Hip-hop pioneers coming to South Lake Tahoe
June 29, 2007
At its essence, MCing comes down to one thing: the ability to tear out an opponent’s larynx in a battle. When it comes to battling, there aren’t many cats out there that can touch Casual, the Hieroglyphics’ executioner. Replete with a menacingly cocky Oakland accent, Casual combines clever punch lines with a hypnotizingly rhythmic cadence.
It was this viscous combination that left industry heads speechless at the 1992 Gavin Convention when Casual, Souls Of Mischief, Pharaohe Monch, and Kurious broke into a spontaneous cipher. By the time Cas returned home, his answering machine was maxed-out with messages from different A&Rs. He signed to Jive and in ’94 released his critically acclaimed debut LP, “Fear Itself”. Unfortunately, as Casual and his Hiero brethren learned, battle skills don’t always help to win the war for commercial success. “I don’t think people really got to know much about me on that record except that I can degrade an MC, but Jive didn’t promote the record properly.” In turn, Cas and the rest of Hiero decided to take things in their own hands leaving Jive to sell their work over the Internet at their hugely successful site hieroglyphics.com. Perhaps the first hip-hop presence on the internet, the Hieroglyphics crew, which, in addition to Casual, includes Del the Funky Homosapien, Souls of Mischief, Pep Love, and Domino, released a collaboration entitled Third Eye Vision (Hiero Imperium, 1997).
As the title suggests, the Third Eye Vision was Hiero’s collective attempt to elevate listeners through music. Source Magazine named the release one of the best independent releases of 1997. But there was something more that Casual needed, as both Eminem and Canibus proved, personality plus skill is the true formula for success. And this is exactly what Casual brings to the table on his brand new, triple A-side single: “VIP,” “I Gotta (Get Down),”and “Turf Dirt.”
“I feel like people know that I’m nice,” says the 24 year-old MC. “Right now I’m just trying to get more personal with my music. People want to relate to the music that they listen to.” “Turf Dirt,” the SD50s produced pigeon tirade, epitomizes Casual’s new mission. Backed volatile drums and a tolling bell Cas breaks down the uncivilized members of the other gender. Even on the more party oriented “VIP” is a vivid “Gin and Juice”-style description of Cas’ Friday night debauchery. The Alchemist produced masterpiece “I Gotta (Get Down)” is Casual’s gift to the lyric fiends as he skates effortlessly over a beautiful cello sample.
Once again, leave it to the legendary Hieroglyphics crew to go against the grain. While other rappers are content to revel in material delights, longtime member Pep Love talks about Ascension.
“The purpose for my album is all in the title, Ascension,” Pep Love said. “It’s to help bring the listener and myself to a higher level through my music, and that’s from revealing personal truth about myself and trying to reveal grander truth about mankind in general.”
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To achieve that end, Pep breaks down esoteric matters into simple, yet expansive topics like “US,” “Black People (Melanin Magnetic),” and “Grime and Grit.” “I don’t really hide behind clouds of imagery,” Pep explains. “I try to be sharp and go straight at it.” The point behind “Grime and Grit,” the first song off Ascension, is that “if you really about making a change, then you need to be ready to work for it and be disciplined.”
Pep isn’t above a little lyrical shadowboxing: “Fight Club,” (produced by Evidence) for example, highlights very real lyrical skills as he drops lines like “Profuse verbal abuse to cook your goose/I serve superb turbulence when I get loose.” Pep knows that hip-hop can be used to elevate as well as entertain the masses. He affirms that, “I consider myself to be a revolutionary. More of a spiritual revolutionary, as well as political, because that’s the world we live in.”
Tajai, Casual, the Grouch (Living Legends), and dancehall-rapper Major Terror make guest appearances. But for the worldwide fans of Pep Love and Hiero in general, this is Pep Love’s chance to shine.
Heads will remember his verses on Casual’s Fear of Self (“Who’s It On”), his collabo w/ Del & Q-Tip on “Undisputed Champs,” appearance on Extra Prolific’s “Like it Should Be”, and most recently – the head-banger, “After Dark” on the Hiero album, “Third Eye Vision.”
When asked about the his experience and growth for the past few years Pep said “I think the whole time I was trying to be an MC and an artist, be good at it, and continue to further myself and do more music, write more rhymes, read more books, and enrich myself so I could be the best possible artist I could be.”