Hiero Day is a homegrown Oakland tradition — an all-day, family-friendly block party celebrating the musical legacy of Hieroglyphics and the '90s hip-hop scene that gave them their rise. While the legendary conscious hip-hop collective closes out each year’s Labor Day festival (in a new location this year, on 18th and Poplar Streets in West Oakland), this year’s edition features plenty of hometown heroes and big-name national acts.
Artists not to miss include Oakland’s first lady of R&B, Goapele; Texas giant Bun B; underground hip-hop champions Dead Prez; pioneering female gangsta rapper Yo-Yo; rising Richmond singer Rayana Jay; and, of course, Lil B the Based God. But other than these oft-talked-about performers, Hiero Day features many up-and-coming artists worthy of attention. To help you navigate the fest, we’ve rounded up six must-see rising artists who might not be on your radar.
YMTK got his start singing in church in his native Oakland, and his soulful sensibilities shine through his paradisiacal, sun-soaked party jams. The L.A.-based singer's velvety R&B vocals glide over house beats and trunk-shaking Town bass lines alike.
Ezale represents the East Oakland neighborhood Funktown, named for a gang that reigned the area in the ’80s. But his neighborhood’s nickname also describes the exuberant rapper’s old-school, funky sound. His street anthems “Five Minutes of Funktown” and “Too High” have made him a local favorite.
Too $hort and jazz piano? Chopped-and-screwed baile funk? No blend of artists and genres is off-limits for San Francisco DJ-producer Arumi, whose sets can go from challenging and experimental to infectiously groovy in a matter of seconds. Her production credits include "Come With Me" by Siri, a Hiero Day alum and daughter of Souls of Mischief's Tajai.
Chicago rapper Saba came up in the same scene as Chance the Rapper and Noname, and his work is similarly contemplative, jazzy, and poetic. His latest mixtape, Bucket List, unfurls like a kaleidoscope of hopes and dreams interspersed with reflections on somber topics like gentrification. Saba has a substantial Bay Area following thanks to his feature on Oakland rapper Elujay’s acclaimed single "Soul Food."
G Perico could be seen as the blue-bandana analogue to YG, L.A.’s foremost contemporary gangsta rapper. Perico’s latest project, All Blue, bobs along to a G-funk bounce, its menacing bass lines underscoring the rapper’s heart-racing tales of life as an outlaw in South Central.
L.A. rapper and singer Duckwrth got his start in music as a student at San Francisco's Academy of Art, but has since relocated back to his hometown. His sound traverses hip-hop, punk, glam rock, funk, and R&B — but through it all, he transgresses the boundaries of both genre and gender, playing with sensuality and subverting expectations of masculinity along the way.
Hiero Day gets underway with music, food, a kids' area, live art and more on Monday, Sept. 4, at 18th and Poplar (near deFremery Park) in West Oakland. Details here.