With Backstreet Boys, NSYNC and Spice Girls doing tours today, it’s obvious that nostalgia acts are still easy cash grabs. Although those groups may evoke childhood memories, Hieroglyphics’ anniversary tour of 3rd Eye Vision serves as a reminder of a milestone album.
The album was a trailblazer in hip hop. Hieroglyphics established its own record label rather than relying on the major record labels of the time — circumnavigating the artistic power held by recording executives. It broke onto the Billboard charts and still has playback value since it relies on lyrical flow and beats.
Adam Carter (also known as A-Plus), one of the founding members of the group, tells Eugene Weekly that, before Hieroglyphics was founded, he was in Souls of Mischief, which had a successful first album.
Artistic control eroded quickly, however, because of commercial influence. The recording label that Souls of Mischief was with had experienced commercial success with Britney Spears and NSYNC, Carter says.
Label executives wanted Souls of Mischief to be a pop group like their label mates DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.
“The label exec was like, ‘Yo, we want you to be like: Boom! Shake the Room,’” he says, referencing the single by Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. “It was a complete 180 from anything we were doing at the time. It was like dance, choreography and shiny suits and shit.”
Carter didn’t want to be on a major label anymore, and the other members of the group were tired of the commercial politics, too.
The result was 3rd Eye Vision, an album that offers more than what was out in the late 1990s. It’s a progressive album because it’s more thought provoking than commercial hip hop, Carter says.
Don’t take Carter’s word for it. The album’s lyrical content calls out some of the tired tropes found in hip hop. On “At the Helm,” Del the Funky Homosapien spits out: “Your raps reflect your life and that’s a shame / ‘cause the way you’re soundin’, you must think that it’s a game.”
Hieroglyphics’ 3rd Eye Vision anniversary tour with Rap Noir and Stoney Hawk is 7 pm Sunday, May 19, at McDonald Theatre. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show.