Monday, Feb 09 2004 | 12:18

Rooted in the creative atmosphere of the Bay Area, Hieroglyphics has emerged as a powerful force within underground hip-hop culture. Comprised of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, and the group Souls of Mischief, this crew is one of the first to successfully forge careers as a collective and as individual artists. If you felt the Hieroglyphics camp for the first time when Del emerged on the scene in ’91 with the classic, “I Wish My Brother George Was Here” (Elektra) you had to know that great things were ahead. And on and on, good things came from Hiero, including: Del’s 1993 release “No Need for Alarm” (Elektra), Souls Of Mischief’s debut in 1993 “93 til Infinity” (Jive), Casual’s 1994 release “Fear Itself” (Jive), and Souls Of Mischief’s follow up “No Man’s Land” (Jive) from 1995.

In 1997, armed with experience and insight, Hieroglyphics formed their own independent company, Hiero Imperium, and soon released their first album as a collective unit “Third Eye Vision” followed by releases by each of the individual artists on the label. Hiero also built a strong online presence through their award-winning website “ hieroglyphics.com (8 years and running!) and merchandise line prominently featuring their famous three-eyed logo.

The success of the Hieroglyphics Imperium label has enabled them to branch out beyond their own work to expand their musical legacy. In 2002 Hiero released one of Hip-Hop’s first CD/DVD hybrids “One Big Trip” which included a soundtrack on one side of the disc and a movie on the other. Artists within the collective also have collaborated with the likes of Dilated Peoples, George Clinton, Jurassic 5, Gorillaz and Dan the Automator (Deltron 3030).

2003 has also brought about the formation of a brand-new wing of the Hiero Imperium, Hiero2, which showcases the next wave of innovative independent artists. Releases include projects with soul singer Goapele, and hip-hop artists Z-Man and Encore.

Z-Man is coming from San Francisco. S.F. is quite a place to grow up; breathtaking from the sky, aloof on the street, ripe with both a lot of Dope and a lot of Dog Food. Floating down Haight Street only to crawl up the Mission, Z-Man is our clairvoyant host to the dichotomy of “Dope or Dog Food”, his celebratory debut full length on Hiero Imperium recently inked imprint, Refill Records. A monstrous 19 track battle between the forces of ‘Dope’ and the forces of ‘Dog Food’.

Think of it as a party. In Z-Man terms, you’ll be ‘getting on Gurp’. As the evening begins, hopes are high, you’re dressed to a tee, smelling good and feeling good. Sure, as the Cisco is passed, the bong is tipped and thong unveiled the night begins to take shape, but as a touch from God herself, one wrong half-step or studda-step and you’ll be swimming in the Alpo. What better to emphasize this that a TR-808, some pirate-ship-sized anthems and unpin-able production from greenhorn Moss. The two gallivant between Too $hort and 2 Live ¦ dope all the way. Yet, as the inebriated climax busts its move, you have your moment of clarity, your moment of “Dog Food”.

Growing up with more roaches in your cereal than Lucky Charms will toughen a kid’s soft skull. Like sipping from the bottle with a butt in it, “Dope or Dog Food” will undoubtedly raise a brow. Z-Man slinks back and fro, from the nightlife to the afterlife. Watch which character you get caught up in, you might just miss the point. He rides with the bump, hides behind the funk, and sells Dope out the trunk. (album release date: 01.03.2004)

Having released records on labels such as Stones Throw, 75ARK and Tommy Boy, Encore has found his new home at Hieroglyphics. The long awaited follow up to his debut LP on 75ARK comes in the form of “Layover” with production from Seattle beat visionaries Jake One and Vitamin D and more quality work from Architect, Encore’s music has progressed to a new level. “Layover” provides layers of bouncing funk blended with grinding basslines and catchy hooks certain to excite the club heads as well as the laid back head-nodders. (album release date: 08.03.2004)

The expansion continues – keep your third eye open!

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