Long-lasting hip-hop crew to play Patio

The Hieroglyphics crew has been one of the most versatile and enduring acts in hip-hop's rich history. Founded in the Bay Area in the early 1990s with Del tha Funkee Homosapien leading the way, the clique was joined by Souls of Mischief and many other acts.

Known for their unique rhyming ability, Souls of Mischief dropped a debut album called '93 'Til Infinity, an album full of innovative sounds, beats and rhymes. It was an immediate smash and landed Souls a national tour with rap royalty De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

Twelve years later, Hieroglyphics is still going strong, releasing albums independently and placing its artists on movie soundtracks and even ESPN NBA 2K5, where gamers can play as the Hiero team.

Opio, one of the founding members of Souls of Mischief, took time out between shows to chat with NUVO about Hiero, its past and its future. The Hiero crew, sans Del, will play the Patio this Thursday night.

"When we did that tour with Tribe, they made it easier on us, because we were overwhelmed," he said. "We were fresh out of high school and then we were on the road with the people we looked up to. That was big-time."

Hiero is distinctive because it maintains a group identity although it's made up of many separate parts. Its sheer longevity is also unique to the rap game.

"I think that we've hung around because we're dedicated to what we do," Opio said. "We make the effort to go and tour. It's part of our independent spirit. It's not like we're hustling to try and get over on people, but we hustle. We stay out there. We make records. We make opportunities for ourselves even though we don't have a major label deal. That's why I think we still have a fan base. We have our Web site. There's a lot of ways to stay in touch with Hieroglyphics even though you may not see us on MTV."

He added, "We know what our audience likes. And I think they appreciate what we do. It's a relationship we have that's unlike anything that I've ever seen. I've never seen people who have the same relationship with their audience as we do. We're not so far off that you can't access us. People can see us at the show and holler at us, yet still go out and buy the records. Cats are really humble."

Souls emerged from the hypercharged battle-rap scene going on in the Bay Area at the time. "Every show was a battle. People didn't put on shows, they went up against each other. When I was in elementary school, the boys battled the girls. That's the way hip-hop was then. There was always a battle, whether it was your homey or somebody down the street. People were always going after each other, not in a negative way, like I'm gonna kick your ass, but as a way to display your skills."

Even after all these years, Opio still gets excited about hitting the road with his Hiero friends. "When I go on tour, it's not like I'm on the bus with a bunch of strangers. I've been on those kind of tours. For me, being on the road means I get to hang out with all my friends. The Souls have a good chemistry when we perform and I love being in that atmosphere."

To that point, their debut album title, with its implication of a never-ending group, is true. "We've been together so long, I don't ever see us breaking up," Opio said. "What would be the point? We've been together for years and we're not stopping."

For more information on Hieroglyphics, visit hieroglyphics.com

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