Even if you're not a hip-hop fan, you've surely noticed the ubiquitous logo: three dots as eyes, above a straight line, in a circle. Such is the mark of Oakland's longest-running hip-hop collective the Heiroglyphics, and this week, the members celebrate their continued collaboration with a huge block party called Heiro Day. Now in its third year, the free event brings together East Bay institutions like Zion-I, Mac Mall, Mystik Journeymen and the Grouch & Eligh with up-and-comers like Fashawn, Casey Veggies, Free the Robots and many, many others on three stages. Food trucks, producers, DJs, beer from the on-site Linden Street Brewery, clothing booths and a skate area round out the all-day, all-ages bash.
Live and on stage, the Heiroglyphics themselves come with one small but notable caveat. Though their most famous export Del tha Funkee Homosapien has appeared on smash hits (the Gorillaz' "Clint Eastwood") and makes solid albums (No Need For Alarm), he's often underwhelming on stage, and those who come solely to see his set may be let down. Del is more than made up for, however, by the Souls of Mischief, who are one of the top ten live hip-hop acts in world. With skilled mic technique, unmatched energy, flawless segues and a natural chemistry that hasn't waned in 21 years together, the Souls are the act to catch at Heiro Day. That's especially true with this month's release of the group's stellar new album, There is Only Now, produced by it-producer of the moment Adrian Younge—but of course, whenever the Souls drop the beat to their breakout hit “'93 'til Infinity,” the past comes roaring back. Throughout the entire city on Labor Day weekend, nothing will represent Oakland hip-hop more than that one rapturous moment.
THE COST OF FREEDOM: Tickets to Heiro Day are technically available for no charge, but in order to “Keep Heiro Day Free,” organizers have installed a pay-what-you-will system for tickets on the event website. The free tickets are now gone, as are the dirt-cheap-priced options (starting at $1), but you can still get into the all-day event for a steal.