Tuesday, November 8, 2011
RIP Heavy D - how his party rap shaped today's Hip Hop
Heavy D's presence, and the crew of Party Hip Hop - which included EPMD, Beastie Boys, Salt N' Pepa, and Kid n Play - served as the counter balance to the Hardcore, Social Conscious, and Gangsta rap that was moving in to take over. His reappropriation of being "big" and "heavy" was a key element in Hip Hop's stake as liberation music. The genre was about reappropriating the ghetto, urban, and poor aesthetic of street life... Heavy D took it upon himself to not subdue his size, but relish in it, he was the "overweight lover". This was another balance, where lyrical and party rocking skills would be the tools to equalize Slick Rick (blind in one eye), Chubb Rock, Big Pun (obsese) Biggie, Humpty Hump (ugly), and so many others, alongside brute strength and attractive looks such as LL Cool J or Big Daddy Kane. Heavy D proved that anyone can be swag. (yes, Gucci... you owe Heavy)
Musically, it was Party Rap that served as the bridge for Diddy and Suge Knight to usher in the mainstream success of Hip Hop in the 2000s. Groups such as Naughty by Nature, NWA, Cypress Hill, Onyx, and Wu Tang could not touch the commercial success of a Biggie or Tupac without the thump thump party tracks they rapped their hardcore lyrics over. It was Party Rap that helped us dance to someone like Eminem, 50 Cent, or even Clipse. The irony was that it was the overrepresented presence of these "Hip Hop Gangsta Rap" that made the genre mainstream. It was during the Party Rap era where folks were unsure Hip Hop as safe music.
And, no mainstream rapper cannot survive without Heavy D's use of the Hip Hop hook. As much as we love Heavy, it was singing "NOW THAT WE FOUND LOVE" at the club that made us rock. The tip towards 60s soul styles, and the hook, would draw the connection to the past, and bring in the new of "New Jack Swing" and "Hip Hop Soul" with Tone Tony Toni, Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Missy Elliot, and Alicia Keys.
We owe this man big... rest in peace Mr. D.