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This or That…….The Hieroglyphics

by Travis on June 1, 2009

The Hieroglyphics crew is among one of the most revered hip-hop conglomerates out there. You can find their logo anywhere from skate board comps, bmx events, break dancing exhibitions and white, black, brown and probably even green kids wearing their logos. They have quite the hardcore following. In the early 90′s, the crew was killing it. Del The Funkee Homosapian was the first to drop, with his I Wish My Brother George Was Here. While I LOVE the funk vibes found on I Wish…., it’s almost hard to call this a typical Hiero release, or even a Del release. Ice Cube’s executive producer presence is felt all over the release and is more a release in the eyes of Cube than it was of Del’s.

It wouldn’t be until the Souls of Mischief’s debut release that fans would really get to hear the Hieroglyphics sound, a sound that would soon come to define the crews releases. Armed with producers Domino, A-Plus and Del providing the main sounds (also check out Snupe, Casual and Jay-Biz’s discography on the T.R.O.Y. blog), the crew came with a series of three excellent albums (four if you want to include Extra Prolific’s debut album). Soul’s 93 ‘Til Infinity and Del’s No Need For Alarm dropped the later half of ’93, while Casual’s Fear Itself was released early ’94. Quite the run for the crew, as all three albums could be debated as classics. I’m sure everyone has their personal favorite, that’s why we’ll run it down the line and get to the debate……

93 ‘Til Infinity Vs. No Need For Alarm Vs. Fear Itself

Souls Of Mischief – 93 ‘Til Infinity (Jive/RCA, Released Sept 6th, 1993)

The title cut, “93 ‘Til Infinity” will go down as one of the greatest hip hop tracks of all-times. Producer A-Plus (also my favorite MC of the bunch) hooked the beat up into one of those era-defining grooves. It was the introduction for most people to the Souls and their jazzy type sound and four emcees that accompanied the sound very well. Comprised of A-Plus, Tajai, Opio and Phesto, they were similar enough to compliment each other, but different enough that you could tell them apart. And despite their jazzy-like production, the Souls could get loose with a hard rock edge as well. On tracks like “Let ‘Em Know”, “That’s When You Lost”, and “Anything Can Happen” can bang with the best of the hardcore gangster rappers of the day.

A-Plus “Let ‘Em Know”

I say that nigga
A That nigga A-K
Can make a nigga day In a very special nigga way
Breaking backs and fists
As I smack and dis
Cuz they lack this Phatness
In fact this
Very booty indeed
Prayin you could be freed
From torture
Or I’ll scorch ya
With a torch a’ Gasoline
I smash your spleen I
‘m quick to blast a fiend
You betta jet if ya’ ass is keen
Yeah, I got a masta plan
I’m fasta than Drastic Man
My thing is “Who would blast a friend?”
I only blast wack rhymas
It’s time to find ya’ own flows
I throw spines and bones
Your ass extremely ass Y
ou see me pass The senior class
Yo- and now I’m free at last
So let me bust a grill if I must
Making blood spill and your eyes fill with puss
When I bust

They proved that they weren’t some soft silly suckas up on the mic, but they could also get with the smooth ish, suc
h as that title track, or even the very next track after “Let ‘Em Know,” which featured a smooth live trumpet accompaniment. The somber track deals with the bumps and bruises found on the streets they lived on. Not preachy or corny, it just deals with the cause and effects of ones actions on the street. All four brought their own vibe to tracks which lead to a cohesive, yet diverse enough effort to really get the lyrics up in ones head.

The production could quite possibly be the best on any of the Hiero efforts. For having multiple producers involved, the beats while different in nature, still have old dusty, dirty feel to them. Domino was involved in producing five cuts, Del with three, Jay-Biz is credited with two, A-Plus had his hand in four (including “93 ‘Til Infinity”) and even Casual did two beats. The production is top notch and probably the crown jewel of 93 ‘Til Infinity.

I must be getting old, but for some reason the specifics of me picking up 93 ‘Til… truly escape me. I know that “93 ‘Til Infinity” was getting a lot of play that summer, and I was all up on it myself as well. I’m pretty sure I picked it up shortly after it was release, if not the day it was. I was always on top of things in those days as far as making sure I hit one of the local spots on Tuesday’s (release days). The album is one that has gotten better to me over time. If we would have done this little debate 10 years ago, hands down it would have been No Need For Alarm, as I didn’t truly appreciate the jazzy yet hard edged sounds found on 93 ‘Til Infinity until the past four or five years.

Trav’s Favorite Songs:
Let ‘Em Know
Live & Let Live
That’s When Ya Lost
What A Way To Go Out
93 ‘Til Infinity
Anything Can Happen

Disliked Songs:
Disseshowedo usually gets the fast foward/skip treatment

Del Tha Funkee Homosapian – No Need For Alarm (Elektra, Released November 23rd, 1993)

While I don’t remember the specifics of how I acquired Soul Of Mischief’s debut album, 93 ‘Til Infinity, the complete opposite is true for Del’s sophomore release, No Need For Alarm. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was working at a local hospital with the official title of “Food Service Aide”, but it was more like putting the food on patients plates, then cleaning the kitchen when we were done serving. It kinda sucked, but it was only four hours a night, so it was perfect for a college student like I was at the time. Anyway, I remember getting off of work and heading straight to the Record Exchange, which wasn’t too far from the hospital. I had already purchased the cassingle for “Catch A Bad One,” one of my favorite songs of the year. It also had a couple other songs off of the album on the single as well, so I already had a good idea that Del was going in a different direction. I drove around in my GMC Jimmy and listened to the deep bottomed bass rumble through my speakers. After listening to the whole album, I was feeling a bit confused about the whole thing, I went home and popped the CD into my little portable stereo I had in my room. By the time I got through the second listen, I was thinking Del was either a genius or just made the biggest mistake of his life with this new direction he had taken.

Del was/is one of the few cats that I pay more attention to his emceeing skills over the beats he rhymes on. There isn’t many of them, but Del is one of them. And Del is at his pinnacle on No Need For Alarm. His somewhat awkward, yet addictive flow just grabs the listener’s ear as he drops chopped up lyrics in that trademarked delivery of his. Tracks like “Check It Out,” “In & Out,” and “Worldwide,” Del just flexes his lyrical muscle and gives fans more of what they want and drags some new fans into the mix. I can’t say enough about “Catch A Bad One,” so I’m sure I’ll mention it again, but I can’t count ho many times I’ve rewinded his last verse….

Del - “Catch A Bad One”

Weak MC’s make me earl
Earl as your world is crushed because I gotta make you hush
You gotta be eliminated, the way I demonstrate it
you hate it, but still I am the greatest
Like a boxer, I’ma knock your socks off
Nowhere to run to, exits are blocked off
Steadily I’m dissin men, I hope you’re listenin
Brothers like my flow
Others ride my jock like a bicycle, but I’m psycho
Fools try to play me like Tyco, gotsta pull the rifle
Daisy, graze the ass with the bee-bee
It comes speedy, sign the peace treaty
Or you’ll be needin
Medical attention when I leave you bleedin
Throw a monkey wrench in your program
crammed up your ass and it’s just too bad, son
Catch a bad one

But while Del was still Del lyrically (maybe more polished and on point) as he was on I Wish My Brother George Was Here, it was the beats that caused the whole album to be a complete 180 degree turn from his debut album. Gone was the Boogiemen, DJ Pooh, Rashad and Bobcat. In were Domino, Del, and Casual (who produced the dope “Catch A Bad One”) and even a couple beats from the SD50′s. Instead of the funk loops of George Clinton, it was jazzy type bass lines and strings. I think I can honestly trace my love of strings back to this album. Going back to “Catch A Bad One” again, the strings were nothing short of dark, haunting and menacing, but they gave it that “Low End Theory” type of feel to the album. Lots of string samples give the album a dark, smokey jazz room type of feel to it.

Del really switched it up on his sophomore album. I’ve read in some interviews that Dante Ross takes credit for how this album turned out. He claimed that it wasn’t as structured song wise and numerous other things. It’s a claim that I tend to believe, since Future Development and Both Sides of the Brain (one of my most hated albums of all-time, sue me Del Stans) are basically jumbled cluster fucks. Regardless, this is an album I still love to pull out and play every few months, especially when I just want to hear Del wreck shit over thick jazz bass lines.

Trav’s Favorite Songs
You’re In Shambles
Catch A Bad One
Wack MC’s
Boo Boo Heads
No More Worries
In & Out
Check It Out

Disliked Songs
Miles To Go
Don’t Forget

I had no clue “Unicorn” was actually Del until the internet age……I kept waiting for something else from this 16 year old prodigy.

Casual – Fear Itself (Jive/RCA, February 1st, 1994)

In what was becoming typical Hiero fashion, Casual kicked of the anticipation for his album with an incredible single, “That’s How It Is.” By the time it dropped, we had already been blessed with “93 ‘Til Infinity” and “Catch A Bad One,” so when The Source has “That’s How It Is” in their “Sure Shot Singles” one month, I was FIENDING to hear it. Then of course there was the mention of a Audio Two single, which even made me want to hear it more. Of course, it wouldn’t disappoint as the single (I had it at #58 on my Top 100 songs off all-time two years ago). It would introduce the world to a MC that sounded hungry:

CasualThat’s How It Is

I write raps,
And when niggaz bite, I clap,
‘Cos their shit sounds better now.
You done let me down,
I thought it would be dope, but instead,
Your shit’s dead,
You gets fed
To the alligators lurking in the moat,
Peep what I wrote,
You bit so hard, I though your shit was a quote.
But still I’m taxing, axing the competition,
And any wack men, I stomp & dis ‘em
And you can feel the pressure, plus
When I bust MCs’ll be
Trampling eachother trying to exit,
When I flex it,
The way I wreck shit is not unexpected.
Niggaz just lose when I choose
The best crews of MCs,
And turn ‘em into refugees.
I slaughter a lotta MCs that are the
?Styles I compiles?, and cut ‘em up like ?vows?.
Think to yourself I write the shit
So you can bite the shit,
And I’ll know, despite you get props.
[To da beat!]
Niggaz get dropped.

Again, I can’t really recall the day I bought Fear Itself. I think something similar to Del’s album, I bought after work at the hospital. I remember not being real impressed with the whole project and to this day it’s still my least favorite of the three. That’s not saying this is a bad album at all.

What’s wrong with Fear Itself, you ask? It’s not Casual as an MC. At the tim
e, he was one of my favorite MCs, he sounded like he had be left locked up and starved for a week, then was let loose in a Mickey D’s or some shit. Meaning dude sounded hungry and just ripped shit. Almost like Del, I paid more attention to what he was saying than his beats right off the bat. He was the essence of being an emcee in my mind.

So was it the beats? No, not really. While I wouldn’t say they were better than those found on 93 ‘Til Infinity, they were up to par with those found on No Need For Alarm. Handled by the usual suspects that were found on the Souls and Del albums, they were a mix of hard hitting and smooth. “Me-O-Mi-O” sounds like it could have been a beat from Del’s without any problem. Del returned the favor after Casual blessed him with the beat for “Catch A Bad One,” by concocting the banger for “That’s How It Is,” which is nothing simply short of amazing. The heavy drums, the horns, that shit is what grabbed me.

So what is it that makes me not like Fear Itself as much as the other two? Simply, it’s the hooks. A lot of the hooks are simple and very similar to each other. They are regulated of just saying the same shit over and over for five to six times in a row. I hated “Me-O-Mi-O” at the time (although I do like it now), “Get Off It”, “Follow The Funk”, “Who’s It On”, “I Didn’t Mean To”, “We Got It Like That”, “This Is How We Rip Shit”, they all follow the same formula. It gets redundant and leaves a bad taste in my mouth every time I listen to the album.

Trav’s Favorites
You Flunked
That’s How It Is
That Bullshit
Follow The Funk
Who’s It On
I Didn’t Mean To
This Is How We Rip Shit

Disliked Songs
Always skipped over the last three songs

almost stole the show for me on Fear Itself. I used to play his short little interlude over and over and over again. I thought he was going to be the next biggest thing. I was somewhat disappointed when his solo album dropped, but this is still one of the best interludes in hip hop history imho… “I wanted express fuck you….”


As I mentioned, if we did this 10 years ago, I would have went with No Need For Alarm in a heart beat. Since then though, Souls Of Mischief have held up the best over time and dare I might say that the album was ahead of its time in some ways. It sounds just as good today as it did some 16 (gulp) years ago. All four MCs do their thing (although, does anyone ever remember Phesto is in the group?) and the beats can bang in any system….

Trav’s Pick

Souls of Mischief – 93 ‘Til Infinity

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