In the mid-'90s, the Oakland-based Hieroglyphics crew--Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Souls of Mischief, Casual, Pep Love, and producer/manager Domino--pretty much had the stranglehold on the West Coast underground scene. Since then, Del--whose cousin Ice Cube helped him score a record deal when he was first starting out--has gone on to blow up like crazy with Deltron 3030 and Gorillaz, while the others, unfortunately, haven't exactly been rolling in riches. Souls of Mischief fell further off the map the more material they released--although, with the exception of the Pharcyde, few groups have lived off one song for a decade like SOM have with "93 'Til Infinity." (The track is an undeniable hiphop classic--and even though it makes my eyes roll when I hear it for the millionth time, I still smile when the beat kicks in.) Casual never really amounted to much beyond his cult following, and the heavily slept on, underrated Pep Love spent the last couple of years treading water.

Until Full Circle came out this year, the Hieroglyphics crew hadn't released an album together since 1998's Third Eye Vision, but stayed more or less on the hiphop radar by all touring their asses off--and now they're coming together for their first reunited show in a long time, at the Showbox on Tuesday, October 28.

One thing the Hieroglyphics crew deserves eternal props for--aside from their staunch DIY aesthetic--is signing up-and-coming star Encore to their Hieroglyphics Imperium label. The Milpitas, California, native was skilled at b-boying, DJing, and rapping by the time he was barely drinking age, but he decided to concentrate most on his rhymes, which cover everything from Islam to African and Egyptian studies. "Getting with Hiero was a natural fit for me," says the skilled wordsmith. "They've always been one of my heavy influences, being from the Bay Area. They're about lyrics, I'm about lyrics."

Encore's new album, Layover, is sure to make some serious noise when it drops in 2004. Although he still lives in California, the young rapper has several Seattle ties and says, "Seattle is like my second home, it reminds me so much of the Bay. I love the vibe." He first came out here to hook up with Jake One. "I met Vitamin D through Jake, and met Jake because we did a song back in 2001, when my man DJ Fingaz in San Diego hooked us up," he says. "We were on the same vibe musically so it just fit." Encore's new album was produced by Vitamin D, Jake One, and Encore's partner Architect.

Another notable Northwest appearance on Layover is DJ Topspin, who sang a hook on one of Encore's favorite songs on the album. When asked what other Seattle artists he's feeling out here, Encore lists off the Oldominion crew and the incredible vocalist Choklate, a popular mainstay at Jumbalaya Fridays at the Baltic.

Through the two main characters in his popular, satirical comic strip The Boondocks--the radical, pro-black scholar Huey Freeman and his knuckleheaded, pseudo-hardcore thug brother Riley--creator Aaron McGruder has given the world a sharply humorous look at familial, political, and interracial relationships. This famous comic--which can be seen in daily newspapers across the country, and locally in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer--was given its first big spotlight in The Source in the late '90s. (Many of us out there felt The Boondocks was the only redeeming quality in a mag that really belongs in the toilet with booty residue, because the magazine has unintentionally turned into a parody of itself.)

The Source has decided to no longer carry The Boondocks, though, a decision that's left numerous readers outraged. Several conspiracies are floating around about the reasons behind the strip's absence, one being that one of The Source's major advertisers, BET--which recently got into a war of words with McGruder about the merits of black entertainment--was part of the reason the strip got shitcanned. I'm sure when Aaron McGruder comes to Shoreline Community College this Wednesday, October 29 (7:30 pm, $14 general admission, $8 students), to speak about his strip, hiphop culture, race issues, and his aptly named new book, A Right to Be Hostile, he'll throw his 50 cents into the mix on that issue, among others.


1. Ghostface Killah & Jadakiss, "Run" (Def Jam)

2. Jean Grae, "Hater's Anthem" (Babygrande)

3. Hoodfellaz, "Taking Da Band" (White)

4. Soul Position, "Run" (Rhymesayers)

5. Jaylib feat. Talib Kweli, "Raw Shit" (Stones Throw)

6. Lyrics Born, "Calling Out" (Quannum)

7. Ludacris, "Blow It Out" (Def Jam)

8. Sean Paul, "I'm Still In Love With You" (VP)

9. RZA, "Fast Cars" (Wu-Tang)

10. Boo-Yaa Tribe feat. Eminem, "911" (Oglio)