Artist: HieroglyphicsTitle: Over TimeRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Stewart Rudy
If the Oakland-based Hip-Hop collective Hieroglyphics had ever gained the mainstream recognition they deserved, then it would seem strange that their first release of studio material in four years is largely made up of remixes and B-sides. But given their history of under-appreciation, Hieroglyphics latest release, Over Time (Hieroglyhics Imperium), is a perfect addition to their repertoire and to the current state of Hip-Hop, mixing a few of the old-school-style breaks fans crave and the experimental sounds that pose the question of the genre’s direction.Domino’s remix of “You Never Knew” is the ideal opening for the album with a nostalgic funk and some desperately needed scratching that also toys with some of the experimental noise pervading nearly all 14 tracks. On the following track, “Masterminds,” Jay Biz, as if he were a more prolific Pharrell, drops sixteenth notes on a closed high-hat and then takes things to the next level with an eclectic welding of a classical sample and blip-like effects. Del’s rhymes shine best on “Masterminds,” as with the rest of the album, though Pep Love (particularly on the remix of “Fight Club”), Casual and Tajai demonstrate their own verbal skills throughout, as one would expect. The album peaks at its midpoint with the previously unreleased “Battle of the Shadow” and the three joints leading up to it, which, while continuing to integrate the group’s jazzy roots, experiment off and on with guitar laced beats and synthesized noise (which on the remix of Souls of Mischief’s “Soundscience” is reminiscent of the music to an early Nintendo game). The remix of Del’s “Phoney Phranchise” is nothing special, though the new beat is suitable to both the song and the album as a whole, while Automator’s remix of “If You Must,” fine in its own right with a playful hook and a few well-sequenced samples, does not mesh well with the overall oeuvre of the album. Del’s hard-to-find “Cyberpunks,” an eerie flight through a sci-fi universe, appropriately closes the album out, though it is not itself a track worthy of the repeat button.As it is not merely a simple retrospective, Over Time brings some of the older and lesser-known parts of the Hieroglyphics catalogue into greater depth. Having said that, it is also not a breakthrough, but more so an intriguing perspective on what old school audiophiles are capable of in the next millennium. For any Hieroglyphics fan though, Over Time arrives not a minute too soon.