Hieroglyphics Crew, Common Play Free Concert in Oakland

Beats and rhymes brought thousands of Bay Area residents and visitors to Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza on Labor Day to enjoy the 11th version of Hiero Day, a music block party thrown by the Hieroglyphics Crew.

But a love of community and valuing of its keepers were what kept crowds happily greeting one another, complimenting outfits, sampling snacks from food trucks, dancing to familiar fast favorites or swaying and snapping selfies before slower classics.

Thousands stand shoulder to shoulder outside Oakland City Hall during Monday’s Hiero Day 2023 music block party. | George Kelly/The Standard

Monday’s event honored not only last month’s 50th anniversary of the hip-hop music genre but also the 30th anniversary of 93 ’til Infinity, the debut studio album by Souls of Mischief, part of the Hieroglyphics Crew collective.

The group marked the anniversary with a tour that sent them to Europe in the spring before crisscrossing North America all summer. The group has more dates this month in Hawaii and Colorado.

“I think since we are living in a moment, we don’t understand the significance of how powerful this is,” Mistah F.A.B. reminded the crowd during shared hosting duties.

“I’ve been all around the world, and I’ve seen this Hiero stamp in every country that I’ve been to, that comes from the city that I come from.”

At the edge of the crowd filling the amphitheater in front of Oakland City Hall, Berkeley native Terrance Tinsley said that “the whole Bay Area vibe, the whole culture, just being around people” brought him to Hiero Day in 2017 and kept him coming back.

His advice to those who didn’t come to Monday’s event? “Definitely come out to the next one,” he said. “Good positive vibes!”

Outside Oakland City Hall, thousands attended the 11th annual Hiero Day music block party on Monday. | George Kelly/The Standard

Those vibes came up from the crowd and onto the stage, invigorating guest artists like Murs and New York ’90s gem Al Skratch, and performers from closer to home like San Francisco’s own Cellski and West Coast underground rapper Medusa.

After noting a long line of Oakland artists including MC Hammer, the Conscious Daughters, Too Short, the Coup, Mistah F.A.B., Tony! Toni! Toné!, Living Legends and Digital Underground, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao handed out proclamations honoring multiple artists and activists in attendance.

Members of Souls of Mischief entertain the crowd from the Imperium Stage during Hiero Day 2023 outside Oakland City Hall on Monday. | George Kelly/The Standard

Chicago rapper Common closed out the day with a set full of chart hits, generously spiked with samples and sounds from hip-hop history. He made time to regale the crowd with stories of his respect for the Hiero legacy, and took a moment to freestyle a tribute to a front-row attendee before encouraging the crowd’s love for the music and community.

Richie Cunning takes to the Infinity Stage on Clay Street during the 11th Annual Hiero Day Block Party at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland on Monday. | Source: Don Feria for the Standard

Before Common’s set, at the end of a tight performance that closed with the title track from 93 ’til Infinity, rapper Opio made the day’s credo clear before leading the crowd in a peace-sign chant: “We ain’t about all that hatred and that negativity and that divisiveness. We are about love, peace and understanding, joy in your heart.”


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