November 13, 2003

Test Spin: Hieroglyphics

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Since the late ’90s, underground hip-hop has slowly begun to emerge from the shadows of mainstream artists, with rappers like Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli, and Aceyalone finding appeal with wider audiences. After their classic 2001 release Third Eye Vision, the underground conglomerate known as Hieroglyphics has returned with Full Circle.

Although Full Circle lacks the overall completeness and lyrical brilliance of its predecessor, it still has enough beats and wit to strike upon the mainstream nerve. While all group members return for this album, it is Pep Love and Casual who drive it forward with their lyrical prowess. No where is this better evidenced than on the soulful “Make Your Move,” where Love’s bouncing yet graceful wordplay sits as a perfect complement to Casual’s deep baritone. Love brings an even more tenacious sound to the rollicking “Let it Roll,” which bumps and shakes like a kid on a sugar high.

While Love may be the star of the album, the chemistry between all group members is evident throughout. Hieroglyphics has a lyrical dynamic akin to that seen in the past albums of Blackstar and Outkast. Tracks like “Fantasy Island” and “Love Flowin'” fuse quick wittted, articulate raps with innovative beats. Still, there are points when Full Circle creates its own quagmires, slowing its own pace with generally weak tracks like “Maggie May” and “One Hundred Thousand Indi.” Nevertheless, the final effect is a breath of fresh and intelligent air from the noxious bling-bling bogging down the mainstream sound.

Archived article by Zach Jones