All Killer, No Filler

Heavy D's latest is an excellent 45-minute sampler of the 1999 sounds of hip-hop.

For over 10 years, Heavy D has been one of hip-hop's

most reliable pop hitmakers, scoring gold or platinum

albums each time out the box and establishing room in hip-

hop for rotund rappers who tip the lyrical hat to their size

without going the self-mocking route of the Fat Boys. There

aren't many rappers with Heavy D's longevity, and

Heavy, his latest, shows us why. Its up-to-date

sound and danceable beats are a testament to his ability to

groove with the times, while his engaging lyrics can tackle

the serious and the silly with equal aplomb

More than anything, Heavy sounds like a sampling of

the 1999 sounds of hip-hop. The album kicks off with a slow

bouncing "Like Dat Dhere," which sounds like a missing Jay-

Z track. It continues with the Ma$e-like pop-rap of "Imagine

That," touches on rolling, funky Southern rap with "You

Know" (RealAudio excerpt) (which features Cee-Lo of Goodie Mob) and then

invites Q-Tip to tackle the hook on the A Tribe Called

Quest–esque "Listen." Heavy D delivers a quick-

lipped rap on "Don't Stop," a la Bone Thugs-N-

Harmony, and he performs a Big Pun/Fat Joe Latino-

flavored rap on "Spanish Fly." A true rap veteran, Heavy D

performs each hip-hop subgenre with passion and skill. The

only thing missing here is gritty Wu-Tang lyricism, Miami

bass and West Coast g-funk, but Heavy D does such a

stand-up job with so many different rap styles, he's forgiven

for not overextending himself.

Heavy's most effective tracks are its two most

personal songs: "Dancing in the Night" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Ask Heaven."

The former is not the party song the title implies, but rather

a song about dancing alone to banish grief over the loss of

a loved one. Its swirling rock guitars, steady hip-hop beat

and half-sung, half-rapped lyrics are reminiscent of

Everlast's emotional work on Whitey Ford Sings the

Blues, but the song is far from a rip-off. "Ask Heaven,"

meanwhile, is an R&B-laced song that addresses the loss

of his Heavy D's brothers, and he goes far beyond pouring

out liquor for his dead homies. He explains what his

brothers meant to him and how their drug-related deaths

have affected him. When Chico DeBarge croons the

chorus, you get the feeling it's because Heavy D was too

overcome with emotion to do it himself.

Those are the, uh, heaviest songs on Heavy. The

remaining 10 are strictly PG-13 fun for the clubs and radio

and not a one has anything wrong with it besides sounding

something like another well-known rap. In this era of

rappers' releasing 75 minutes of mostly sound-alike filler,

Heavy's 45 minutes of varied hip-hop sounds is a

breath of fresh air.