.Still Hiero, But Not Just a Day

With Hiero Day Weekend, the Hieroglyphics-backed festival broadens its ambitions and appeal.

Since 2012, Labor Day has become Hiero Day, the last item on the summer bucket list for Bay Area hip-hop heads every year. The showcase of independent hip-hop artists was founded by the Hieroglyphics collective, which consists of Del the Funky Homosapien, Casual, Pep Love, Domino, DJ Toure, and the Souls of Mischief (made up of A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai). The festival has always mixed established artists like Dead Prez, The Dilated Peoples, and Too Short with up-and-coming indie acts. This year will be no exception, and the roster boasts hip-hop legends like Diamond D, Medusa, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Black Moon, Smif-N-Wesson, and Pete Rock, and places them alongside newer and lesser-known talent. Benny the Butcher and The Conway Machine, Jay Stone, and newcomer Klassy, will be given equal shine while being given an opportunity to connect and build with masters of the form.

But this Hiero Day will be like none before because Hiero Day has been extended to a three-day festival, Hiero Day Weekend, with community focused activities going on through The Town both leading up to, and after the festival.

“As always, we try to differentiate our festival from all others through careful curation and a healthy mix of veterans and up-and-comers,” said Tajai of Souls of Mischief. “Thus, we don’t end up with a headliner-dependent, generic festival. Hiero Day Weekend has been bouncing around our heads for a while, but we never had the bandwidth to execute it. After seven years of assembling an awesome team and learning the intricacies of promotion, we felt that we finally would be able to offer quality, diverse programming for the entire weekend. We can’t wait to see how the weekend goes so we can improve the experience even more. This year, we have added an entire weekend of festivities including a silent disco, community picnic, day party and comedy show. It’s exciting to be able to provide more activities for our quickly-growing community and make the annual celebration even bigger.”

Hiero Family Day in the Park — the first event presented by the Hiero Foundation, their new 510(c)(3) non-profit wing — will occur on Aug. 31 at DeFremery Park. Red Bull will be providing all the sound and power for Hip Hop for Change to curate a showcase featuring DJ Apollo (Triple Threat DJs), Gordo Cabeza (Motown on Mondays), and Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist (True Skool). Clif Bar is providing snacks for all the kids in attendance and sponsoring the Town Cup skate competition at Town Park with a cash prize for best trick. Lyft chose to work closely with City Slicker Farms, a non-profit organization at the forefront of the food justice movement, which turned a blighted lot in a West Oakland food desert into a sustainable urban farm, playground, and public park open to the community. With Lyft’s support, City Slicker Farms will provide planting kits to kids at Hiero Family Day in the Park and show them how to plant their own seedlings. On September 2, for every ride to or from Hiero Day, a $1 donation will be made to City Slicker Farms to support its work in West Oakland.

“What excites me most about Hiero Day Weekend is the extended opportunity to work with partners who share our deep love for Oakland,” said Damon Johnson, Head of Strategic Marketing and Partnerships. “It’s a given that we’ll have successful collaborations with Oakland community staples like K-Dub at Town Park, Old Kan Beer & Co., Oaklandish, and the Oakland A’s. What also inspired me was watching Hiero Day Weekend become a catalyst for national brands like Lyft, Clif Bar, and Red Bull to make known their commitment to the independent hip-hop artists and community-based organizations of Oakland.”

Since Souls of Mischief’s hit song “93 Til Infinity,” the Hieroglyphics crew has always represented and celebrated Oakland in all of its iterations. They have always showed The Town love, and The Town has always loved them right back. Considering that, it should come as no surprise that this one-day festival would expand, deepen its roots in community engagement, and still give heads their much-needed fix of beats, rhymes and cuts.

“Hiero Day reflects a celebration of music, culture and appreciation for community,” said Veronica Webber, Executive Director. “Over the past seven years, we have received an overwhelming amount of support from our fans, artists and the City of Oakland and we want to provide more experiences to enjoy our city, music and the amazing culture that exist here. Hiero Day has always been about giving back as well, and with extending the event to a weekend, we have a chance to further engage with everyone who has supported us over the years with Hiero Day and decades with Hieroglyphics. A common motto we have is “Every day is Hiero Day!” and we know one day just isn’t enough for all we have to celebrate.

D. Scot Miller
Managing Editor of The East Bay Express, Former Associate Editor of Oakland Magazine and Alameda Magazine, Columnist-In-Residence at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)'s Open Space, Advisory Board Member of Nocturnes Journal of Literary Arts, and regular contributor to several newspapers, websites and magazines. Miller is the founder of The Afrosurreal Arts Movement through his publication of The Afrosurreal Manifesto in The San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 20, 2009.
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