Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hieroglyphics Live at Upper Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley

View Near the Front Row, 2/5/11

A few nights ago, I went and saw the legendary Hieroglyphics crew do a free(!) show over at UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza. I learned about the show the evening before it happened, when I spotted a flier taped to a pole with the Hiero logo on it and blinked my way through the info in disbelief. Despite the low key promotional roll out for this event, the turn out was pretty damn huge, with Sproul Plaza and its surrounding buildings teeming with curious Berkeley students and long-time Hiero fans. The info on the flier said to arrive early due to the lack of opening acts, but of course the 5:00 PM start time shifted to 5:40 PM, at which point Hiero got an opening act to kill some time for them on stage.

The opener, Knobody, was a Bay Area MC loosely affiliated to Hieroglyphics through their record label, which I suppose makes him a sort of unofficial member of the clique. He was a decent enough performer, and got the excited Hiero fans in the crowd chanting along to some of his hooks. Nothing about his music struck me as particularly exciting, but he didn't completely bore me or irritate me either. He only did a few tracks, and not long after that Hieroglyphics took the stage to perform.

I'd seen a number of the MCs in Hieroglyphics perform live before on an individual basis, but this was my first time seeing them all together as a collective unit and also my first time seeing Del or Casual play live. I'm not really as die-hard a Hiero fan as a lot of Bay Area heads, but I definitely appreciate their body of work and really love a couple of their key songs and projects. Out of the performers at this particular show, I thought that Tajai and Pep Love were the most impressive. Tajai was incredibly animated and having a ball on stage, barreling through his verses with effortless ease and often tackling and clowning on his Hiero fam mid-verse. Pep Love was probably the most consistent as far as the quality of his verses goes, with his immaculate cadence and flow never missing a beat. Phesto was also strong in this regard, and had a surprisingly large amount of mic time. Casual did a few solo numbers that showcased his unconventional style, though he didn't have quite as aggressive a stage presence as I thought he might. Del Tha Funky Homosapien was a bit of mixed bag to me as well, though it partially had to do with his mic not working that well for part of his performance. He kicked some of his old standards, including "Virus" from Deltron 3030, but also had to go into a rendition of 'Clint Eastwood" that made me roll my eyes a bit. Opio and A-Plus were both pretty great but had very few verses compared to the other MCs, which kind of highlighted the lack of many major posse cuts over the course of the set. Fortunately, Souls of Mischief did perform a couple of numbers, including a very rousing rendition of "93' Till Infinity" to finish off the set with. It got just as great a crowd reaction as when I saw them play at Slim's a few months back... no Hiero set is complete without that song. Good show from Hiero, well worth the free admission!

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