Heavy D & The Boyz – Blue Funk (1992)*
On Blue Funk, their fourth studio album, Heavy D & The Boyz largely eschew the New Jack Swing sound that defined their earlier work in favour of an East Coast-influenced, boom-bap style that is grittier and “entirely streetwise.” The album’s beats, courtesy of legendary producers DJ Premier, Pete Rock (Heavy D’s cousin), Tony Dofat and others, are, for the most part, typical of early ’90s New York hip-hop; that is to say, excellent. Replete with atmospheric, heavily chopped horn samples, deep bass lines and hard hitting snares, the beats complement Heavy D’s rhymes without overshadowing them (except on “Girl” – which is a terrible track all around).
Diggers will easily recognize several of the album’s samples, including those tapped for use on “Who’s the Man?” (based on a sample from “Fly Like an Eagle” by Steve Miller Band), “Slow Down” (based on a sample from “Darkest Light” by Lafayette Afro Rock Band also used by Jay-Z for “Show Me What You Got”), the title track (based on a sample from Lou Donaldson’s “Pot Belly” also used by A Tribe Called Quest for “If the Papes Come”) and “Yes Y’All” and “Love Sexy” (you’ll recognize these popular loops right away).
Lyrically, the album is somewhat of a mixed bag. Although stylistically impressive, Heavy D’s rush to embrace a more hardcore aesthetic often results in rhymes that sacrifice content for empty braggadocio. Indeed, the Overweight Lover spends much of the album boasting about women, threatening snitches and bragging about his “ghetto props.” Although undeniably talented on the mic, Heavy D’s rapid fire delivery and complex wordplay are largely wasted thanks to Blue Funk’s mundane subject matter. The interludes, which feature Heavy D discussing, among other things, the role of black women in African American society, life in the ghetto and materialism do little to counterbalance the album’s lyrical shortcomings.
Overall, Blue Funk suffers too much from Heavy D’s obvious desire to accrue street cred. If you’re a Heavy D fan the album is worth downloading just to hear how much he tries to change his sound, otherwise I’d recommend it mainly for the excellent production. Blue Funk is also noteworthy because of Notorious B.I.G.’s appearance on the posse cut “A Buncha Niggas,” which was the legendary Brooklyn mc’s first major label recording.
* [zipped and in .wma format]