Formed in the 1990s by rapper Del the Funky Homosapien, Hieroglyphics is a Bay Area hip-hop collective centered around the ideals of artistic freedom and creative inter-dependence. The crew, which currently consists of Del, Casual, Domino, Pep Love, DJ Toure and Souls of Mischief members APlus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai, is known for its members’ clever wordplay, unique rhyming styles, humorous subject matter, funky beats and collectively-minded approach to making and selling music.
Signed as a teenager to Elektra, Del found working with a major label too restrictive and he set out to make music on his own terms. Collaborating with several Oakland-based rappers, Del laid the groundwork for Hieroglyphics and helped to establish the Bay Area as a hotbed of underground hip-hop. During a time when sneaker-and-beatbox rap was being replaced by gangsta rap, Hieroglyphics helped to keep old-school hip-hop culture alive with their focus on DJing, mixing, breaking and freestyling; but they had to go underground to do it. As one longtime fan said, “They were keeping it real; trying to keep hip-hop culture positive. With their skills they could have easily made millions but its pretty respectful that they stayed true to what they were about.”
Celebrated and well-respected as individual artists and as a collective, Hieroglyphics has established itself as an incredibly influential and taste-making crew. With combined album sales of over 3 million units—not counting all the unofficial street releases, bootlegs and mixtapes—Hieroglyphics is one of the most well-known and widely appreciated underground crews.
The Hiero artists have total creative control over their music and brand. Taking marketing and merchandising into their own hands, they’ve become a prime example of a successful, long-lasting, independent music collective.