Though Hieroglyphics have been around since the early 90s, they haven’t been very prolific as a group as they’ve been individually. ‘The Kitchen’ is album number three for them and it’s the first release from the crew in a decade. Hieroglyphics is a combination of smaller acts including Del tha Funkee Homosapien, who has had a fruitful solo career (and is also known as rapper Ice Cube’s cousin,) and the Souls of Mischief, who have been a bit more low-key in the 21st century.
‘The Kitchen’ is album number three for them and it’s the first release from the crew in a decade. Rap music has gone through a bit of a makeover since The Hieroglyphics released ‘Full Circle’ back in 2003. Fortunately, the group hasn’t “drank the Kool-Aid,” so to speak, by playing into the latest trends that saturate every other rap album released these days. ‘The Kitchen’ isn’t a reinvention of any kind, but even if only because of the slump Hip-Hop has been in, a reinvention is not necessary.
The Hiero Crew is joined in ‘The Kitchen’ by Cali-based DJ group The Sleeprockers. The songs themselves are produced by The Hieroglyphics (Souls of Mischief’s Opio handled most of it) while The Sleeprockers sort of host the album. It’s not a mixtape, but it plays out like a DJ set. It runs continuously with few breaks between songs and features some interesting sample bits (such as a segment from the TV show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) along with cutting and scratching on the turntables. It’s a fast-moving album that won’t demand a lot of your time for a complete listen. This is to say that the collaboration between the two crews works well. A little more on that later…
‘The Kitchen’ starts with a set-up from The Sleeprockers blending together talks of…well, kitchens. There’s John Witherspoon’s kitchen rant from the movie “Friday,” a snippet from Notorious B.I.G, and so on. This runs into ‘Livin It Up,’ with its minimalist beat consisting of some thumping bass and a looped horn sample. It sets a good tone for the record and the production holds up to the end. Lyrically, Hieroglyphics carry themselves like veterans on ‘The Kitchen’ with some tricky wordplay and varied combinations of the crew rhyming from song to song.
I may be in the minority here, but Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Souls of Mischief had a handful of songs from their past recordings that bored me to sleep. Their lyrics got a bit too self-indulgent at times and failed to carry me along on whatever trip they sought to bring me. This didn’t happen often enough for me to tune them out, but it showed up enough to make me mention it.
I say this to refer back to The Sleeprockers’ contribution to ‘The Kitchen.’ The way they streamlined this album, it kept me from losing interest. Where there was the occasional song from any Hieroglyphics member(s) that seemed to go on forever, I believe the DJ-set feel of ‘The Kitchen’ creates a situation where the emcees couldn’t go off into these tangents that listeners either don’t get or don’t want to get. It’s a good look on the Hieroglyphics’ behalf for sure.
Some highlights on this one are ‘Indonesia,’ ‘Highway Five,’ and ‘Nano Salt’ (my personal favorite.) These are the best examples of the pure Hip-Hop provided on ‘The Kitchen.’ As mentioned, Hiero shows no interest in conforming to overdone methods founds in modern rap albums. There’s no auto-tune, the DJ’s keep their traps shut and let the rappers do the talking, and there’s no emphasis on wealth, cars, etc. ‘The Kitchen’ is a breath of fresh air in Hip-Hop today. It’s the home-cooked meal to the current chart-topping rap act’s fast food dollar menu.