Hip-Hop Rap-Up: Hiero Day 4 Review, Seagram Biopic, RIP Kool DJ AJ, Digg Tribute Compilation + more

Posted by Billyjam, September 14, 2015 11:51pm | Post a Comment

"I live in the Town now. My son goes to school here," LA born emcee Bambu (pictured above) told the early afternoon audience at Hiero Day 4 this past Monday (September 7th) between songs by his political rap group Native Guns from the Imperium Stage - one of several
performance stages simultaneously featuring a rich diverse array of mostly local or Left Coast hip-hop acts. The recently relocated SoCal artist was making the point of how important Oakland had become to him personally as well as how incredibly impressive was this independent and unique urban event that he and his hip-hop group were invited to be a part of.

"No negativity," stressed Bambu gesturing out across the large scale, violence free, annual festival that would again prove the naysayers wrong in that Oakland (aka The Town) can indeed produce a peaceful,  positive, uplifting hip-hop festival with no negativity, just positivity! While the credit for this accomplishment goes to all of the participants - both on stage and off - it primarily goes to the Hieros themselves. As the event's producers, they have crafted something quite amazing out of their combined love of the culture that gave them their careers and the city that gave them their start. Indeed Hiero Day is the ultimate celebration of all things positive about Oakland, CA with the Hieroglyphics collective embodying and embracing the very essence of Oakland in 2015. Not too surprisingly then that former Mayor Jean Quan formally recognized September 3rd (9/3) as Hiero Day two years ago. However the Hieros themselves have done more to uplift The Town than any politician with a skewed agenda ever could!

This fourth year of the already established event took place this past Labor Day Monday in the several block area surrounding 3rd and Chestnut Streets. There all generations and races of hip-hop fans converged to enjoy such performers as Tha Alkaholiks, the reunited trio of Foreign Legion, Rhettmatic, Aceyalone, Peanut Butter Wolf, Psalm One (pictured below), and  The Coup (pictured above). There was a b-boy stage whose hosts included longtime East Bay hip-hop figure Bas-One. In addition to being onstage there were countless local artists in the audience as well as busily involved behind the scenes such as hip-hop artist Jay Williams who catered all day back stage serving up about 500 plates. Meanwhile innovative emcee  Mascen Apollo, (pictured right with A-Plus) whom I first encountered firsthand flexing his entrepreneurial skills six years ago on a BART train as he was successfully going from car to car on the Pittsburg line selling CDs by his group V.E.R.A. Clipque, was busy promoting his latest ambitious venture - the locally run, Swiss distilled, hemp flavored Elation Vodka  company.  Among the array of local vendors at Hiero Day included the day's prominent cannabis representative Harborside Health Center, Oakland's Linden Street Brewery conveniently located within the festival area, San Francisco's Solidarity Records, and Benecia's Whipt Baked Goods whose line for the day included an array of tasty Hiero logo'ed cakes (pictured above right). Those baked goods were just one of countless places the Hiero logo was spotted  at Hiero Day. Everywhere you looked it seemed that simple yet distinctive logo, designed two and half decades ago by Del the Funky Homosapien for his Oakland collective, was emblazoned on everything from T-shirts to tattoos. More importantly the Hiero logo and what it represents - independence, love of hip-hop culture, and an undying dedication to its East Bay roots - has evolved to symbolize Oakland more so than anything else today, upstaging all others such as the ubiquitous (albeit derivative) Oaklandish logo.

A little over an hour before Hiero Day 4 opened its gates last Monday on what would be one of the hottest days of the year, Souls of Mischief member Tajai (one of the key organizers of the event) casually strolled down the long wide empty stretch of 3rd Street away from the main stage that by mid afternoon would be packed with thousands of fans traveling in not just from the Bay Area but from all over to bask in the beauty of this anticipated annual Oakland event. "It's gonna be good," the Hiero member smiled confidently when asked what he thought of the day ahead that he and his fellow organizers had been working round the clock on for the months leading up to this day. And he was absolutely right!


Octavius Miller, who is brother of the late great Oakland rapper Seagram, is in the early stages of making a biopic on his sibling who was murdered in a drive by in 1996. At the time of his murder in East Oakland Seagram Miller was only 26 years old with two albums to his name (his third would be released posthumously) including his debut album (The Dark Roads on Rap-A-Lot) that addressed the realities and consequences of the gangsta life that he was unapologetically a part of right up to his tragic death. The forthcoming biopic, to be titled Town Business and produced under Next Level Promotions and Seagram Records Presents, is currently looking for various lookalikes (including Too $hort, Dre DogCellski) in a casting call he recently sent out in the form of the flyer above. I reached out the late rapper's brother/producer of the forthcoming film who told me that, "Casting will be held November 7th in Berkeley," and that of the lead role that, "Seagram's son will be playing him in the film," adding that, "We also [will] have Omar Gooding and Clifton Powell and most of the Bay rappers playing themselves as the older versions."
It seems like we are losing an awful lot of hip-hop artists of late - many of them still relatively young.  Last month all in the same week we got news of the tragic passing of NYC emcee Sean Price, Daly City turntablist DJ Swift Rock, and Hunters Point San Francisco rapper Digg of U.D.I. fame. And this past week, care of an announcement by his one-time collaborator Kurtis Blow, we learned that
Kool DJ AJ (Scratch) had passed. The DJ for Kurtis Blow and Busy Bee, who began his career in the 70's in the Bronx, was called "a great pioneer in the rap game" by Russell Simmons in a Tweet in the days following news of his passing. So far the cause of death has not been announced.

Meantime tributes and accolades for the previously mentioned fallen hip-hop greats continue including several turntable gatherings in honor of Swift Rock, a radio/video (see below) dedication to the Duck Down emcee Sean Price via SiriusXM with DJ Eclipse, DJ Premier, Torae, Tek, 9th Wonder, Rockness, Ruste Juxx and others, plus a Derrick Digg Reed dedication compilation in the works thanks to his surviving partner in rhyme  Quinton "Big Quint" Morris who is inviting artists from the Bay and beyond to send in tracks dedicated to Digg directly to him via email at  

Sean Price Tribute with DJ Eclipse, DJ Premier, Torae, Tek, 9th Wonder, Rockness, Ruste Juxx, & more

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Rip (31), Stones Throw (28), Peanut Butter Wolf (32), Bambu (0), Native Guns (1), Whipt Baked Goods (1), A-plus (7), Hieros (17), Hiero Day (10), Hieroglyphics (0), Mascen Apollo (1), Elation Vodka (1), Harborside Health Center (1), Solidarity Records (3), Souls Of Mischief (23)