The Soul Seen is a retrospective of features that appeared on ISPYSOUL during its acclaimed initial run. These features provide a snapshot in time of key moments in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of several creative and talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find, still resonate today.
I would have gotten around eventually to reintroducing the following piece. It is for the incredibly talented, super fly duo, Heavy. In addition to then spreading the word about one of my very favorite groups (that, still being true to this day), it celebrates what I considered then and now to be a significant moment during ISPYSOUL’s initial run as well as a huge honor for yours truly. However, I’ve been nudged to do this sooner because I have found myself – upon hearing the music of many new artists on the scene today -repeatedly saying to myself or even sometimes out loud, that their sound reminds me or is reminiscent of this talented pair. In this piece there is the suggestion that they and their sound may very well have been way ahead of its time. Hearing what’s happening on the current musical landscape as well as with the shifts and changes in the industry, it seems that could very well be the case. And it’s true -for those of you who are not familiar with them – you would excitedly embrace them and the jewels they dropped like, “Do For You,” “Change,” “Unbelievable,” or “Wonderlove (for Minnie),” as brand new. For those in the know, here’s a reminder to pull your Heavy tunes from that special stash. Without further ado, here’s Heavy – a part of the Soul Seen.
From the original ISPYSOUL feature segment, WATCH CLOSELY, 2004
HEAVY Is just right
“To be referred to as heavy suggest something is too much to bear or that which is excessive. As it applies to artistic endeavors the word often connotes a creation of masterful complexity, deepness or profundity that flies above the heads of most – except for those with the intellect, keenness and “in the know” hipness to interpret it. The Heavy you now hold is neither too much to bear nor excessive. It is instead a incredibly happenin’ musical amalgamation of soul, rock and jazz, fondly reminiscent of years past, that supplies abundantly ideal portions of entertaining artistry for the mind, body and indeed, soul – Masterfully accomplished? Hell yeah – But beyond you? – Very doubtful.”
These are the words used to describe the group Heavy in the liner notes of their recent self-titled UK release. They are this writer’s words. Unexpectedly requested – enthusiastically supplied. It was indeed a pleasure to do so, but definitely not an easy task to sum up the admiration for this exciting crew in only a few words. Or for that matter, define their brand of music. However, a realization soon followed that even a flood of descriptive text would not adequately convey the effect of their music. They wouldn’t evoke fully the way Heavy blends a myriad of styles, revealing influences of the two principals, Casey Benjamin and Nicole Guiland, that belie their youthful appearance -or the way they shatter category with an almost rebellious abandon and whimsical flair, but arrive at a unique yet embraceable sound with sweet precision. A mountain of words couldn’t wholly illustrate the way your head will shift from a gentle sway to groove- inflicted nod to zealous dip and rise upon listening to their fertile inventions – or how Heavy seems on a course lit by creativity and obvious love for music – fueled by a desire to share and kindle enjoyment.
Will Comparisons help? Comparisons to whom? Groove Theory? Rene and Angela? Captain and Tenille? -To a degree, all of the above; for both obvious and not so obvious reasons. Maybe Mother’s Finest or a group they themselves cherish, Rotary Connection, which featured the wonderful Minnie Ripperton. Perhaps like the words, the comparisons just aren’t enough because Heavy is different – yeah, heavy – or maybe they should be considered, what’s next. For sure, they are now. Ultimately, the music will speak best for what Heavy truly is.
and now . . .
Like fine wine the number of projects Heavy actually released is limited and rare. Along with tracks on various compilations and as featured artists on projects from artists including revered, turntable ace/producer DJ Spinna, they released JAZZ MONEY and HEAVY: The First Sessions. But in addition to their high powered performances and novel look, still made quite an impact on the then burgeoning independent soul scene for sure. With top-notch aid on both the music and business sides from stellar guitarist Teddy Crockett, Heavy turned heads and ears both in the states and abroad, which encouraged touring opportunities with likes of Q-Tip, N.E.R.D and Jill Scott.
I hesitate to say the dynamic duo have disbanded hoping instead to believe they’ve been on an extended hiatus; And maybe, just maybe, in a stealth-like fashion, concocting another long-awaited dose of heaviness. If not for a full fledged return, maybe to bless us with just a few more magical musical moments together.
It’s certain the two have been keeping their artistic muscles warmed up and in shape. Their talent and obvious love for music would not likely allow otherwise. Nicky Guiland amongst several creative endeavors, has for years been a featured vocalist on projects and with artists including jazz drummer and legend, Joe Chambers while Casey Benjamin’s been lending his sax, keyboard and vocoder skills to an array of A-list artists including Bilal, Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def, Kendrick Lamar, Solange and as a member of the Grammy-award winning, Robert Glasper Experiment. And so, we can only hope to get real Heavy, to some degree soon.
Check out a few of Heavy samples below:
Do For You