Filed under: Album Reviews
Heavy D is a little bit of an oddity to me. On the one hand he is the incredibly well connected and, if we go by liner note shouts, highly respected cousin of Pete Rock whose recording career started as early as 1987. On the other, he has produced some of the fluffy nonsense that any serious hip hop fan would instantly condemn as garbage. Indeed, when I think of Heavy D, I am transported back to being thirteen years old standing beside a fairground round with ‘Now That We’ve Found Love’ pumping out of a sound system and feeling rather out of place at the carnival that used to come to my part of London every year. To be fair, I don’t know his first two albums at all despite some Marley Marl work on his sophomore effort, but it does seem strange that an artist who crossed over with such vigour was able to maintain credibility throughout a career that spanned two decades.
‘Blue Funk’ was an obvious attempt to re-engage a more street level audience, pulling together the production work of DJ Premier, Tony Dofat and of course Pete Rock: a highly impressive array of producers. In general the beats are pretty bangin’ and if you’re up on this era of hip hop you will recognise a lot of the drum breaks and samples as they crop up elsewhere on other recordings regularly. The title track is perhaps my favourite, although apart from ‘Girl’ the album really is pretty consistent. Having said this, I would not expect ‘Blue Funk’ to blow you away. There is no doubt that it is an enjoyable album but it is by no means classic material.
Perhaps most surprising are the Overweight Lover’s skills on the mic, which are remarkably competent. At times, and I say this with caution, he could almost pass as Biggie (who turns up on the posse cut ‘A Buncha Niggas’ along with Rob-O, Guru and Busta… weird eh?). Temporarily dropping his usual fluffy image for a decidedly more hardcore edge, he boasts and brags his way through the album with efficiency. The only real gripe with his presence on the microphone for me are the pseudo-therapeutic sessions that precede each of the tracks where Heavy tends to ponder his role in the game and the legacy he may leave. These are at best cringe-worthy and at times laughable; you can’t help but wish he’d kept these musings to himself.
Ultimately, ‘Blue Funk’ is a pleasing discovery for any fan who may have dismissed his music due to his more obvious commercial successes. If you didn’t know it was Heavy D, you would be easily excused for the mistake as this sounds very similar to other works of the era particularly albums like the Rough House Survivors ‘Straight From The Soul’. Cop it and pay your respects to one of the largest (literally) figures in hip hop of the ’90s.