The year was 1998 and the aging mainstream music establishment was just beginning to recognize hip-hop as a legit style of music nearly two decades after Grandmaster Flash and the Sugarhill Gang were rhyming on the streets of New York City. The first Grammy Award for Best Rap album was presented in 1996. Those who had been involved in the hip-hop world had spent the ensuing years sharpening their rhymes and delivery skills to the mostly coastal scenes including Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
While gangsta rap had slowly fallen out of flavor on radio and television stations — yielding to club songs and radio friendly cuts by artists such as Diddy and Ne-Yo — Oakland was still harvesting crews that were pushing the style as an art form. They expanded the boundaries of hip-hop’s deliver. They created the sound that outlines what many of us think of when we hear the term ’90s hip-hop.
“Rap ain’t about bustin caps and fuckin’ bitches
It’s about fluency with rhymin ingenuity”
– Hiergoglyphics from the song At The Helm
One of these collectives was Hieroglyphics, formed by Del The Funky Homosapien. The artists opted for an approach that ignored commercial dominance, and instead pushed their craft as lyricists and emcees. The group’s first album, 1998’s “Third Eye Vision” still plays like a relevant call for other rappers to step up their creativity game. It was laid out over a soundtrack of beats and tracks with a multi-fronted attack by the collective’s multiple emcees who throw lyrics over the group’s turntable mixing. Members of another popular Oakland crew, Souls of Mischief, contribute largely to Hieroglyphics on this record.
Over time, Hieroglyphics and the collective’s numerous members have continued to regularly put out music and tour, with members collaborating with Gorillaz, Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest and The Dirty Heads.
For “Third Eye Vision’s “20th anniversary, Hieroglyphics – including original members Del The Funky Homosapien, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure, and Casual, and members of Souls of Mischief – will be bringing their tour to downtown Reno’s Virginia Street Brewhouse on May 21. Opening will be the side projects of Hiero members, Rap Noir and Stoney Hawk.
For those into the bare elements of hip-hop, Hieroglyphics’ appearance is a chance to see some of those responsible for shaping and pushing the music’s artform.
Hieroglyphics with openers Rap Noir and Stoney Hawk performing at Virginia Street Brewhouse – at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 21. Tickets are $30 and concertgoers must by 21.