Fittingly on the eve of the recent Hiero Day and in Oakland, the premiere preview screening of Til Infinity took place at the New Parkway Theater. Capturing a significant moment midway in hip-hop's history and a critical time in the early life of Hiero collective quartet the Souls Of Mischief the Shomari Smith directed documentary 'Til Infinity takes an in-depth look back to twenty years ago to when the Souls Of Mischief (Tajai, Phesto D, A-Plus, Opio) released their acclaimed debut album, the 1993 hip-hop classic 93 ‘Til infinity. Oakland born and raised filmmaker Smith, who grew up with the Hieros, presents an inside intimate look at his subject that another documentary maker may not have been privy to. From childhood stories by the many members of the Hieroglyphics collective to track by track detail of every song on the 93 'Til album, plus insights and input from a wide variety of hip-hop artists and industry folk Smith's film is both a history of the Hieros and a play by play of every detail of a hip-hop classic album that bookmarked the end of hip-hop's so-called golden era and the beginning of a new (non mob/street/player/gangsta) era in Bay Area hip-hop. Many of Smith's interviews were conducted while traveling across the country on tour with the group and the artists they met along the way such as Redman, Phife Dawg, Rakaa Iriscience, Talib Kweli, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), and Snoop (Lion) Dogg.
As one of the many industry folk interviewed in the documentary I was among the lucky ones to get invited to last weekend's premiere screening. (I had produced a SoulBeat TV show dedicated to the Hieros back in September of 1993 upon the Souls' 93 release - portions of which are interspersed throughout the new doc). After the midday screening finished at New Parkway on 24th Street attendees moved over to the Rock Steady on San Pablo at 18th for the after party / photo exhibit (Phesto and Shomari Smith's Souls tour photos). It was outside that venue, a part of the New Parish, that I conducted the above video interview with Shomari Smith. At the recently relocated New Parkway (which looks great by the way) Shomari addressed the audience that, along with all of the Souls and most of the Hieros, included such film interveiwees as Lyrics Born, Equipto, and Dante Ross. "It's been an amazing journey," stressed Smith of the film that took two years to make. Like most good pieces of art the film took on its own direction and vibe based on the material Smith culled in the seemingly endless hours of interviews he conducted. The documentary clocked in at two hours he but before the screening Smith promised that the time would "go by quickly" (it did) adding how what the audience was about to view was "the directors cut" since due to licensing and other factors the film will have to go through another round of editing down and a series of alterations.