Welcome to the commencement of SoulBounce’s Class of 1991 series where we’ll be taking a nostalgic look back at selected albums that turned 20 years old this year. After the success of last year’s Class of 1990, we had to do this again, especially after we started compiling the list of albums that were released in 1991 and amassed over 70. We narrowed that number down to 40 and for that many days between now and Christmas Eve eve we’ll be posting one album a day and our reflections on each some 20 years later. Oddly enough this series was supposed to have kicked off last Monday, and if it had I wouldn’t be talking about this first artist in the past tense because last week this time he was still with us. But less than 24 hours later he was gone. It’s still hard to fathom and even sitting here writing this I find myself getting emotional. But as I also sit here listening to this album, I can’t help but smile at the cherished memories of this period in my life and how these songs intertwine with those good times, and I know I’m not alone. That’s the legacy that Heavy D left behind with Peaceful Journey.
The journey to Peaceful Journey was itself wrought with tragedy with this album being a tribute to Trouble T. Roy who was the fourth member of Heavy D & The Boyz and had died the previous year after an accidental fall while on tour. The irony of losing Heavy D in the 20th anniversary year of this album isn’t lost on us, but thank goodness we had the Hevster with us for as long as we did and for all the great music that he left us with, a few such gems found on Peaceful Journey.
Although this album had some Heavy D & The Boyz classics on there (namely “Now That We’ve Found Love,” “Don’t Curse,” “Peaceful Journey,” and “Is It Good To You”) it wasn’t a classic album in my opinion. (I would give that distinction to my personal favorite album of his, 1989’s Big Tyme, and to a lesser extent 1994’s Nuttin’ But Love.) Those four aforementioned songs were able to carry this album, but if you dug a little deeper and got into the album cuts, then you could appreciate Hev’s sexy braggadocio on “I Can Make You Go Oooh” and his love letter to black women on “Sister Sister.” Those two tracks coupled with the lover’s rock vibe of “Body and Mind” with Daddy Freddy and the sugary sweetness of “Is It Good To You” featuring Tammy Lucas just added to Heavy’s appeal to the ladies. He loved him some us and we loved us some him. He didn’t publicly speak of women in a degrading fashion and for self-conscious, insecure little old 18/19-year-old me at the time, those were the messages that I needed to hear with the likes of N.W.A., Ice Cube, Too $hort, and 2 Live Crew also in my ear. Heavy provided a balanced musical diet that is as nutritious now as it was then.
Heavy D had a few cooks in the kitchen with an impressive list of producers and collaborators on Peaceful Journey. Teddy Riley, Marley Marl, Howie Tee, his cousin Pete Rock, and DJ Eddie F held down production with a mix of New Jack Swinging beats, which had yet to fall off but was on well its way to becoming played out like Kwame‘s polka dots. Aaron Hall sang for every penny of his royalty check on “Now That We’ve Found Love,” and Hev got his label mates K-Ci and JoJo to provide vocals on the title cut with the wicked Jacksons‘ “This Place Hotel” sample. “Don’t Curse” was one of the great posse cuts with Heavy, Big Daddy Kane, Grand Puba, Kool G Rap, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and CL Smooth delivering a tongue-in-cheek rap about not cursing, which squeaky clean Heavy was known for.
That was the beauty of Heavy D. At his core, he was a good dude and Uptown Records let him be himself and not try to flip his script for the sake of album sales. He was genuine without being corny. He rapped songs for and about women, but he wasn’t a Drake punk. He was always freshly dipped and fly despite his size. He always repped for his homeland of Jamaica. He wasn’t a gangster or hustler yet he still kept it real — real middle class. And to that I could totally relate.
Unfortunately we know how Heavy D’s story ends, but Peaceful Journey was a great chapter in his book of life and one that you can still listen to fondly. The career of one of the greatest to ever pick up a mic may have gotten cut short when he was on the brink of potentially making a comeback, but the music he left us with will forever be etched in our memories.