We last heard from Heavy D & The Boyz in 1991 with the Peaceful Journey release. The album was dedicated to (well, at least the album title) Heavy’s backup dancer and friend, Trouble T-Roy, who died in a tragic accident in 1990. Despite the pain and sadness that came with their loss, Peaceful Journey would go on to earn Hev and crew their second consecutive platinum plaque.
In 1993 Heavy D & The Boyz would return with their fourth release, Blue Funk. The title is an expression that even though the group was still mourning their falling brother (as the album cover and the artwork throughout the liner notes would indicate), the music (or funk) most go on, which is a pretty dope album title and concept. Heavy would recruit some heavy hitters to produce the album, including Premo and his cousin, Pete Rock. The album received pretty solid reviews, and even though it didn’t sell as well as his previous two albums, it would still earned Hev a gold plaque.
It’s been nearly 5 years, and it’s still hard to believe he’s gone.
Truthful – It’s only right that the overweight lover starts Blue Funk off discussing love. On this one, Hev finds out that the woman he fell in love with is not who he thought she was. Tony Dofat slides Heavy D a decent backdrop that manages to turn into an overly r&b saturated joint when Terri Robinson (from the short-lived eighties group The Gyrlz) shows up to sing the hook. Someone named Phat Doug (who I thought was Kid Capri) adds some unnecessary adlibs on the hook, which starts to become annoying by the midway point. Not a big fan of this one.
Who’s The Man? – This was the lead single from Blue Funk. MTV’s Dr. Dre and Ed Lover released a movie a few months after Blue Funk was released with the same title as this song. Ironically, the soundtrack for the movie would include a song with the same title, performed by House Of Pain, not Heavy D. Heavy D would actually have a song on the album, but not this one (I guess it would have been kind of strange to have two songs with the same title on the same album). Tony Dofat’s instrumental is cool, but this is definitely not one of the strongest songs on the album.
Talk Is Cheap – Heavy opens this one chanting lines from reggae artists Chaka Demus & Pliers’ classic “Bam Bam”, and drops what may be some of the roughest rhyme in his catalog on this one. “So Money knock it off with the tough guy imagery, you think I aint tough cause I don’t talk tough? Scrimmage me”. But don’t expect hard bars from Hev throughout, as he spits his share of nonsense on this one as well. Skeff Anselm hooks up an understated but enjoyable backdrop for Heavy to lay his bars over.
Girl – Heavy get his chant on over this reggae flavored instrumental. In the interview interlude before the song starts, Heavy explains to the interviewer how important the black woman is to the black man. Then he spends the length of the song praising the black woman’s beauty and waistline, while offering up his phone number (shallow much). Then he completely abandons his praise of only black women and begins to shout out Japanese and Indian women as well. Not that I’m opposed to it (there are beautiful woman of every ethnicity), but it kind of shits on everything he talks about in the interlude before it. Never really cared much for this song and I still don’t.
It’s A New Day – The title of this song is kind of odd, considering all of Heavy’s verses are about the crime and violence that takes place in the hood. Heavy’s last verse is based on the true life event of his brother being murdered, which is pretty sad. Pete Rock is responsible for the instrumental (and he uses the same Jimmy McGriff loop that he used on Redman’s “How To Roll A Blunt”), which is decent at best. I can appreciate the sentiment, but I never really cared for this one either.
Who’s In The House – This is probably my favorite Heavy D song of all time (even if he didn’t punctuate the title with a question mark) and easily my favorite song on Blue Funk. Tony Dofat slides the Heavster an instrumental that is equally melancholy and upbeat, and completely what I would expect to hear when I think of the term “Blue Funk”. Heavy sounds right at home over the up-tempo backdrop, flipping words like a limber gymnast, even though half of them aren’t real words. Heavy, who is better known for his flow than his lyricism, drops a few clever punch lines on this one well (“I never run, I never ran, cause I’m not the running man, I can do more than one, so call me Toucan Sam”). This is one of those songs that I can listen to a million times and never get tired of it.
Love Sexy – Pete Rock builds this instrumental around a nasty loop from Hamilton Bohannon’s “Singing A Song For My Mother”. Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs used it for “I Got To Have It”, but the way PR flips it (combined with the seductive female voices on the hook) gives it a much sexier feel then the former. Heavy’s rhymes have almost nothing to do with the song title, but PR’s instrumental matches the song title perfectly. Listen to it and you’ll agree.
Slow Down – I never really cared for this one. Jesse West’s instrumental kind of drags and his inclusion of the (by this point) regurgitated Lafayette Afro Rock Band saxophone loop (see Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker” and N2Deep’s “Back To The Hotel”) was misguided. When you add that to Heavy’s ingenuine (and borderline nonsensical) verses about relationships and the subpar harmonies from Terri Robinson and a Tabitha Brace, this one quickly becomes underwhelming.
Silky – Heavy drops more random rhymes and jibber jabber, in an attempt to convince the listener that he has lyrical potency. Jesse West build this instrumental around a loop from King Floyd’s “Groove Me”, which one would think would result in a pretty funky backdrop. Unfortunately, it’s not that impressive. This one is forgettable.
Here Comes The Heavster – Premo slides Hev some old rough slickness for this one. Matter of fact, it’s so slick that Hev felt the need to slow down his flow pace and bring his vocal tone down an octave to accommodate it. Hev is cool on this one, but Premo’s brilliant backdrop is was carriers the song.
Blue Funk – Heavy sounds like he’s on a first date on this one, as he talks about what he likes to eat (chicken soup), do in his leisure time (take spins in his Lexus, watch cartoons and listen to Bob Marley records) and his future plans for a family (“when the time is right I’d like to have a little Heavster”). PR’s backdrop for this title track and second single is dope and perfectly fits the description of what blue funk should sound like.
Yes Y’all – Premo gets his second and final production credit on Blue Funk, revisiting the Aretha Franklin loop he used on the “92 Interlude” from Daily Operation. And Heavy, does Heavy. This concludes what was a wicked three song production combo, brought to you by two of the greatest to ever do it. Come to think of it, Blue Funk is one of only three albums, that I can think of, that feature production from both Pete Rock and Premier (with Illmatic and Termanology’s Politics As Usual, being the other two). If you can’t think of any others, hit me in the comments.
A Buncha Niggas – Heavy closes Blue Funk with this cipher cut, inviting 3rd Eye (which is the emcee alias for producer Jesse West, who also produced this track), Guru, Biggie Smalls, Rob-O and Busta Rhymes to join in the party. It’s kind of eerie listening to this song now, considering three of the seven emcees involved are now dead. At this point Biggie was still finding himself and sounds like Mr Funke from Lords Of The Underground with a more animated style (see “Gimmie The Loot”) than he will be remembered for. Speaking of animated, Busta Rhymes (who after his energetic contribution to ATCQ’s “Scenario” was quickly becoming a cameo whore) gets the last verse of the song and tries to make it work off of his energy alone, but without decent bars, he falls flat. Come to think of it, none of the emcees on this one sound impressive. West’s instrumental is cool, but it could have used a tighter mix; as is, the more monotone emcees (Guru and Rob O) vocals are hard to hear as the instrumental drowns them out.
Blue Funk is my favorite Heavy D album and the purist hip-hop album in his catalog, but that doesn’t mean it’s without flaws. There are a few r&b flavored joints that could have been left off and a handful of other mediocre songs (including the watered down closing cipher joint) that I could do without. Thankfully, Premo, Pete Rock and Tony Dofat (who may have out done the former two with his backdrop on “Who’s In The House”) provide a nice dosage of underrated heat for the overweight lover to spit over, bringing balance to Blue Funk.
Heavy ends Blue Funk with this quote: “When I’m over, when it’s done and said, when I’ve made my last album because you don’t appreciate the music no more, I will step away. But I’m not going to step away without someone saying “that nigga Heavy D, was rough in his day”. I don’t know if “rough” is the best adjective to describe Heavy D, but there is no denying his charisma, dope voice, solid delivery and showmanship, all attributes that will cement his lasting legacy in hip-hop. Rest in peace.