That’s positive feedback / Yep, The Prose / I’m poised, we never pose, you’ll never know / From ’93 til infinity we’ve been inventive / Creating the bump is our only incentive / And it’s been a long time since I feel I’ve been felt / But the only thing I fear is fear itself / So you know what we gots to do / Maybe could we keep it within the crew / Like it should be / Never givin’ out / We’re livin’ out our dreams / If there’s something I can’t live without / That’s my team / You never knew
-Pep Love, Hieroglyphics, You Never Knew, 3rd Eye Vision
Upon asking many commercial hip hop fans their thoughts on West Coast rap music, aliases such as TuPac, Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion), Cypress Hill, and N.W.A. are among the first artists mentioned. There’s no question these “gangsta rappers” earned global props as the fathers of west coast rap all through the 80’s and 90’s.
What fewer commercial hip hop listeners have recognized is that under all the verses encompassing drugs, guns and “bitches” in Gangster Rap, there’s a whole other alternative to West Coast hip hop. That of which has birthed talents with international recognition such as Jurassic 5, The Pharcyde, Dilated Peoples, and Swollen Members, to name a few. Unlike their west coast counterparts, these groups find solace in a passion for community, respect, and integrity through their musical outlet, encompassing and promoting hip hop as a positive lifestyle, culture, and most importantly, a community and tool to educate its listeners.
Among these classic underground hip hop collaboratives reigns a “super group” known as Hieroglyphics. Founded in 1997 in Oakland, CA, under Hiero Imperium Records, Hieroglyphics is comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure, and the members of Souls of Mischief : Phesto, A-Plus, Opio, and Tajai.
Kicking their debut album off in 1998, track one, You Never Knew, set the stage for what was to come from these battle-ready emcees. Featuring seven verses from six different artists, this track flexes flawlessly Hiero’s broad range of verbal skills in a question and answer style. Unlike their west coast counterparts, Hiero’s production managed to not over sample on the album giving them a “D.I.Y.” sound and future props on originality. This track covers a massive dynamic range through jazzy bass lines, vocal harmony and atmospheric keys laid over percussion which begs for break dancers to assault the dance floor.
If you’ve been sleeping on this music gem, super group, or 20 year hip hop movement, here’s your chance to get caught up.
Here’s a few other classic head nodding tracks to bump in your speakers…
And as the trend seems to unfold with old school hip hop act come backs, Hieroglyphics has followed suit with familiar faces and sounds that are reminiscent of the good ‘ol days with a much more refined finish.
“The timing couldn’t be better, as 20th anniversaries abound. Del’s classic No Need for Alarm dropped in 1993, as did Souls’ enduring 93 ’til Infinity. Also, the Funky one’s beloved Deltron 3030 team-up with Dan the Automator and Kid Koala has officially rebooted with appearances scheduled from fans as far-ranging as Damon Albarn and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But for the time being, nothing beats hearing all of these familiar voices in the same place.” -Chris Martins, Spin