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Hiero Day began in 2012 as a block party and has grown into a major Oakland music festival. This year’s gathering was different from past iterations, however. Because of pandemic concerns, the all-out crowd crush of 20,000 people or more would not have been a good idea.

Instead, the Hieroglyphics crew partnered with main sponsor Smoakland to produce a legal cannabis marketplace in front of Oakland City Hall on Monday Sept. 7. The market featured local dispensaries, food trucks, DJs, and live performances by up-and-coming rap artists Big Hongray, Lxgit, Daghe Digital, and Grand Nationxl.

The event allowed for social distancing and amplified music in a laid back fashion, while still honoring the spirit of what Hiero Day has come to represent.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Del the Funky Homosapien (left), Domino (center), and Karen Dere “backstage” at Hiero Day’s outdoor concert.

Credit: Eric Arnold

DJ Siri deep in concentration while performing in Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Souls of Mischief’s A-Plus poses next to a poster of himself and the Hieroglyphics crew’s symbol.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Hip Hop TV CEO Shawn Granberry pays homage to Blackalicious emcee Gift of Gab, who passed away in June.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Rapper Big Hongry opened the show in Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Credit: Eric Arnold

DJ Breakbeat Lou, of Ultimate Breaks and Beats fame, warms it up.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Rapper Lxgit, a new signee to the Hiero label, rhymes in a cipher before his set.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Oakland rap legend CMG of the Conscious Daughters reppping for Shock G.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Moving the crowd with hip-hop and Afrobeats.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Tajai Massey of Souls of Mischief next to a portrait of himself painted by Shomari Smith.

Credit: Eric Arnold

All smiles at the Hiero merch booth.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Chuck Johnson and James “Old School” Copes.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Daghe Digital ripped their set.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Grand Nationxl’s Dame Drummer looks out at the socially distanced audience.

Credit: Eric Arnold

Grand Nationxl perform during Hiero Day.

Eric K. Arnold

Writer, editor, and photographer Eric Arnold cut his teeth covering the Bay Area’s uniquely independent hip-hop scene, from Hieroglyphics to hyphy. He has written for national outlets from Vibe to the Source to Okay Player to Billboard to Making Contact, as well as local outlets including the East Bay Express, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, SF Chronicle, KQED Arts, Oakland Local, and Oakulture. In 2018, he co-curated the Oakland Museum of California’s groundbreaking “Respect: Hip Hop Style and Wisdom” exhibit. In addition to hip-hop, he has covered diverse topics including dance, film, spoken word, world music, street art, gang injunctions, environmental equity, social justice, and media policy. He is currently based in Oakland, California.