The Hieroglyphics crew has held down West Coast hip-hop since the early ’90s. While Dre was rocking Jherri Curls, Snoop was blazing chronic and Tupac was a background dancer for Digital Underground, Hiero — the West Coast version of the Native Tongue movement — was bringing a lighter side to the gangsta posturing that dominated the West.
Still, the solo debut of Tajai of the Souls of Mischief, The Power Movement, was not on my list for most anticipated albums of 2004. Maybe it’s an East Coast bias; Tajai just never struck me as an emcee who had the skill or the material to cover an entire album.
For the most part it’s his monotone style and introspective lyrics that are the album’s lone highlight. Even with Tajai’s admirable performance on the mike, The Power Movement is hindered by inane choruses. Take the title song’s, where Tajai shouts, “Red, black, green/ Man, woman, child/ Study, train, act/ Time is now.” Huh?
Despite being littered with lifeless beats that sound like stripped-down Blackalicious instrumentals, The Power Movement does have a few gems, including the lead single, “The Dum Dum,” which was produced by fellow Hiero member A Plus. Everything is finally put together on the extra-large track “Do It,” where Tajai takes us through a night out in Cali.
It’s common for members of large crews to record solo projects, but it often comes with mixed results. Del tha Funkee Homosapien is the only Hiero member to successfully navigate a solo career so far; it’s Heiro’s collective sound that remains its greatest appeal. In the end, Tajai makes it clear that disparaging abjurations and denigrations won’t deter him. He spits: “To the rap critic, you fucking herb/ You, your review and your SAT word.”