Hiero Day 2015 in Oakland was a scorching affair. Temperatures rose over 90 degrees and the insane amount of blistering-hot fuego spat by this year's lineup of dope artists only exacerbated the sizzle.
But man, was it worth it.
The highly attended festival, which amazingly has only been around since 2012, is of course named after Hieroglyphics, the infamous Oakland hip hop collective that's influenced a mass number of artists on both coasts — credit or no credit. Perhaps the most exciting and unique aspect of Hiero Day is the down-to-earth, intimate atmosphere; the fact you can be crazy-close to members of Hieroglyphics and other world-renowned artists like it's no big deal. But it's a pretty big deal.
Entering through the gates, I was immediately surrounded by a vast assortment of local vendors — everything from chicken wings and garlic fries, to organic ice cream and free cannabis vouchers from dispensaries (welcome to The Bay). I then eagerly scurried over to one of three stages to watch Foreign Legion absolutely murk their festival-opening set, seemingly immune to heatstroke in their brilliant Spaghetti Western ensembles:
After leaving the Imperium Stage, I happened upon a b-boy cypher and graffiti wall. It was awesome to see the Hiero Day organizers' effort to include all four elements of hip hop culture, not merely DJing and emceeing. B-boy crew, The 808 Breakers, managed to catch some snazzy footage of the aforementioned cypher:
And that graffiti wall wasn't too shabby either:
Later in the day, Oakland's own Zion-I took the stage and further solidified their status as Bay Area hip hop legends. Just like in past Hiero Days, Zumbi and Amp Live seamlessly rocked the crowd with some of their classic joints, including "Coastin" (minus k.flay) and "The Bay." Shortly thereafter (on a different stage) HBK Gang standouts P-Lo and Kool John went Grade-A HAM and showed why the Heartbreak posse is front-running the contemporary Bay Area rap scene.
Of course, as with every Hiero Day affair, Infinity Stage (the main stage) was the place to be during the festival's homestretch. The penultimate performance by Luniz was probably the most electrifying ten-minute set I've ever seen — watching them rock "I Got 5 On It" would have, by itself, been worth the price of admission. And after Luniz? None other than Hieroglyphics, the reason for all of this madness in the first place. "You Never Knew," "93 Til Infinity," and every other song they delivered were flawless, practically true-to-recording — even 20+ years later.
Ultimately, Hiero Day 2015 was so chock-full of talent, the $19.93 (til infinity) price of admission seemed absurd; it's even harder to believe the festival was 100% free its first three years of existence. My only regret is I didn't get to see everybody get down — namely Peanut Butter Wolf, Domo Genesis, and Crown City Rockers — but one can only pick and choose with three different stages. Nevertheless, I encourage all of you (Bay Area and beyond!) to attend Hiero Day 2016; just remember to wear SPF 150 sunblock if you stand near the stage.