard to Finds tape. A phat mixtape — MIX, I repeat, — tape. Where, it’s just all the b-sides that we had on wax, from the first 5 albums Hieroglyphics put out, and all of those singles off of those albums. And it’s 25 songs.

What else is coming out…

We’re working on some gear…What else is coming out…

We got the new, “digitally-remastered” Hiero Oldies. *laughter* With the new cover and everything. Check that out.

We got all type of stickers. I think we’re going to start selling these stickers, they’re going to be real cheap and everything.

I don’t know, I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to be wrong, you know? But that’s all the stuff that’s definitely coming.

Hiero Oldies Part II is finished, we’re just waiting ’cause, they’re just gonna age like a fine wine type, you know…So, we gotta let that sit for a second.

Oh yea, I’m trippin! We got “Turkey & Dressing” coming, the brand new single by Big Cas.

Stinke: Yea, a lot of buzz. Casual’s been generating a lot of energy.

Tajai: Yea, so check that out. It’s probably gonna be like an EP, or a little 4 song single like ’97 Live.

Also, we got something coming out by The Prose – just a little underground thing for you to check out, chew on before this [3rd Eye Vision] album comes out, probably. Just to see where [Pep Love] is coming from, because on the album, we’re coming as “Hieroglyphics.” When we’re separate, that’s when we do our own separate thing. But when we join together, we’re trying to do it as a crew.

And then we got some other stuff coming out that I just wanna keep on the hush.

Stinke: On the hush.

Tajai: But it’s gonna be fantastic.

Stinke: Cool, cool.

Operator: [interrupting] “You have 5 minutes remaining.”

Tajai: –you, man?

Stinke: I just got — excuse me — this lady just told me I have 5 minutes remaining on the calling card. *laughter* So we got that on tape. I didn’t hear what you asked, though.

Tajai: I said what’s up, I was just saying, what was up?

Stinke: Ah, nothing…

So, any last words to all the heads online?

Tajai: Thanks for supporting! Keep on doing it because ya’ll are keeping us alive out here. We gonna continue to make slammin’, slammin’ music.

Check out the [3rd Eye Vision] album, it’s some whole different tip. It’s some brand new music. Hope ya’ll like it.

Big up to Stinke, the Web Masterrrrrrr.

*laughter*

And, you know — just keep supporting, man. We’re gonna be there soon, definitely.

Stinke: This has been a Hiero Online exclusive interview with Tajai of the Souls of Mischief and Hieroglyphics Crew.

Tajai: Yeuh! Yeuh!

Stinke: Thanks a lot, yo.

Tajai: Alright, no problem, man.