Heavy D & The Boyz

Heavy D & The Boyz - Blue Funk

By KC (Host of You Must Learn


As mentioned previously in this series, the early part of the mid-90s saw many artists wrestle with their image.  Hip hop was becoming more grimy and “street level”, which left artists who were more accessible to a pop market at a crossroads.  With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to plot out a timeline of hip hop’s evolution, which makes sense when you realize that hip hop was acting as cultural trendsetter and following those shifts – when done well – was usually the right move.


At the time, in the moment, it wasn’t always as easy a call, and often felt disjointed.  Take, for example, Heavy D & the Boyz.  They had become Club MTV (and eventually, white people wedding) darlings with “Now That We Found Love” in 1991.  If you could hear color, this uptempo dance jam screamed bold and fluorescent.  But come 1993, in a post-Onyx world, that’s not what people were checking for.  Heavy D made a choice, and that choice was Blue Funk.


The man who had just recently released a posse cut called “Don’t Curse” now had to decide if that was a viable path for him.  Ultimately, he lands in a middle zone.  The record gets the Parental Advisory sticker to entice buyers, but by most standards of the time, that was nominal.  What changed most was the production.  It was slower, jazzier, and evokes the feeling of the blue that shades the cover art.  Most of the credit for that goes to his cousin, Pete Rock, who only gets credit for producing three songs, but it’s clear his imprint goes far beyond that.  His title track, with Monica & Terry helping out with the vocals, should stand out in the PR catalog, but because this album was largely dismissed at the time, his work also gets overlooked.  “Who’s the Man?” appeared on the soundtrack of the Doctor Dre and Ed Lover movie of the same title, and provocatively invokes a very direct Cypress Hill reference, which would have been unheard of only two years prior.  And the closing posse cut, “A Bunch of..” is an early building block in the story of The Notorious B.I.G. – again, someone you wouldn’t think of as being in the same circles when it comes to the style they are ultimately known for.

I talk a lot about the crowded field of 1993-94 hip hop, and how some gems are truly ignored because they weren’t impactful with just one listen.  I would put Blue Funk in that category.  It is absolutely worth your time to dial it up on your steaming service of choice and engage with it.


Check out You Must Learn Ep 019 for more on this topic! Press Play!