San Francisco may have Third Eye Blind, but Oakland has 3rd Eye Vision. The 1998 debut full-length by underground East Bay hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics spawned a number of compilations as the sprawling group of rappers led by Del the Funky Homosapien grew in stature — and starting in 2012, it led to the first Hiero Day, an outdoor music festival that has managed to remain affordable.
It’s basically a day for Oakland to celebrate Oakland, something the city made more or less official a few years later through a proclamation by then-Mayor Jean Quan. Sept. 3, chosen because its date (9/3) matches the song “93 Til Infinity” by the Hiero sub-crew Souls of Mischief, is extra-convenient because it takes place on or around a holiday weekend when the weather is likely to be good.
Hence, a giant street party for the people that sort of engulfed any competing Labor Day barbecues. Throwing together a mix of rising local talent and established names — Hiero Day 2017 got Anderson .Paak, who subsequently blew up and won a Grammy — the daytime festival has resisted commercialization to an admirable extent. And this Saturday, June 1, the Hiero crew will attempt to replicate its success at night with Hiero After Dark, a party with three stages at the Midway in San Francisco.
“We wanted to do something slightly different, because we don’t want to take away from Hiero Day at all,” Hieroglyphics member Pep Love tells SF Weekly. “This is what we hope to be an expansion.”
Calling the decision to keep Hiero Day ticket prices accessible to everyone a “hard choice to make at times,” Pep notes that the higher prices for Hiero After Dark stem from the fact that it’s in a proper venue and the immense talent they’ve booked, including Caleborate, A-1, and Mikos da Gawd, with headliners EARTHGANG and Doja Cat. That curatorial prowess is just one reason that such a sprawling group — whose 2013 effort The Kitchen remains the only record they’ve put out since 2003’s Full Circle — can occupy such a beloved place in Oakland’s cultural consciousness.
And that consciousness is on heightened end of things. Hieroglyphics’ famous insignia, a face with three eyes that Del created way back when, has taken on a life of its own. In addition to representing harmonic resonance, it’s also the Mayan symbol for the number eight, which in Arabic numerals is an infinity symbol flipped on its side — and like the post horn in The Crying of Lot 49, it shows up in unusual places. The insignia has been in comic books, Method Man videos, and faraway countries.
“I wasn’t there to see it present, but someone sent a picture from Iraq during the Iraq War,” fellow collective member A-Plus says. “Someone carved it on a rock. A soldier took a picture of it and somehow it got passed around. I thought it was pretty trippy.”
“That’s heavy,” Pep Love adds.
In addition to names like Andersoon .Paak, Hiero Day notably worked with Pam the Funkstress, a member of Oakland’s hip-hop duo The Coup who functioned as Prince’s personal DJ in the months before his death in 2016. She died at 51 of complications from an organ transplant the following year.
“She’d been involved in a bunch of Hiero Days since early on,” A-Plus says. “She was kind of a standout person who’d performed there as well as been a DJ.”
While Hiero After Dark is distinctly Del’s show, A-Plus and Pep Love hint that they “might jump up on stage and surprise somebody.”
“We’re going to have some special features cooked up,” Pep says. “The Midway has got some cool stuff inside of it. They have [Envelop SF], to experience some surround-sound with speakers and state-of-the-art shit. I think it’s the Nina Simone tributes that they do, and Stevie Wonder — they have an experience inside the room where people just go and listen to a whole night of one artist’s music and get immersed.
And there’s the possibility of a record full of new material.
“I’m sitting in the studio right now trying to make a new beat,” Pep adds. “There’s always a chance for another Hieroglyphics album, but we got other stuff that we do. I’m dropping singles all the time. A-Plus just came out with a project with Sunspot Jonz called Stoney Hawk. There’s lots of stuff coming out.”
Hiero After Dark, Saturday, June 1, 5 p.m.-2 a.m., at the Midway, 900 Marin St., $35-$95, tickets here.