THE WORD “hieroglyphics” suggests an ancient tool of communication, but when hard times hit the East Oakland rap crew of the same name, modern technology helped reenergize its following.
Originally published on:
From the January 8-14, 1998 issue of Metro
Written by Todd S. Inoue
This column is dedicated to the memory of Toshiro Mifune.
Consisting of Souls of Mischief (Opio, Tajai, A+ and Phesto), Del the Funkee Homosapien, Casual, the Prose (Pep Love and J-Biz) and manager Domino, the Hieroglyphics’ strength came mostly from its skillful lyricism. In the early ’90s, Hiero members released acclaimed solo albums on major labels (Souls, Del, Casual). Then, as the focus moved from content to gambinos/playalistics (ca. 1994-95), the labels’ interest waned. All were released from their contracts.
“The lowest point was when I got dropped, because I didn’t know nothing [about it],” recalls Del, who spent the down time studying Japanese and working at a record store. “Jive sent me a letter, like one sentence, saying my contract was terminated. I had plans of doing shit in New York with Redman and De La.”
“I knew the label wasn’t doing their job,” says Casual, whose second LP was never released. “Everybody was telling me I was dope. The label was fucking shit up.” Then technology went to work. Dual cassette decks all around the world whirred, spreading the Hiero gospel through an intricate network of tape hunters and collectors. Dedicated Hiero fan and webmaster StinkE put up a virtual shop and street-corner for fellow Hiero heads to download freshly mined tracks. The site garnered hundreds of hits a day.
“It was tight,” Del says. “The Internet was one of the reasons we’re still doing things. Through StinkE, there was a way we could still keep in touch with fans. So we started slipping him the top secret shit.” The cream of the “top secret shit” will be released on Third Eye Vision, the long-awaited Hiero “family album.” TEV satisfies the craving for nonstop flow that entranced the hip-hop nation back in the early ’90s. Tracks such as “Oakland Blackouts,” “The Who” and “Dune Methane” meld the nine diverse personalities into one cohesive set, a dream for fans of Hiero’s dense lyricism. The album is set to be released next month.
Reproduced on Hieroglyphics.org for educational purposes.