Stepping into Tim House’s Jingletown studio gives clues as to his range of work. Rare merchandise from Hieroglyphics, Earl Sweatshirt, and Zion I decorates the walls alongside dozens of all-access tour passes and photos of his son. A whiteboard lists dates of his upcoming projects. House recently got back in town after two back-to-back tours — one with Berner headlining and the other with Zion I. And on his first free afternoon, he wants to head to the Laurel Street Fair.
We hop in singer and producer 1-O.A.K.’s car. In the passenger seat, House is on the phone talking logistics about an event happening later that afternoon. A veteran artist manager behind many Bay Area rappers’ biggest national tours, House is known to musicians and event producers in the region and beyond as a mentor and connection to opportunity, networks, and frank advice. His nickname is The Plug.
“That’s hella bootsy! If I was you, I wouldn’t go,” he says into his phone before advising the caller on a more strategic alternative. House keeps a low profile and for a self-described “old cat,” he carries the energy of the young bruhs he works with. Once at the street fair, he’s moving comfortably through the crowd on MacArthur Boulevard with occasional daps and conversations with artists and vendors.
Born in Oakland, House spent his childhood and twenties in Los Angeles, making regular trips to the Bay to visit extended family. While in L.A., he was involved in the rap scene of the Nineties, making music as part of the hip-hop collective Sick Block, mixing records, and working A&R for groups such as Ruthless Records’ Above the Law.
Discussing the gangsta rap movement and the underground hip-hop scene of early-Nineties L.A., he recounts a fertile time to make music, get signed, and get paid. House’s own Sick Block, however, didn’t capitalize on an opportunity with Def Jam subgroup Outburst Records. “We fucked that off,” he said. “Young cats that’s not ready for shit.” The missed opportunity proved to be a valuable learning experience for House, who kept working in different sides of the industry.
In 2000, House left L.A., packing his experience and connections to Oakland, which he described as having “a very strong underground hip-hop movement.” Once here, he focused on artist and tour management for a growing web of musicians, many of whom were his neighbors in Oakland’s Adams Point neighborhood. He rattled off names: Andre Nickatina, Blackalicious, Souls of Mischief, Zion I, and so on. “They don’t just know me from doing [work]. I’m their patna, I’m their neighbor,” he said.
These days, House is taking a break from artist management, shifting gears to managing nationwide tours for the likes of HBK Gang, Anderson .Paak, and Los Rakas, among others. He is also creative directing projects from a short list of Oakland artists including multimedia talent Gavin Grant aka Featherload, singer-songwriter Simmi, and 1-O.A.K.
During our interview, House humbly deflected suggestions of his importance to the Bay Area music scene, so I asked him to put it into his own words: “I’m a OG. I’m somebody that at the least is supposed to nurture and facilitate.”
One way House does exactly that is through the annual music event Hiero Day. Hieroglyphics member Casual originally got the idea for the event five years ago after seeing a message board post that suggested Hiero fans celebrate on September 3 (9/3) as a tribute to the classic track “93 Til Infinity” by Souls of Mischief, a subgroup of Hiero.
“[Casual] deserves a lot of credit for being the driving force behind this event” said House, adding praise for the collective effort of Hiero members Tajai, Domino, and Phesto, as well as Veronica Webber. House books performers and curates interactive activities, such as scratchpad workshops and live graffiti.
In the expanding landscape of music festivals in Oakland, Hiero Day provides a space that intentionally engages an all-ages community through affordable price points, family friendly activities, and a multi-generational lineup. This year, it features Too $hort, Dilated Peoples, Juvenile, Rocky Rivera, Caleborate, and Larry June. This is significant in the context of hip-hop’s current generational clash: Purists uphold Nineties rap as the golden standard while others dismiss rappers of that era as oldheads who are past their prime. Honoring its namesake, Hiero Day centers Nineties hip-hop acts. However, House’s direct line to the current wave of Bay Area musicians bridges the generational gap in the lineup and in turn, the audience.
Hiero Day celebrates the hustle and independence that distinguishes Hieroglyphics and defines Oakland’s new generation of artists — and The Plug is instrumental to creating that space.
Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that Tim House is the tour manager for G-Eazy and Nef the Pharaoh.