The Brand New Heavies are an acid jazz and funk band hailing from London, England. The group formed in the mid eighties and released their UK self titled debut in 1990. Originally the group had Jay Ella Ruth as the lead vocalist, but when they signed with Delicious Vinyl, they would replace Ruth with N’Dea Davenport, shuffle the song sequencing, add a key song, and re-release the Brand New Heavies album in the U.S. in 1991.
I first became familiar with Brand New Heavies after hearing their beautiful debut U.S. single “Never Stop”, and the funky up tempo “Dream Come True”, which prompted me to cop the album on cassette back in the day. They would go on to collaborate with Def Jef on “Brand New Heavy Freestyle” from his Soul Food album (which uses the instrumental from the opening track “BNH” on their debut album) and their song “People Get Ready” would be included on the Juice Soundtrack. In ’92 they would test the hip-hop waters even further, releasing a full length album with featured emcees rhyming over their live instrumentals, titled Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol 1.
The album didn’t move a ton of units but it did receive positive reviews from critics. I wonder why they never followed up with a volume 2. It’s never too late. How nice would it be to hear Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole spitting over some live BNH instrumentals?
Bonafied Funk – Over a live mellow groove brought to you courtesy of the Brand New Heavies, front man of Main Source, Large Professor, spills a few lines about his crew (ironically, Extra P’s first line in the song is “Main Source forever”, and the group would be broken up by the end of ’92) and sends some kind words to BNH as well. Extra P even lets the other two deejays in the crew (K-Cut and Sir Scratch) speak with their hands during the second verse. Not Extra P’s best verses, but they’re pleasant and the music behind his rhymes will definitely satisfy.
It’s Gettin’ Hectic – Brand New Heavies opens this one with a killer bass line that even Too Short would be jealous of. Then the rest of the instrumental kicks in for Guru (rip) to spit over, as he big ups Gang Starr and calls out the sucka emcees. Not one of my favorite songs on the album but still decent.
Who Make’s The Loot? – Grand Puba is a severely underappreciated emcee. He may not spit the most profound rhymes but the dude has always been incredibly witty and has one of the smoothest flows in the history of hip-hop. Puba nonchalantly spills clever punch lines over this mid-tempo BNH funk groove. One of my favorite songs on the album. BNH released a music video that kind of served as a sampler for the album, which included a verse from this song, “Bonafied Funk”, and the following song…
Wake Me When I’m Dead – BNH hooks up a harder than usual, semi-dark instrumental for this Masta Ace collaboration. Ace uses it to perfection (in his new-found “off beat-on beat” flow that he would use in full on his Slaughtahouse album the following year) as he addresses the fast growing epidemic of emcees compromising the art by making intentionally pop records to make a dollar (which Master Ace might be found guilty of during his Sittin’ On Crome days, depending on who you ask. Come to think of it, I do remember reading a quote from Ace himself that SOC was his “sellout” album). Ace sounds fresh and rejuvenated dropping lines like “if this was an opera I’d probably said Figaro, black kid from Brooklyn, but don’t call me nigga, though” and “you’re so busy riffin’ and daring kids to shoot ya, according to the Jetsons there’s no blacks in the future”(those under thirty may need to Google the Jetsons to get that second rhyme). This is probably the best conceptual song on Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol 1.
Jump N’ Move – Other than the hook, which is the same as the song title, I have no idea what former BDP member and dancehall emcee, Jamalski is saying on this one. The instrumental is dope, so who cares?
Death Threat – Every rapper’s favorite rapper, Kool G. Rap, wets his chops on some live BNH instrumentation, as he pretty much spends his verses doing exactly what the song title suggest. G Rap’s rhymes are sharp and witty as usual, but the light BNH instrumental clashes with his hard rhymes.
State of Yo – This one is credited with an appearance from Black Sheep, but only Dres actually takes part in this one. The BNH laid back instrumental is pleasant but I didn’t care much for what Dres does over it.
Do Whatta I Gotta Do – BNH provide a funky up tempo instrumental for Ed. O.G. to rhyme over. Problem is, it may be too up tempo as Ed sounds uncomfortable and like he’s chasing the beat, which ultimately makes his rhymes sound rushed and sloppy. Regardless, the live instrumentation was nice.
Whatgaboutthat – Dancehall artist Tiger rhymes (or chants) over some BNH instrumentation, that is a bit more sultry than I prefer my hip-hop, or reggae. I couldn’t feel this one back in the day and time hasn’t altered my opinion.
Soul Flower – BNH’s label mates, Pharcyde, join BNH for this one, as Bootie Brown, Imani, Slimkid and Fatlip all spit lighthearted rhymes over a pleasant laid back funk groove. Pharcyde would remix this song and put it on their debut album Bizarre Ride, that would drop a few months later. I prefer this version to the remix, though.
For the most part, The Brand New Heavies’ Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol 1 is an enjoyable um, experience. BNH creates a cohesive jazzy funk vibe for some of the hottest emcees of that era to spit over. So even when some of the guest emcees fall short, their quality music is musical mascara, hiding all the blemishes. And with the album being a slim and trim 10 songs in length, even listening to the not so enjoyable Tiger joint is less of a chore. I’m still holding out for volume 2.