Many good things have come from the West. In 1989, N.W.A. shifted rap’s focus to California and paved the way for 2Pac, who later assumed the role of highest on rap’s West Coast throne. As the empire deteriorated, other groups emerged to show that the West was more than gangsta rhymes and drug-filled stories. With the mighty power of its Third Eye in the late-’90s, Hieroglyphics emerged with an unmatched potency encapsulating everything hip hop.
“You Never Knew,” the intro track from Hieroglyphics’ 1998 release Third Eye Vision, is an adequate prelude to Full Circle, Hiero’s newest album. Just as “You Never Knew’s” chorus says, Hieroglyphics continues to “break musical boundaries and run circles around emcees.” But as it consistently leaves much of the industry behind while simultaneously creating a boom-box worthy record, Full Circle lets greatness slip from its hands and lingers in the same hip-hop sandals it wore in ’98.
The group keeps most of the beats on the album inventive throughout, but some tend to fade hazily into the background and fall victim to the dreaded skip button. “Chicago” ceases to impress with a P. Diddy sounding beat that feels overproduced, while “Heatish” sounds like it may be a distant cousin of Da Brat’s, innovative for 1994, “Ain’t No Thang” from her first album Funkdafied. “100,000 Indi” follows suit as it conjures up mental flashes of turban-wearing snake charmers and king cobras.
As the album progresses, the lyrical musings of Pep Love and Casual stand out as they consistently to bring rhymes to life.
On “7 sixes,” Love shows the lyrical prowess of the group as he bashes the mic with the rhyme, “I’m a soldier of fortune/My style is extortion/And I’m gorgin’ more than a portion.”
Casual similarly leaves a swirling disaster in his wake on “Make Your Move.”
On this velvet-lined track about a career in the music industry, Casual makes lyrics glide far through the sky. Lyrics like, “Motivated by a picture of his daughters he embraced in his hand/ Thinking what it might take him to win/ And a nine to five ain’t supplyin’ what he tryin’ to drive/ Lucked up and got signed to Jive,” float on air with the help of an airy beat and the groovy chords of Goapele.
Despite the flaws in Full Circle, Hieroglyphics shows it can continue to make music that will move people no matter what coast they are from.
The sheer lyrical talent of the members and some innovative beats keep this album from sinking far into the Pacific.
Even though Full Circle is the sophomore LP from a group that is highly talented, re-listening to Third Eye Vision would be better than calling its latest release a good album — it just isn’t what it could have been.