New music from the Hieroglyphics member via Germany’s Jakarta Records.
New music from the Hieroglyphics member via Germany’s Jakarta Records.
Pep Love – “King Ish” (@PepLava / 2019)
The veteran Hiero emcee seeks to prove that positive energy activates constant elevation on this motivational self-produced cut.
Pep Love – “Needs & Things” (@PepLava / 2019)
Visuals for one of a series of online single releases the Hieroglyphics member began dropping late last year.
Pep Love – “Whachu Really Need” (@PepLava / 2017)
Lead single from the veteran Hiero emcee’s forthcoming EP “Fly Philosophy”.
Pep Love – “Master Blaster” (@HieroImperium / 2016)
The veteran West Coast emcee gets busy over solid Gully Duckets production.
First Light ft. Phesto Dee – “Greetings” (Hieroglyphics Imperium / 2013)
Taken from the Hiero duo’s recent “Fallacy Fantasy” project.
First Light (Pep Love / Opio) – “Los Lobos” (FallacyFantasy.Com / 2013)
Mellow Unjust-produced track from the Hiero duo’s forthcoming album “Fallacy Fantasy”.
First Light – “Hold On” (HieroglyphicsImperium.BandCamp.Com / 2013)
Unjust-produced track from the Hiero members’ forthcoming album “Fallacy Fantasy”.
Casual & J Rawls ft. Pep Love & Allana Morgan – “Reign” (Nature Sounds / 2012)
Taken from the duo’s forthcoming collabo album “Respect Game Or Expect Flames”.
GoldenUndergroundTV interview with Souls Of Mischief’s Pep Love discussing his new album “Rigmarole” following a recent performance in Fort Lauderdale.
Pep Love – “Hip-Hop My Friend” (PepLoveMusic.Com / 2012)
The Souls Of Mischief emcee shows love to the four elements on this dope track from his forthcoming album “Rigmarole”.
Pep Love – “Can’t Nobody Do It Like Us” (PepLoveMusic.Com / 2012)
Taken from the Souls Of Mischief member’s forthcoming album “Rigmarole”.
“He Think He #Rapgod”
Ask any group of rap fanatics to discuss the most talented clans, posses, crews and cliques to have put in a claim of lyrical dominance over the years and the likes of Wu-Tang, Juice Crew, Flavor Unit and the Hit Squad would no doubt all be championed. But no such debate would be complete without Oakland’s Hieroglyphics collective being given a well-deserved mention.
First introduced to the rap world by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien on his 1991 debut “I Wish My Brother George Was Here…”, the Hiero crew spent the 90s simultaneously impressing listeners and obliterating wack emcees on releases from Souls Of Mischief, Extra Prolific and the cocky-but-likeable Casual. With albums produced by in-house crate-diggers such as Domino and Mike G, Hiero brought a next-level lyrical element to West Coast Hip-Hop at a time when gang-related rhymes from the like of Ice Cube (ironically Del’s cousin) dominated Cali’s sonic landscape. Now, nearly twenty years after the release of his 1994 debut “Fear Itself” (my personal favourite from the first wave of Hiero albums) and Casual is determined to take another step towards rap god status with his second album this year.
Like the solid “Hierophant” project released some six months ago, “He Think He #Rapgod” would have been more than enough to satisfy Casual fans in its own right if it had been the sole 2011 release from the Left Coast lyricist. Yet irrespective of the quality of both projects, neither are being considered ‘proper’ albums by Casual, with the Hiero member gearing up for the 2012 release of “He Still Think He Raw”. So with that in mind, why go to all the trouble of dropping two back-to-back releases which are effectively promotional tools when a mixtape project full of freestyles over popular beats would have sufficed for many artists looking to create a buzz? Well, as Casual states simply on his Bandcamp page, “Rapgod don’t do mixtapes, but I got albums fo that ass tho.”
Opening with the title track “#Rapgod”, Casual is joined by Souls Of Mischief’s Tajai and Pep Love, with the trio performing verbal gymnastics over Gully Duckets’ spaced-out production. Accompanied by a Phife Dawg vocal sample and a synthesized sound effect reminiscent of a Decepticon transforming in slow motion, Casual drops typically boisterous boasts, promising that “Every verse you hear is reverse engineered from the first one.”
Part of Casual’s brilliance as an emcee over the years has not only been his ability to pen pummeling multi-syllable barrages of wordplay, but also his talent for making such effective use of simple one-liners. Lyrics here such as “I’m venerable, you’re vulnerable” are delivered in such a way that Casual’s passion for bullying language and putting words together to embarrass the competition can clearly be heard.
“Baseball” is a sparse, head-knocking track featuring Casual, Killer Ben, Tristate and Planet Asia hitting verbal home-runs over subtle funk-fuelled guitar-licks, whilst the GKoop-produced “Lieza” has the Oaktown vet switching up into story-telling mode, weaving a graphic tale of a mistreated woman over an ominous, tense soundscape.
The brilliant “Flamethrower” finds producer Domino resurrecting the drum break heard on Big Daddy Kane’s late-80s favourite “Rap Summary”, with the “Pharoah of the Hiero crew” Del unleashing “rhyming pyrotechnical bonanzas” with effortless ease. Meanwhile, Toure mixes old-school 808 thumps with haunting chants for “Dogon Don” as Casual drops self-assured verses with the calm confidence of a king holding court in his own palace (“Enemies we pop at ’em, Break ’em down to the fraction of the size of an atom when I rhyme at ’em…”).
Still sounding as sharply entertaining and lyrically superior here as he did on his cult classic debut two decades ago, Casual, along with his Hiero homies, represents a dedication to the craft of lyricism that should make many of today’s so-called emcees feel ashamed to even attempt to claim the title. With “He Think He #Rapgod” Casual proves yet again that real lyricists don’t die, sometimes their skills multiply.
And remember, as Casual himself says, if you see a rap god, pay tribute.
Casual ft. Del – “Flamethrower” (Casual1.Bandcamp.Com / 2011)
Casual ft. Tajai & Pep Love – “#Rapgod” (Casual1.BandCamp.Com / 2011)
Gully Duckets-produced track from the Hiero emcee’s new digital project “He Think He #Rapgod”.
(Fat Boy Music Group)
1994 was an incredible year for Hip-Hop. Nas broke out of the dungeons of rap with his classic debut “Illmatic”. Biggie dragged Hip-Hop back to NYC after a period of West Coast dominance with “Ready To Die”. Outkast smashed through listener’s preconceptions of Down South rap with “Southernplayalistic…”. Plus, the likes of O.C., Warren G, Jeru The Damaja and Method Man all dropped debut albums that each had an undeniable impact on the Hip-Hop landscape.
Yet another debut dropped during that same twelve month period which may not have achieved the sales or immediate widespread acclaim as some of those previously mentioned, but was no less revered and respected by the underground heads with a good ear for potent lyricism who embraced it. Coming out of Oakland’s multi-talented Hieroglyphics crew (Del, Souls Of Mischief etc.), Casual’s 1994 Jive-released album “Fear Itself” was a dope combination of jazzy, funk-tinged boom-bap and incredible displays of lyrical excellence with b-boy bravado and sharp wit in abundance.
Nearly two decades later and after something of an up-and-down career, the gifted West Coast wordsmith is back with this digital-only release, still laying lesser emcees to rest (which in Casual’s book is pretty much anyone else holding a microphone), but also delving into other subject matter that may also occupy the mind-space of a thirty-something Hip-Hop junkie.
The crisp “Mic Memorial” opens the album with Casual reasserting his rhyme superiority for anyone who thinks time may have blunted his lyrical sword. Over sharp handclaps and dramatic string stabs the Hiero emcee drops killer punchlines and boastful metaphors with cool, calculated ease (“I have to squeeze big lyrics in microphones, I need a macrophone, Your tour’s like an Apple phone, Sixteen gigs for three gs? You should’ve stayed back at home”).
The self-explanatory “Fiend For Hip-Hop” has a dusty, basement feel to it, with Casual’s battle-ready rhymes sitting tightly over chopped “Impeach The President” drums, funky guitar licks and a well-placed Nas vocal sample. Built around the same melodic Don Blackman loop immortalised on L Da Headtoucha’s 90s classic “Too Complex”, the Pep Love-assisted “Take The Time” encourages listeners to shun negative energy in our lives by expressing emotions, avoiding unneccesary conflict and seeking knowledge of self.
This theme is continued further over the live instrumentation of “Where Do I Go”, as Casual stresses the need to “find the power in you” and gain “spiritual enlightment” in order to survive in a world dominated by materialism and war.
Not wanting to dwell too much on global ills, however, Smash Rockwell goes back to his Oakland roots on the smooth “Sunday’s Best”. Boasting a Willie Hutch soundtrack sample from Oaktown movie classic “The Mack” and featuring a slick vocal hook, Casual uses the sun-splashed track to lay his OG hand down with a combination of cocky boasts and life observations.
With the exception of one cut (the sub-par “Shrimp Fried Rice”), “The Hierophant” is entirely produced by DJ Toure who does a solid job of providing Casual with a varied but satisfying selection of beats. Although clearly grounded in the traditional bass-heavy West Coast sound, Toure’s knack for lacing his tracks with old-school samples and atmospheric instrumentation gives the music here a soulful fluidity that compliments Casual’s many rhyme schemes. Only with the the African tribe vibes of “Bombs” does Toure’s production not really connect with Rockwell’s rhymes, with the end result sounding cluttered, disjointed and ultimately out of place.
Overall, “The Hierophant” is a welcome return from Casual. The self-proclaimed “West Coast champion” still clearly has a passion for the art of lyricism and a competitive edge that hasn’t diminished with age. A former student of the game who can claim to be a master, Casual is still as raw as he always thought he was.