Heavyweight piles into the hip-hop fray in a very similar way to Jake One’s White Van Music last year. By this I mean that it finds a talented producer hooking up with a host of talented MCs and dropping dope phatness. It’s even possible that Juliano (formerly one half of 90s duo The Creators), arguably has the edge on Jake One and that this has the potential to give a kick up the arse to a few flagging careers, proving once again that the music industry (and to some extent the public’s) obsession with rapper-cult-of-personality is forgetting one vital thing. It doesn’t matter how good the lyrics, nobody ever danced to poetry. When was the last time you heard a proper jump-up hip hop track anyway? The underground has been plagued by masturbatory production for too long – even if there has been some lyrical insanity. On the other hand, the mainstream shits out club beats like its got diarrhoea – but is plagued by lyrical inanity. This isn’t to say that everything on here will light fires under people’s feet – simply that Juliano remembers one of the key original premises of hip-hop. Move the crowd.
One of two promo singles for Heavyweight, Beatnuts’ vehicle Rock Ya Shoulders is exactly what I’m talking about – the best thing the Beatnuts have done since Watch Out Now and about the best thing for hip-hop dance floors since then too. Sampling an old funk 45 by New Orleans act Salt, the drums get a steroid injection and The Beatnuts cap it with effortless flow, “Keep on spitting that ‘me so fly shit’ and end up missing on some CSI shit’” and a classic vocal hook. The other big club banger on the LP is actually the one that brings it to a close – Keep On which finds Chalice and Ruk riding high on a chunky slice of funk with a “Hey, ho,” chorus that recalls Naughty By Nature’s Hip Hop Hooray. First track on the LP is so-so collab I Cried with Tragedy Khadafi and brings to mind nothing so much as an early Dilated Peoples track – Joell Ortiz fares rather better on the rather more dynamic beat of Take A Walk With Me, which is next up. Stones’ Throws much-vaunted secret weapon, Guilty Simpson delivers tight rhymes on Hip Hop Throwback on a beat that features punishing snares and latin brass while uncharacteristically, Little Brother fail to make much impact on Playin To Lose. Aasim does a turn on You Been Warned near the end of the LP that doesn’t hold up too badly and West coaster Evidence appears on the very 90s flavoured This Is For My Peoples and (if Dilated Peoples floated your boat before they went really boring and shit) you might get on with this – it does at least take away the bland aftertaste of Evidence’s last EP. The ‘other’ promo single Heat probably got more press a while back because of the presence of Mobb Deep and, while it’s moody strings are a grower, it’s far from the best track here. Phil Da Agony, Montage and Mo Money’s consideration of unsavoury characters “Who the hell is out the front of my house/ If they knew that I was watching with a blunt in my mouth…“ on Bad Cats (hot female vocal hook, menacing clavinet loops) is far and away better, as is Da Money featuring Glasses Malone (strings and another wicked female vocal loop). Posse cut Keep It Coming is another one with a big brass sound and the combined talents of Craig G, Will Pack and K Major.
It would be foolish to expect less than superb production on this and Juliano does not disappoint. The most noticeable feature is the percussion (particularly the snares) which is stupidly heavyweight and DJs need to beware that any track from this will make whatever precedes or follows it sound pathetically wimpy. Granted Heavyweight doesn’t break new ground stylistically – much (if not all) of it could have appeared between ‘98 and now – mostly in a good way, occasionally in a not-so-good way and at times in an excellent way. What it does do is remind anyone who still gives a shit about quality hip-hop that if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing properly.
Out now digitally on Recordkingz, CD soon and on vinyl…god knows…maybe when someone remembers that SOME people still play wax. Hint.