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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

[whitespace] Hieroglyphics
Pier Group: The members of the Hieroglyphics rely on the Internet to get their message and their music out to fans.

Saved by the Web:
The Hieroglyphics see with the Third Eye

This column is dedicated to the memory of Toshiro Mifune.

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. 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.

Carry On

Hey, gang. I've been on vacation the last two weeks. I spent New Year's Eve in Tempe, Ariz., where 80,000 Fiesta Bowl fans grooved to the sounds of Kansas ("Carry on My Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind"). No joke, that Kansas. ... Before I left, I was in the studio during that Metallica "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" funfest on KSJO (92.3FM). Honestly, it reminded me of hanging out with my older brother's stoner friends back in junior high. Sure, it was cool to see Chris Isaak, Les Claypool, Scott Ferrell, John Popper and Metallica having a laugh, but what do I have in common with these dudes (except Ferrell, who was mad cool)? Nevertheless, I left proud of our South Bay metal roots. What S.F. station would ever consider hosting a live Metallica broadcast? Shoot.

Revving Up

Starting this month, Fuel 44 patrons in downtown San Jose can get live music with their drinks and homemade oatmeal. The cafe/club begins booking live music starting Jan. 10. Part-time sinner/full-time entertainer Toledo christens the festivities. Call 408/295-7374 for details. ... Do you like American music? The Violent Femmes perform at Stanford's Memorial Auditorium on January 22.

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From the January 8-14, 1998 issue of Metro.

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