First off, I give my condolences and send positive energy to the Family, Friends, and Fans of Heavy D.
Yesterday I saw the news of his passing and as I began to process it my mind focused on what that loss means to the people close to him and the people he affected in life. Heavy D was connected to a lot of people in this business; Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Marley Marl, Andre Harrell, Puff Daddy, Howie Tee, Johnny Gill, Daddy Freddy, Just Ice, Biz Markie, Aaron Hall, K-Ci & JoJo, Tony Dofat, Flavor Unit, Johnny Gill, Jay Z, Damon Dash, Fabolous, Trackmasterz, Beanie Sigel, Timbaland, Teddy Riley and the list goes on. Looking at those names it gives you some perspective of how diverse his music was, as well as the various eras of Hip Hop that he had a hand in.
Heavy D was one of the first MCs to successfully crossover to the Pop market and still maintain some love in the Underground as well. As if that wasn't impressive enough on it's own, you also have the fact that not only his name, but also his calling, "The Overweight Lover", and debut album title, "Living Large", focused on the fact that he was not your cookie cutter image of a Pop Star, let alone a Sex Symbol. I remember reading in Russell Simmons Bio ("Life And Def" Book) that when Andre Harrell & Heavy D visited his office to pitch him as a R&B Friendly Sex Symbol Rap Artist, Russell was not at all convinced and passed on it. That prompted Andre "Dr Jeckyll" Harrell to go out on his own to start the Uptown Records imprint, get a MCA Deal and prove Russell wrong with a string of Platinum Heavy D records. I suppose you can't really fault Russell, I'm guessing just about every A&R did or would have laughed them out of their door in trying to pitch that concept. However, what those corporations and A&Rs didn't take in to consideration was that his personality, versatility, determination and talent pool was each far larger than his size. It was those factors that allowed him to have a successful and door-opening career in Hip Hop that later transitioned into a acting career that was still active.
I figure there will be a lot of Heavy D dedication posts popping up all over this week and they are most likely to focus on his biggest hits such as "Now That We Found Love", "Girlz, They Love Me", "Overweight Lovers In The House", "We Got Our Own Thing" and of course, "Mr Big Stuff". However, I wanted to focus on the fact that as a MC, when he wanted to get down to the business of ripping the mic, he could flow with the best of them. Here's some of my favorites from his catalog:
1)Uptown's Kickin It Compilation (Uptown/MCA 1986): This is the compilation that launched his career and the result of that meeting with Russell Simmons that I spoke about above. This compilation was pretty much responsible for introducing the world to Groove B Chill, Woody Rock, Finesse & Synquis, The Brothers Black and Heavy D. Some of the others went on to record albums and do some things in the business, if only for a short time, but Heavy D and The Boyz certainly emerged as the stars of this project. The album features his "Mr Big Stuff" debut and he's also featured on the crew posse cut, "Uptown's Kickin' It":
Heavy D-Mr Big Stuff:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Mr-Big-Stuff1.mp3|titles=Mr Big Stuff]
Uptown's Kickin' It Music Video:
2)Living Large Album (MCA 1987): Production from Marley Marl, DJ Eddie F, Heavy D and Teddy Riley. This album is a key piece to the New Jack Swing puzzle. I would say that the best joint on the album to showcase his MC skills is "Overweighter" which samples from Jackson 5's "ABC". The production is handled by DJ Eddie F, who despite being the most unknown producer on the album, arguabley provides the best tracks. He's also pretty nice on the cuts. In other words, give Eddie F his props too!
3)Marley Marley presents Biz Markie & Heavy D-We Write The Songs (Cold Chillin 1988): On this joint you can already see Heavy D's growth as a MC from his debut just a year earlier. Him and Biz Markie make a great combo. It's also the source of a quote that I find myself always saying, but forgot where it came from and that it was Heavy D who said it**, "Lord have mercy on those who curse me"...
Marley Marl-We Write The Songs:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/02-We-Write-the-Songs.mp3|titles=02 We Write the Songs]
4)Just Ice-Ram Dance Hall Session (Fresh 1989): This is unexpected and often forgot collaboration on "The Desolate One" album. Heavy D was born in Jamaica and regularly mixed Reggae in his music. Here Just Ice connects with him for a pure Reggae joint.
Just Ice-Ram Dance Hall Sessions:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/09-Ram-Dance-Hall-Session-feat-Heavy-D.mp3|titles=09 Ram Dance Hall Session feat Heavy D]
5)Big Tyme Album (MCA 1989): I was a much bigger fan of "Big Tyme" than his debut. I think he really developed his flow, style, delivery on this album. Admittedly, I hadn't listened to this album in years and when I listened to it last night I found that it was even better than I remembered. Marley Marl, DJ Eddie F, and Teddy Riley all return as producers, but this album also launches the production career for a young Pete Rock, as Heavy D was a key supporter for him early on. I had a hard time deciding what songs to use to represent here. I decided to go with two joints; 1)We Got Our Own Thing: Produced by Teddy Riley and is a bit of a mixture of New Jack Swing and Hip House. The thought of that probably makes the average Hardcore rap fan's head explode, but this is a great example of Heavy D's gift. On here, his flow is pretty ridiculous and he delivers some well-written lyrics with the aggression of a battle rap, but keeps the content focused on dancing, love-making and positivity. 2)"Let It Flow" just lets Heavy D go all out on the MC tip and flex his skills over a DJ Eddie F and Pete Rock collaborative track. My 3rd choice was "A Better Land", but I'll save that to rock on Redefinition Radio this weekend with a special Heavy D set.
Heavy D-We Got Our Own Thing:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/01-We-Got-Our-Own-Thang.mp3|titles=01 We Got Our Own Thang]
Heavy D-Let It Flow:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/12-Let-It-Flow.mp3|titles=12 Let It Flow]
6)Stop The Violence Movement-Self Destruction featuring KRS One, Kool Moe Dee, Stetsasonic, Just Ice, D Nice, Ms Melodie, Doug E Fresh, Public Enemy, and Heavy D (Jive 1989): Classic joint organized by KRS One to tackle Black On Black Crime and Violence in the Hip Hop community. Heavy D would continue that concept on his next album as well...*
Stop The Violence:
7)Peaceful Journey Album (MCA 1991): This album is dedicated to a member of his crew, The Boyz, Trouble T-Roy who had recently passed away. He got a hit radio song on this album with "Now That We Found Love" and satisfied with the Underground Posse Cut Classic, "Don't Curse" featuring Kool G Rap, Grand Puba, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Big Daddy Kane and Q Tip. However, this album also produced what is probably my all time favorite Heavy D track, "Letter To The Future". I remember I first heard this on a tape of a Marley Marl radio show. I bugged off the Pete Rock produced track which is the first I remember using the S.O.U.L "Peace Of Mind" sample. Lyrically, he speaks on all the violence in the community just paints to powerful pictures and presents the issues in the way that I imagine had to hit home for people out there doing and/or affected by these conditions.
Heavy D-Letter To The Future:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/10-Letter-to-the-Future.mp3|titles=10 Letter to the Future]
8 )You Can't See What I Can See (B-side 1992): He was on fire right about now! This is a B-side exclusive track on the "Don't Curse" 12". it's produced by Chad Elliot and Puff Daddy. I remember this music video coming on a lot and trying to figure out what album it was on!! I finally got my hands on the 12". He is styling on fools!! Check for the music video too!
Heavy D-You Can't See What I Can See:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Heavy-D-You-Cant-See-What-I-Can-See.mp3|titles=Heavy D-You Cant See What I Can See]
9)Blue Funk (MCA 1992): For this album he had some production heavy-hitters, as I suppose he generally did anyway, but it's a great line up for the time period; Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Tony Dofat, Skeff Anslem, Jesse West, etc... There's some great joints on here. I have to admit though, this is a album I have had a "weird" relationship with. Thru out his whole career, his balance of the Hardcore and the Commercial sound always felt very natural and not forced. Here it seemed like it was trying a little hard to force it. Truthfully, it's just as likely that it was my own sensitivity, as I was becoming more frustrated with the explosion of commercial rap so I was probably less tolerant of it. In any event, I brought "Blue Funk" and rocked a lot of the joints on the regular. I still pull them out from time to time... Here's the DJ Premier produced "Here Comes The Hevster":
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/10-Here-Comes-The-Heavster.mp3|titles=10 Here Comes The Heavster]
10)Flavor Unit MCs-Roll With The Flavor (Flavor Unit/Epic 1993): He was rolling with the Flavor Unit literally around this time, which explains the Tony Dofat production on "Blue Funk" and a couple other appearances. Not much else to say except about half-way thru this track Heavy D flows like champ!
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/02-Roll-Wit-Tha-Flava-1.mp3|titles=02 Roll Wit Tha Flava 1]
11)Queen Latifah featuring Treach, KRS One, & Heavy D (Motown 1993): A nice Posse Cut on the "Black Reign" album.
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/04-Rough-feat-KRS-One-Treach-Heavy-D.mp3|titles=04 Rough feat KRS One, Treach, Heavy D]
-BONUS: Many probably don't think of Heavy D as a Producer as well, but he was heavily involved in the production of his albums. He came back in the early 2000s with some surprise production credits for Fabulous, Beanie Sigel, and more. It first got my attention and caught me off guard when I saw him listed as the producer for this joint; Jay Z featuring Lenny Kravitz-Guns & Roses:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2-02-Guns-Roses.mp3|titles=2-02 Guns & Roses]
There's just a taste of the skills of the man known as Heavy D as we celebrate his life and career. All the comments I see now about him match what I had heard about him for years; that he was a great, giving, loving, funny and dedicated person. His contributions to this Culture are to be forever remembered and appreciated....
Written By Kevin Beacham
*I also assume this is what inspired Heavy D's roll as a Door Man/Bouncer in one of his early movies (Who's The Man??) from his line, "Hev is at the door so there'll be no bum-rushing...
**Shout to my dude, L.A. from my old crew, Wildstyle. For some odd reason, I always find myself regularly thinking about him quoting Heavy D lyrics all the time...