After a decade of studio silence, Oakland-based hip-hop ensemble Hieroglyphics have released The Kitchen, an album that serves up a reminder of why the nine-man group has solidified its presence in the underground hip-hop scene and beyond. Though the album boasts a meaty helping of 17 tracks, each one is able to distinguish itself from the others as a sizable portion worthy of fulfilling any fan’s hunger.
While the lyrics and rhymes of the Hiero crew are definitely part of what keeps the album varied, the production is the secret spice to this record’s recipe. Each track offers a beat different from the last, chopping and cutting up a vast array of beats and samples. While Hiero deserve credit for the well-crafted beats, the album’s guest producers were the Sacramento DJs known as the Sleeprockers. Without a doubt, the production wouldn’t be as saucy or diverse if both parties had not collaborated the way that they did. Tracks like “Exciting,” with its synth hook, are reminiscent of an eight-bit video game gone thug with the Hiero crew laying down rhymes sharp enough to slice the track’s beefy bass. “All As Above So Below” uses soulful backing vocals over a thick beat with crisp chimes and a sample of the opening lyric from the Beastie Boys hit “Paul Revere.”
While the album has a variety of flavors, some tracks share a few similar ingredients. “Livin’ It Up” and “Nano Salt” both share a funkalicious groove with the spicy horns on the former complementing the reverb-rich synth on the latter. Much like culinary recipes, though, a few common ingredients don’t necessarily imply identical dishes. Overall, with its smooth rhymes and crunchy beats, The Kitchen is a definitive reminder of Hiero’s stance in the hip-hop world. As the chorus of “Immortals” states, “Hiero ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
Ian Birnam covers music. Contact him at [email protected].