Sometimes, three eyes are better than two. Hieroglyphics, the Oakland-based hip-hop group, prove this point very well: Their band’s famous logo is a three-eyed and tight-lipped variation on the smiley face, a symbol of their star status that remains as unique as it is ubiquitous in the rap underground. Three months after the Living Legends hit UCSB, Hieroglyphics will cast their own 3rd Eye Vision onto the Hub.
Del tha Funkee Homosapien, a successful underground artist in his own right, founded the collective in the early 1990s along with many of his former schoolmates from Oakland: Casual, Domino, A-Plus, Opio, Pep Love, Tajai and Phesto. The collective has released only two studio albums in their decade-long career, but their influence has not been incidental. They released 3rd Eye Vision in 1998 to much acclaim in the hip-hop world – scoring memorable singles like “You Never Knew” and “Oakland Blackouts” – and re-emerged five years later to release the solid follow-up Full Circle, which featured “Powers That Be.”
The gap between these releases might signal inactivity and creative stagnation for other groups, but the members of Hieroglyphics remained extremely active. Del and Dan the Automator (a frequent Del collaborator) were directly involved with the formation of the British virtual/alternative hip-hop band Gorillaz and every one of the Hieroglyphics members has released at least one solo album. A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai have also come together to release albums as the group Souls of Mischief. They scored a hit with the catchy and much-sampled “’93 ’til Infinity.”
Overall, Hieroglyphics are still defined by their strong, mellow jazz influences and tightly woven lyrics. On the underground hip-hop spectrum, they lie on the West Coast side of their East Coast analog and contemporaries, A Tribe Called Quest.
It should also be noted that Hieroglyphics is an entirely independent group. They formed their own label, Hieroglyphics Imperium Recordings, after disagreements with Jive Records. They sell their own merchandise and music directly from their Web site, hieroglyphics.com. You can check out their unique symbol and all of its aural and visual manifestations on the site.
Hieroglyphics will play at the Hub on Friday, April 4, completing a fine series of hip-hop shows that the Associated Students Program Board has managed to bring to campus between Winter and Spring Quarters. The beverages at the beer garden should flow as plentifully as the rhymes onstage. Make sure to keep your third eye open.