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The Oakland-based Hieroglyphics are an underground rap collective who, at their best, 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). Most of the members had known each other since high school (or earlier), and after Del scored a record deal 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 regrouped 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 also appeared, and the proper Hieroglyphics follow-up, Full Circle, dropped in 2003. In 2007 the crew treated fans to a collection of rare B-sides and remixes from all the members, entitled Over Time. Five years later the crew reunited for The Kitchen, the first proper Hieroglyphics album in a decade. ~ Steve Huey
'90s, '00s, '10s