My friend Jesse Serwer of Okay Player’s Large Up asked me to pontificate on some personally formative record that had a particular Jamaican influence and immediately I knew what I was going to speak on. Being from Philly, I was raised on Poor Righteous Teacher, YZ and the whole New Jersey rap-reggae hybrid sound. So I had to throw two personal favorite, and relevant jawns up in the mix.
Cosmo Baker has the distinction of being one of the only DJs we know that pretty much every other DJ rates. Not only does the co-founder of Brooklyn party/remix collective The Rub have impeccable taste, skills and instincts when it comes to playing records, but he’s a veritable font of knowledge about hip-hop, soul, reggae and every other music genre that matters. Fortunately for us and readers of his fine website, he likes sharing that knowledge. Here, the Philadelphia native breaks down Almighty & K.D. Ranks’ “Trenton Where We Live” and “U Can’t Escape The Hypeness” by Blvd. Mosse, two records that highlight the little-known role that nearby Trenton, New Jersey played in the meshing of rap and reggae in the early 1990s. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.
It was a pretty rough and tough day for me in general, kind of from the start. But like one has to do, you just power through it and keep yourself busy so that you can make it to the end of the day, finally rest, and then pick yourself up and dust yourself off the next morning.
Today I took over the SOL Republic Twitter Feed. For those that don’t know, SOL Republic is a new headphone company that is working together with me and a bunch of my buddies, including but not limited to Steve Aoki, DJ Morse Code, DJ Gina Turner, Thee Mike B, Nickodemus, Roxy Cottontail and more… They’re really good headphones and part of the marketing campaign is to have “celebrities” (I know, I’m using that term lightly) do a day’s worth of Tweets from their account. Pretty fun for sure – and peep the SOL Republic Facebook Page and headphones themselves!
Anyway, halfway through my furious barrage of Tweets for SOL I started to notice virtual noise about Heavy D, and how he may or may not have died, and so after I got back to The Lab I logged on to my own account and found the news…
Heavy D was and always has been one of my favorite rappers, and hip-hop personalities in general. His music was fun and engaging but never trite nor did it ever rely on being gimmicky. The Heavster’s music spanned a career of well over 20 years and his music was always relevant, and just outright good. From the early days of “Overweight Lover” where he enlisted some of rap music’s finest producers at an early age (Marley Marl, Teddy Riley) to the early 90s where his sound went through a crucial metamorphosis with “Big Tyme” bringing in elements of New Jack Swing and Hip-House into the mix (as well as introducing the world to his younger cousin, an up and coming producer named Pete Rock.) Then there’s the more reflective “Peaceful Journey” that came about after the death of Hev’s friend and dancer Trouble T Roy, an incident that inspired Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth’s hip-hop perennial classic “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)“. “Peaceful Journey” also contains one of the greatest Posse Cuts of all time, “Don’t Curse” (seen below.)
The jewel in the crown to me is his 1993 release “Blue Funk” which may or may not be his magnum opus. This is a fully realized and fleshed out album that is rock-solid from front to back and is a shining example of music that bridges the gap bewteen the polished sound that he was known for and the more raw and gritty sound that rap music would become in the mid 90s. It didn’t hurt to bring on board producers like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Jesse West and Tony Dofat to help solidify the sound, as well as givin a new up-and-coming MC from Brooklyn one of (if not THE) first appearance on a record, the one and only Biggie Smalls. Click here to peep the song “A Buncha Ni66as” on my Happy Birthday Biggie post, which also includes the late, great Guru of Gang Starr. Guru, Biggie and The Heavster are all rapping in a cipher in the afterlife together now… I still listen to this album today and it has aged very very well, and is a great snapshot into the emerging change in the sound of rap music.
Hev continued to push himself further with his music, as well as getting involved with discovering new talent, producing music himself, executive producing and even acting (truth be told, he actually was a good actor.) He will be missed. It’s a sad sad day for me. RIP Heavy D… Losing people sucks.
Post script: To me this is kind of the proof in the pudding. This record came out in 1989 and as a young buck when I heard it I was kind floored, by the actual music and lyrics, the all-star lineup, and the message and philosophy behind it. Decidedly not a “party jam” per se, “Self Destruction” actual did get burn at house parties and the like, and to this day is cemented in the annals of rap history as a landmark record. It was an across the board, artist-driven collaborative effort that was unique at the time and actually had a overt socially conscious impetus behind it. Plus that shit is funky as hell, and to this day a record that I can accurately rap every single last lyric of it by heart. But here’s what I’m getting at – just look at the roster of rappers on this record. KRS-One. Wise, Fruitkwan, MC Delight & Daddy-O of Stetsasonic (one of the most underrated rap groups in history,) D-Nice, Kool Moe Dee, Ms. Melody, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Just Ice, Public Enemy & Heavy D. Every last one of them a heavyweight. Every last one of them bringing their A++ Game. Not one weak link – and yes, I’ll even ride for Ms. Melody on this record. But since day one, to me, there’s nobody who brought it harder and more impacting than The Heavster. Since day one I’ve thought that, and even now watching the video and the moment he steps from behind that cherry-red Cherokee, he’s the living embodiment of the Dead-As-Dillinger buzz term “swagger.” So on top of all his accomplishments and accolades, there’s one piece of the puzzle that will never be lost to me, and that is of Heavy D. the RAPPER. One of the finest of this craft in history.
Life is funny, and relentless. And it sucks losing people. But you just have to stay inspired in order to move. We just move and we move and we move and we keep on moving. And then you move some more. Like sharks that move so that they can live, and perish in fathoms below if they don’t. We move. Until the end of the line, when the lights are out and the stools are up, cash is counted and keys in hand. And you look back, everything that came before is what made us. The experience as fiber. Happenstance the very oil that moves this machine forward, none of us in power just along for the ride. Moving. Inspired.
Dwight Arrington “Heavy D.” Myers’ final Tweet. Rest in power, brother.
Edited: Here is a fantastic and well executed tribute mix to The Heavster done by my man Scott Melker. Scott is a terrific DJ and producer, and just an all-around awesome dude. And if there’s one thing that I know about him, it’s that he loves himself some Heavy D. So it’s only fitting that he was the guy to have done this, and he knocked it out the park. Definitely check for Scott and also follow him on Twitter @scottmelker for some highly entertaining rants. Also my man Jesse Serwer published a great, and more in depth article on Large Up going in on the same thing (including some great examples from The YouTubes,) A very cool look at the Quasi-Jamaican oeuvre of The Heavster.. check that article here via Large Up / Okay Player.
DJ Stuart "Re-Work V2"
Wet "All The Ways" (Branchez Remix)
De La Soul "Beautiful Night"
With You "Ghost" feat. Vince Staples (Major Lazer Remix)
Tall Black Guy "The Heart Of The Town"
KRNE "I'll Be Good"
Drake "With You" Feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR
Christopher Cross "Ride Like The Wind" (Joey Negro Dub Disco Mix)
BAKERS DOZEN BONUS
Club Cheval "Discipline"
Mura Masa "What If I Go"
Kate Bush "Why Should I Love You?"