The Oakland-based Hieroglyphics are a long-running, influential underground rap collective who combine an offbeat sensibility with a strong grounding in battle rhyming, freestyling, and other hip-hop traditions. All the members enjoy their own separate careers -- founder Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Casual, the Souls of Mischief, Extra Prolific, producer/manager Domino, Pep Love, and producer Jay Biz (the latter two of whom have also worked together as the Prose). Thanks to a significant online presence and constant touring, Hiero gained a healthy following among rap fans seeking an alternative to the increasingly commercialized state of the genre, and the group's signature logo (a three-eyed, straight-lipped face similar to the Mayan numeral for 8) became ubiquitous at rap shows, record stores, and college radio stations. Active as a collective since the early 1990s, the members produced acclaimed albums such as Del's I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991) and Souls of Mischief's 93 'Til Infinity before founding the independent label Hieroglyphics Imperium in 1997 and releasing 3rd Eye Vision in 1998. While mainly active as a label, Hiero regrouped for two additional crew full-lengths, 2003's Full Circle and 2013's The Kitchen.
Most of the members had known each other since high school (or earlier), and after Del scored a record deal in the early '90s with his cousin Ice Cube's help, much of the Hieroglyphics crew wound up with major-label contracts of their own. Del, Souls of Mischief, and Casual, in particular, earned strong cult followings, but Hieroglyphics never produced a breakout mainstream star, and all the members wound up dropped from their respective labels by the mid-'90s despite their generally high-quality work. The crew rebounded with their own label, Hieroglyphics Imperium, which provided not only a platform for their future releases, but total creative control. In addition, the entire collective teamed up for the first album under the Hieroglyphics name, Third Eye Vision, in 1998. Several self-released compilations of B-sides, oldies, and live tracks also appeared, and the proper Hieroglyphics follow-up, Full Circle, dropped in 2003, reaching number 155 in the Billboard 200 album chart. In 2007, the crew treated fans to a collection of rare B-sides and remixes from all the members, titled Over Time. Five years later, the crew reunited for The Kitchen, the first proper Hieroglyphics album in a decade. ~ Steve Huey