From the 1992 Album: “Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1”
“Brand New Heavies play the sh*t that/People used to listen to in ’70s Chevys.” With that succinct and flawless couplet from the awesome opening track, “Bonafide Funk,” Large Professor helped to explain why there was a certain herd of influential rappers who were enthralled by the Brand New Heavies’ sleek (some would say slick) and urbanely stylish Anglo take on classic American funk and soul after the quartet released its eponymous debut in 1991: They were pulling the very same vintage-groove LPs from their crates for inspiration. When the Heavies made their first trip to American shores, both Q-Tip and 3rd Bass’ MC Serch were quick to show their respect by hopping on-stage with the band (likely the event that planted the seed for Heavy Rhyme Experience), and the latter rapper even predicted that The Brand New Heavies would be the source material for a decade’s worth of loops and samples for rap producers. Serch’s enthusiastic forecast never quite materialized, but it is hard to argue with his logic after you hear this landmark collaborative experiment. A live hip-hop band wasn’t a complete novelty at the time — proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron utilized jazz backing, Tackhead was the house band for Sugarhill Records all the way back in the late ’70s, and the self-proclaimed “world’s one and only hip-hop band,” Stetsasonic had been fully live for several years by that point — but never before had rap taken such an on-the-fly, jam-like approach. Spontaneous combustion resulted. Never before (and perhaps never since) had the Heavies managed to sound this deliciously in-the-pocket and playful, and the MCs beautifully follow their lead. Guru sounds looser and more whimsical on “It’s Gettin Hectic” than on any Gang Starr track. Simon Bartholomew’s teasing guitar lines poke holes in Grand Puba’s swollen-tongued bluster on “Who Makes the Loot?” Kool G. Rap is given the blaxploitation backing he had always deserved. And Ed. O.G. and Pharcyde do verbal gymnastics that must be heard. But every vocalist here blooms from the pairing. The only regret is that N’Dea Davenport was not included in some capacity, considering how much she added to the Heavies. Too bad, as well, that there was never a volume two. One wonders what sort of magic Posdnuos and Trugoy of De La Soul, the Leaders of the New School trio, Rakim, or Chuck D. could have conjured had they been tapped as collaborators, or from the West Coast Ice Cube and Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Still, Heavy Rhyme Experience, Vol. 1 is a match made in heaven.