When you've been out of the spotlight for a while, one good way to make a triumphant return is to surround yourself with big names. The formula's not foolproof, as evidenced by Run-D.M.C.'s Crown Royal, but it sure worked for Santana, so heavyweight rapper Heavy D is willing to give it a shot.
His new album, H.E.V., will feature appearances by Faith Evans, Loon and P. Diddy, who will also provide production assistance. The rapper only has three tracks left to cut, and he hopes to have the disc out early next year. On other fronts, Heavy D is working with Jay-Z on a track for the superstar's next album, and he's also been in the studio with Fat Joe.
Heavy D left the rap world after 1999's Heavy to focus on his acting career (appearing in such films as "The Cider House Rules," "Larceny" and "Big Trouble"), and during that time the hip-hop scene gravitated away from the old-school funky grooves upon which Heavy D thrived. He's convinced the respite was healthy, and now he's returning to the game in an era that's more embracing of his trademark style.
"The way music is now, it just fits what I do," he said. "It's melodic and really danceable and headed back to being fun, and I want to be a part of that."
At the same time, Heavy D is making an effort to reach out to folks who grew up with his music but who might have abandoned hip-hop style as they've aged.
"I'm making records to fit a generation that's kind of lost right now," he explained. "There are lots of people who are in their twenties and thirties who still are hip-hop fans, but now they're lawyers, they're doctors, they're schoolteachers, and they don't really get into the day to day slang of hip-hop right now. They're not gonna wear their jeans a certain way and they're not going to wear certain clothes. So I think I'm trying to reach out to that as well as the younger market. When you have the combination of hip-hop and pop, I think you can invite everybody to it."
Songs on H.E.V. include "Just a Little Bit" (featuring Loon, with production by P. Diddy), "Would You Love Me?" (with Faith Evans and P. Diddy) "They Love Me California," "Heavy" and the reggae-tinged "Delilah."
While it's too early to announce a single, Heavy D is especially proud of the cut with Evans, on which he raps, "If I never made a video/ If I never made all of this dough/ Would you love me?/ Would you still be down for me?"
"It's me putting myself in this scenario where I'm going, 'What if I really wasn't this guy that I am now?' " Heavy said. "Would this crop of folks I've got around me eyeing me on a day to day basis still love me? Probably not."
In addition to working on his own record, Heavy D has been busy with a slew of production and writing projects. P. Diddy recruited his services for a number of baby groups on Bad Bay, and he's also worked with Black Rob and G. Dep. The project he's buzzing the most about at the moment, however, is a track he's just written for the next Jay-Z album.
"It's very different. I can't go into detail too much, but it's something very different, and people ain't expecting it," he said. "It's incredible. When I brought it to him, we sat in the car for like an hour just vibing to it. And he was like, 'I gotta do the record.' So, we're finishing up now."
Heavy D has also been helping out his old friend Fat Joe. The two have frequently talked about collaborating, but it didn't happen until recently when Joe was having trouble with a few tracks for his next record.
"He played me a couple of things that weren't flowing, so I was like, 'A'ight, by the time I get to New York I'm going to have one for you,' " recalled Heavy. "When I got in, I called him up and was like, 'Yo, check this out.' And he listened to it and was like, 'Yo, I have to do that.' So, we went to the studio and just laid it down."