Heavy D and the Boyz ~ Big Tyme (1989)

Posted on June 2, 2013

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Heavy D & the Boyz were trailblazers in the worlds of both Hip Hop and rhythm and blues, though they’re seldom credited as such. The Mount Vernon, New York quartet, comprised of emcee Heavy D, DJ Eddie F, and dancers G-Wiz and Trouble T-Roy, rocked boulevards and nightclubs from 1987 through 1994; with a flavorful mélange of rap and R&B that forged an unbreakable bond between the two genres. In ’87, Heavy D & the Boyz touched down with Living Large, their gold-selling debut that introduced their inventive style, and put their label – Hip Hop Soul imprint Uptown Records – on the urban music map. Two years later, the Hevster and Co. refined their sound, and delivered a platinum platter in the summer of ’89: their classic sophomore set Big Tyme.

Thematically, Big Tyme is the beginning of Heavy D and the Boyz’ evolvement into a hybrid hit making machine. The syncopated rhythms, feel-good vibes, and Lothario mystique that the group would embody all emerge on this album; and each of these style elements gel perfectly. Teddy Riley, cofounder and producer of the Uptown trio Guy, helps the crew open the set with “We Got Our Own Thang”, a dance floor tester built on portions of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and “Funky President”; and filled in by smooth keys and organs, entrancing backing vocals from Riley, and Heavy D’s astonishing rhyme flow, which sounds as if its surgically attached to Teddy Riley’s percolating instrumental. DJ Eddie F laces the next cut “You Ain’t Heard Nuttin Yet”, and Eddie soothes and pounds the eardrums all at once; with a low bass boom that lies beneath the mahogany chords of Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic” and the drums and tambourines of Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It)”. With this as his backdrop, Heavy D flows like the Caspian Sea: lowering his milky baritone, smoothing out his delivery, and strutting across the track with precision for four and a half minutes. “Somebody For Me”, the album’s biggest hit, is a lovelorn anthem that still moves the body; and it features Hev searching for Ms. Right to no avail, while new jack swing icon Al B. Sure sings the hook, and Eddie F and 90’s R&B Svengali Nevelle Hodge tag-team on the song’s shimmying new jack groove. “Mood For Love” brings Heavy D’s cousin, the “Chocolate Boy Wonder” Pete Rock, into the mix, and the two legends co-produce a blissful reggae jam; one that features Hev toasting in divine harmony, and airlifting listeners to his place of birth (Kingston, Jamaica). Queensbridge immortal Marley Marl produces “EZ Duz It, Do It EZ”, and Marley puts a rugged yet melodic tint on his traditional soul clap, while Heavy D drops slick jewels by the pound, with a suaveness that few emcees could match. Mount Vernon (Heavy D) and Queens (Marley Marl) meet again on “Gyrlz They Love Me”, a Casanova charmer set to a crunched drum line and a subtle interpolating of The Meters’ “Thinking”, and finding Hev calmly revealing his seduction techniques, and illustrating how he earned the nickname “Overweight Lover”. And the Hevster and Marley connect one last time on “Here We Go Again, Y’all”; for a jubilant, go-go thumper that finds Hev gaming dimepieces, catching wreck in live shows, and doing it all with remarkable poise.

Heavy D and the Boyz made Big Tyme palatable enough for a wider audience; but they display great versatility on this album, and they take care to not forget their street roots. “A Better Land” opens with a Martin Luther King speech soundbite, and segues into an earnest plea for peace and unity, with Hev offering constructive thoughts on handling societal ills, while a lilting instrumental built upon the Pointer Sisters’ “Yes We Can Can” plays behind him. “More Bounce” seems designed to cause panic in city streets, mainly due to DJ Eddie F’s thundering funk track, which calls on the Zapp hit “More Bounce To The Ounce” to overpower listeners. But Heavy D does almost as much damage as Eddie F does; sporting an invigorated flow, tomahawking over the trunk-rattling track, and interacting admirably with Eddie F, who delivers stunning scratch solos on the bridge and fadeout. Eddie F remains behind the mix board for the next two bangers, starting with “Big Tyme”, a sleek knocker peppered with shaker effects, brief morsels of James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, And Get Involved”; and the main melody from Cameo’s “Rigor Mortis”, which Hev coasts across with the ease of a cruise ship. “Flexin”, the next production contribution from DJ Eddie F, revisits the James Brown catalog: sampling the Brown-produced Lyn Collins hit “Think (About It)” once more, as well as the Godfather of Soul’s “Get Up, Get Into It, And Get Involved”. The boom-bap magic Eddie F conjures on “Flexin” is tailor-made for Heavy D, who injects megawatts of energy into his flow, and glides with confidence as Eddie F gets buck on the turntables. And Heavy D, Eddie F, and Pete Rock close the set in tandem with “Let It Flow”, a quivering number with the three artisans on co-production, where Hev throws battle darts with agility; and Eddie F cuts in both ears simultaneously, over layered samples from Kool and the Gang’s “Chocolate Buttermilk”, and The Winstons’ “Amen Brother”.

With Big Tyme, Heavy D & the Boyz delivered an outstanding album; that easily eclipsed their debut Living Large quality-wise. Not long after its release, Big Tyme also outdid its predecessor on the pop charts, by selling well over one million copies, and officially making Heavy D and the Boyz Hip Hop superstars. Big Tyme was a well-deserved triumph for its creators; but they’d have little time to savor it, as their days as a foursome would end not long after its release. In July of 1990, during a tour stop in Indiana, Troy Dixon – a.k.a. Trouble T-Roy – had a trash barrel pushed toward him at Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena, in a moment of horseplay before the show. Standing on a third-level ramp at the time, T-Roy jumped on a retaining wall to avoid the barrel, lost his balance, and fell over the wall 30 feet to the ground. T-Roy survived the fall, but sustained massive head trauma; and on July 15, he succumbed to his injuries: passing away at the age of 22. Heavy D and the Boyz soldiered on in Trouble T-Roy’s memory; releasing three additional top-selling albums in the early 1990’s, before parting ways in 1994. Though they no longer exist as one, Heavy D & the Boyz live on as one of rap’s most influential acts; and the late Troy Dixon lives on through “T.R.O.Y.”, the sublime 1992 elegy made in his memory, by Mount Vernon duo Pete Rock & CL Smooth. For radio-friendly rap at its finest, give Big Tyme a listen. It doesn’t get any better than this.

To listen to Big Tyme, click here.

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