The first time I ever heard Heather B rhyme was on “7 Dee Jays” off BDP’s Edutainment album back in 1990. After D-Nice kicks the song off with a verse full of player/pimp rhetoric, Heather slides in second and aggressively spits conscious bars that find her on the verge of slicing the oppressor with razors, dissin’ Margaret Thatcher and “bustin’ shots for South Africa.” A year later she would get a solo joint on the H.E.A.L. Project, Civilization Vs. Technology (which was a pretty dope record), and in 1992 she would make history becoming the first Black woman on the first season of the first ever reality TV show (damn, that’s a lot of firsts), The Real World: New York. The show would make history, changing the course of television programming forever, and I’d be willing to bet it helped Heather land a deal with EMI, where she would release her debut album, Takin Mine in June of ‘96.
Staying loyal to her Boogie Down Production crew, HB would call on KRS-One’s little brother and BDP member, Kenny Parker, to produce nine of the ten tracks on Takin Mine, with Da Beatminerz producing the lone loosey. Takin Mine would produce three singles, with one of them turning into a hood classic (more on that in a bit), and the album would go on to have modest success, reaching thirty-six on the Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Charts.
I remember a few of the singles from Takin Mine, but I didn’t buy or listen to the album back in the day. A few years ago, I did find a used cd copy at a bookstore and now is the perfect time to crack it open and give a few spins.
FYI: Heather B does specifically, shoutout “Jarobi & Phife” in the album’s liner notes, so we can check off Tribe Degrees of Separation for this post.
Da Heartbreaka – Don’t let the song title fool you. Heather’s not breaking hearts romantically with this song, but instead she uses this opening track to rip the heart out of wack emcees, with Kenny Parker as her accomplish, as he lays down a stripped-down boom bap beat to back her shit talk. Unfortunately, her rhymes don’t deliver what her enthusiasm sells, and Kenny’s backdrop matches her bars in mediocrity.
All Glocks Down – This was the lead single from Takin Mine, and the hood classic that I mentioned in the intro that will forever be Heather B’s crown jewel. Kenny Parker puts a hard drum beat underneath a dope flip of a sample from The Stylistics” People Make The World Go Round,” turning the combination into a certified banger. Heather spits decent rhymes and adds a catchy high energy hook (that really has nothing to do with her bars), but Kenny’s instrumental is so fire that Alvin & The Chipmunks would sound decent rapping over it. Side note: the video for this song features a young Omar Epps wildin’ out, uncontrollably nodding his head as he listens to the hard beat while playing NBA Live on the Sega Genesis (Oh, what memories), which I found super hi-larious.
If Headz Only Knew – For the backdrop, Kenny combines a sturdy drum beat with a bellowing bass line and a loop of what sounds like a dramatic laser beam, while HB disses Tempest Bledsoe’s short-lived talk show (remember that?), talks more shit, and gets off a pretty solid metaphor that compares her freestyle to a game of basketball during the third verse. This was actually pretty decent.
My Kinda Nigga – M.O.P. drops by and joins Heather for this cipher session that has the trio trying to out bully rap each other and out grimy Kenny’s manufactured gutter production. Unfortunately, the record doesn’t have enough grime of gutter to give it much replay value.
Takin Mine – The title track is an inspirational one that finds our hostess determined to make it in the industry despite her doubters and the challenges thrown her way. KP backs HB’s bars with a somber-esque backdrop that nicely brings it all together like a zipper on a butter leather. Shoutout to the legendary, Black Thought.
Mad Bent – HB only spends a portion of her verses (and the hook) focused on getting drunk and high. The rest of the song is dedicated to her trying her damnedest to spit fire, as she continues to scream her bars, unnecessarily extending her voice. KP’s backdrop sounded bland my first few times threw Takin Mine but grows on me the more I listen to it.
Sendin ‘Em Back – Kenny serves up some dark devilish boom-bap and Heather puts together arguably, her strongest bars of the album, as she continues to talk her shit with bars that appear to be aimed at her female counterparts: “I chip tooths, knockin ’em loose at one time, that’s for all them hoes that don’t write they own rhymes, repeat after me, ‘Heather B, Heather B’, lyrically, lyrically got all these hoes shook, What, you think you can’t get yo title took? You are not the type to even hold a mic, you rhyme, but I write, you fuss but I fight, I am all the truth, and you are all the fuckin’ hype.” And they claim that men are responsible for pitting female emcees against each other. Regardless, this is easily one of the strongest songs on Takin Mine.
No Doubt – Average mid-grade boom bap.
Real Niggaz Up – Heather invites a few of her 54th Regiment bredrin (Thorough Ass Bo and Tone 2000) to join her on this cipher session, as all three parties spew competent rhymes over Da Beatminerz average and discretely rugged instrumental. That’s all I got.
What Goes On – HB dedicates the last song of the night to all the thorough brothers aka “noccas” out there. Her “noccas” include her homeboys and possible romantic prospects, which she has some pretty interesting criteria for (basically, he has to be a shirtless, Hilfiger boxer-fatigue wearing drug dealer who provides her with an endless supply of weed). Kenny loops us Kool & The Gang’s “Summer Madness,” which is nearly impossible to mess up, but he comes damn near close to doing that with his watered-down flip of the sample. This one was pretty weak.
The conscious Heather B that I was first introduced to on “7 Dee Jays” and the H.E.A.L. Project is completely missing from Takin Mine. Instead, HB uses most of the album’s ten tracks to smoke, drink, fight, rep her 54th Regiment crew, call out chicks that don’t write their own rhymes, and just talk regular emcee shit. Most of Heather’s rhymes are decent, but her voice sounds strained throughout the album as she over aggressively delivers her lines and sounds a little uncomfortable in her flow. The production on Takin Mine is a consistent batch of boom bap joints, but with the exception of the undeniable banger that is “All Glocks Down,” they’re average at best, lacking heart and soul.
On “No Doubt” Heather shares her dream of wanting to be “More Illmatic than Nas.” She clearly didn’t achieve that goal with Takin Mine, but she did end up marrying Nas’ childhood friend and Braveheart crew member, Big Horse, so that should count for something, right?