The Hieroglyphics: We Dissected the Remix

    Few artists have pushed the b-side, remix and rare track as hard as a group such as The Hieroglyphics. There is a conglomerate of b-side and remix material floating around on vinyl in record stores across the world that Hip-Hop can thank Hieroglyphics for. And the mere fact that the group is constantly recording, […]

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    Few artists have pushed the b-side, remix and rare track as hard as a group such as The Hieroglyphics. There is a conglomerate of b-side and remix material floating around on vinyl in record stores across the world that Hip-Hop can thank Hieroglyphics for. And the mere fact that the group is constantly recording, and always making more songs than they end up using for albums, just goes to show that after more than a decade of Hiero music, those eight MCs are sitting on a goldmine of Hieroglyphics material that has never been commercially released.    Some of Hip-Hop’s most sacred foundations are supplanted in b-sides, remixes and rarities. Let’s face it, Hip-Hop started on vinyl. Whether it was the records DJs were spinning at block parties, the vinyl producers started sampling from funk and soul artists, or the 12 inch singles Hip-Hop was releasing, the base of this culture rests on records.        In this second of a two-part series examining Hieroglyphics and the group’s pioneering career as a collective of MCs who’re just as popular for full album releases as they are b-sides, rarities and remixes, each group member sat down with to discuss the concept behind vinyl and 12 inch records, some of the group’s favorite remixed tracks they’ve done, and where, if one digs hard enough, one can find some of those “hidden gems” Hieroglyphics has laying around. Why is it important for Hiero to be remixing or creating different versions of songs?Domino: It’s good to have different versions of songs and to have a variety. But even back starting with Del, it was about giving people more for their money. Why do something like release a single after you’ve made the album? People already have that album, why would you want the single? But if you do a remix and a b-side, people will go get that. That’s what all fans of heart want. I know that when the “Buddy” remix [released in 1989 by De La Soul from 3 Feet High & Rising] came out, that was what I was checking. It started as being a fan and liking those b-sides, remixes and extras you got as a fan. It encouraged you to go out and get something not everyone had. Del: Honestly, I’m not more inventive as some of the other cats. I’m already off on the next 12 or 13 songs, as opposed to remixing a song I already did. The concept behind that is that if you give it a remix, you breathe new life into it. Take “Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)” by De La Soul [from 1991’s De La Soul is Dead], you’ll have the club, main and underground remixes, and you’ll get another remix that’s named something like the “nitty gritty, hey hey remix,” or whatever. For me, the song itself is often good enough. But I’m not against the remix. I just never really remix my things. What are some memorable remixes you remember doing with the other guys from Hiero? Specifically, how did they all come about?A+: I did this one remix with Me’shell Ndegeocello, “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)” [from 1993’s Existential Meditation on the Probability of Kissing my Mind for Ndegeocello’s album]. It was a Hip-Hop remix. Ndegeocello ended up doing five or six different versions that ended up on one album somewhere. But I thought my remix was nice. I was fresh into music and I thought it was cool to be on a remix. There was also “That’s How it Is Part 2” where I rapped with Casual. We kicked different verses on that. And that was nice too. Casual: “Undisputed Champs” [featuring Del, Q-Tip and Peplove, the b-side to the “Wrongplace” single] was a hot song, and that was a song we didn’t use on Peplove’s album [1993’s The Shamen collaborative effort with Jay-Biz]. We weren’t [on] an independent label at that time, so I stood up to try and get it on the album. But I didn’t have too much leverage. “Heat” [on Over Time] was another b-side we did as a whole crew. That was another hot song. How does a song you guys do get labeled as a “rare track?”Del: It’s rare if no one heard it and there is no possibility of anyone hearing it unless I let them hear it; the only way you’re going to get that song is from me. That’s how I label something rare. Or it might be something that’s rare to me, like “Battle of the Shadow.” I forgot about that, that’s a rare song. How anyone pulled that out, it’s amazing. That’s like 10 years old. Opio: Basically it comes down to the amount of availability. If there is a compilation album that pressed 2,000 units, that’s rare. Our albums sell between 100,000 to 200,000 units. With those 2,000 record presses, they’re really more for DJs, and promos. With an album like Over Time, there were fans that were looking for those tracks. Now you have Serato and singles aren’t really worth it any more. But we wanted to show people that don’t know our ’93 Til Infinity album [1993] or a single like [Del’s] “Dr. Bombay” [1992], that we’ve got this big catalog. What do you have to do to get those songs out commercially?Domino: We tend to separate selling things online from the normal channels, like record stores. We tend to have stuff sold online and at shows – stuff that didn’t make records or was only put online. I think when you’re an indie label you have to think of different ways of generating money. We have Del’s records that sell in the six digits, but you generally don’t have a lot of records that do that. You have to be able to sell other things. Del: Basically getting the master and the artwork done for the album, then getting some sort of promotion done to get it out. We’ve got to have distribution. The whole business side takes about three months; it’s a lot of work. But that’s also why mix CDs are often more appealing because you can make it and go outside your house and start swinging them. Casual: I have not completely devoted my artistry to the business of music. I still do things for a hobby and for fun. I’m never going to release a major album. I could have put The Champion out with my Hiero label, but I’m more executive and an artist in my own way. I just put out my stuff to see who really wants it. If someone gets on to listen to my music, I know they really want it. I have another album, Truck Driver. That’s never sold more than 4,000 units hand-to-hand, with the exception of maybe 500 units [online]. I do that for the perks of getting people to mess with me, and the feeling of coming to a show and buying an album from me. A lot of music is just for me and a lot is for entertainment. What are some really rare or hard to get songs out there that are done by Hiero?Domino: We have tons of songs in the can that no one has heard. “Battle of the Shadow” from this Over Time album was previously unreleased. Casual’s song, “The Scandle,” that was originally licensed to a compilation from Industry Records in Las Vegas. Up until Over Time, not many people had heard that. When Hiero was first an indie label, we had a thing online called Hiero Oldies, stuff pre-signed and recorded before we were on a record label. And you could only buy the Hiero Oldies online. No had heard any of that stuff. But by doing more songs than needed for an album, there is always stuff that people have never heard. I have cassettes full of things that we used to do; particularly Del, who in a week would do a record on a four-track. Del’s second album, No Need for Alarm, he did 10 songs for that album. Some of them got sent to Ice Cube and he didn’t like them. Del totally scrapped them. We had the engineer record over them, which is another story altogether. But only a few people have cassettes of those songs. He’d do things like that all the time, make songs at home and put it on cassette. So there is a ton of stuff sitting around that not many people have heard.Peplove: Some songs no one will ever hear. We recently recorded “Rock Body” at Domino’s house. He had a beat and we did the song. But back when we were recording on four-track tapes, you might never hear any of that stuff. There were a few from my upcoming album [Reconstruction] that didn’t make it and haven’t even been discussed putting them on anything. But bringing this up, I might consider digging through some of my old songs.