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by Ming Dang
28 October, 2003@12:00 am
0 comments

     If you still require proof that Hip-Hop isn’t just some passing fad waiting to join the Spice Girls and Pogs (or Spice Girls Pogs, for that matter) into the annals of obscurity, first of all, come out of your cave!  Secondly, check out the career of the Hieroglyphics crew, who went from major-label darlings to dumped before parlaying those experiences into their own successful independent imprint. It’s hard to imagine more than a decade has passed since Del first wished for his brother in P-Funk back in ’91, but like Souls of Mischief told us two years later, Hieroglyphics (and Hip-Hop) are here to stay.

     With a formidable roster boasting Pep Love, Casual, and Domino as well as the aforementioned Souls and Del, there are few groups that can match both the body of work and talent of the mighty Hieroglyphics gang. Returning with their second LP, the Oakland posse’s follow-up to 1998′s acclaimed Third Eye Vision is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the collective: dope beats, complex linguistics, and exceptional chemistry. While the title Full Circle implies a return to form of sorts, artistically Hiero has never really deviated from the formula that allowed them to achieve such longevity in a here-today-gone-tomorrow business. As always, production is handled in-house by Domino, Opio, A-Plus, and Casual (with the exception of “Jingle Jangle” by Soul Unit) and they again manage to capture a sunny west coast essence while staying rooted in traditional boom-bap – a nice alternative to the dark gloom dominating underground Hip-Hop lately. There’s plenty of variation in the beats too, from mesmerizing mellowness (“Classic”, “Halo”) to straight-up heat  (“7 Sixes”, “Heatish”, “Love Flowin”) to weird even (“One Hundred Thousand Indi”). Subject matter is also diverse (“Make Your Move”, “Maggie May”, “Chicago”), although Hiero’s principal attraction was never in the number of concepts they flipped, but rather in hearing them flow their asses off. That they “Love Flowin’” comes across abundantly clear in their deliveries – and why not when you and your friends own a successful business allowing you to make the music you want to? Check out “7 Sixes,” an absolutely blazing track based on the simplest of ideas – six lines from each of the seven Hiero emcees over a hype Domino beat. If a single track ever exemplified what these Oaklanders have to offer, this would be it.

     Full Circle isn’t without its flaws however. While it is another fine addition to the Hieroglyphics’ catalogue of quality releases, some of the hooks could’ve used reworking (Hiero newcomer Goapele’ blesses “Make Your Move” and the title track with her soulful singing; more from her would’ve been nice). And though there aren’t any weak cuts, there also aren’t any on par with Third Eye Vision classics like “Oakland Blackouts” or “At The Helm” either. That aside, Full Circle still stands out as one of 2003′s stronger releases and is a must for Hiero-philes (Pep lovers should note his inspired performance). You’d better get used to that three-eyed not-so-smiley face – it looks like these guys may very well be here ‘til infinity.

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