August 10, 2009

Heather B. - Takin' Mine (June 11, 1996)


Rapper Heather Gardner, who takes the stage name of Heather B., may have released two albums during her career (one which is still ongoing, although she hasn't dropped any new material in more than a few years), but, for the most part, she will always be known as one of the cast members for the first year of MTV's The Real World, when it was more of a social experiment rather than an excuse for the former "music" channel to stop airing videos. While this means that Heather will be forced to attend cast reunions for the rest of her lifetime, she also gains the distinction of being able to keep her name in the mouths of the talking heads that are prevalent on VH-1 daily programming, which isn't a bad way to go.

Reality drama be damned, Heather B. is a rapper first, and she finally got her shot when she released her debut album, Takin' Mine, in 1996. (A 12-inch single, "I Get Wreck", was released either before or during her tenure on the show, I'm not certain which.) The ten-track disc was mostly produced by Kenny Parker, brother of KRS-One and sometimes-deejay for Boogie Down Productions (a crew she had been down with for many years prior to her MTV debut), so she had possession of a hip hop pedigree that should have given her a leg up on the competition.

Takin' Mine failed to ignite the charts, but her three singles generated enough spins for record labels to start taking her seriously. While she was signed to EMI/Pendulum Records for her debut, she was quickly snatched up by a major, MCA, one year later. She hasn't yet been able to parlay that into financial success (she seems to have since moved on to acting in order to pay her bills get her point across), but Heather B. will always be, at the very least, a footnote in the hip hop history books, primarily because she was on a television show.

But also because she didn't completely suck behind the mic.

1. DA HEARTBREAKA
Heather B.'s audition tape to (fingers crossed!) become the lone female member of M.O.P. starts off on a strong note, with Kenny Parker's beat bumping the fuck out of my speakers. Sure, they happen to be computer speakers (I can't write this while driving, after all), but this shit would still sound pretty good in the whip (if they're still referred to as such), even though Heather Gardner attempts to play clever by not always rhyming during her verses.

2. ALL GLOCKS DOWN
The first single from Takin' Mine, also doubling as the first time I had ever heard f Heather B. (since I wasn't an avid follower of The Real World). I used to think this shit was alright, and Heather can certainly work her way around a rap verse, but in hearing this today, I'm really not all that impressed. This is probably because of the fact that this song appears second on the record, though: context is very important, folks. The beat's creative use of "People Make The World Go Round" by The Stylistics is a mark in the "plus" category, though.

3. IF HEADZ ONLY KNEW
The reverse is true of this track: I never really liked it until today. I still am not a fan of the lame-ass hook, but lyrically, Heather's passion for the genre is palpable, and is catchy as H1N1. I do wish Kenny Parker's instrumental had a bit more meat on its bones, though.

4. MY KINDA N---A (FEAT M.O.P.)
As much as I hate to admit it, Heather B. is responsible for thumbtacking M.O.P. to my hip hop map. The radio stations around my way at the time never played "How About Some Hardcore", but they did play this song. A first time listener would be hard pressed to realize that Heather wasn't part of the Mash Out Posse. All three rappers fare extremely well over Kenny's thumping thumps, and the fact that actor Omar Epps directed the video clip for "My Kinda N---a" gives this an odd air of intrigue.

5. TAKIN' MINE
I couldn't make myself care about this bullshit song if you held a machete to my throat after I fucked with Danny Trejo. Side note: both Danny Trejo and Omar Epps appear in Def Jam: Fight For NY. Coincidence? Sadly, yes.

6. MAD BENT
Meh.

7. SENDIN' 'EM BACK
The Kenny Parker instrumental sounds like something that wouldn't be out of place on a Dr. Dooom comeback special, but Heather B. does pretty well with it, moving Takin' Mine back on track.

8. NO DOUBT
For an East Coast anthem, this isn't bad, although Heather B. drops more names than The Game on any given Sunday. The beat is of the simple boom-bap variety, and the repeated use of the Biggie Smalls sample from "Warning" smacks of laziness, but look past that and you'll find a more-than-decent song, with Heather B. making a convincing argument to occupy some space on your CD shelf.

9. REAL N----Z UP (FEAT ?)
This one's kind of weird. Who the fuck are the other rappers that accompany Heather Gardner on this Beatminerz-produced track? When you listen to the track, there are clearly other (male) rappers on here, and yet nobody receives a credit on the album besides Heather. The production notes on the song itself make sure to give special thanks to Thorough Ass Bo, Tone 2000, and the 54th Regiment (a crew which Thorough Ass Bo and Tone 2000 are members of, a fact I discovered when I read Heather's album dedications), and the writing credits specifically list Thorough Ass Bo and Tone 2000 as the co-writers of the track. So if those guys are the other rappers on here, why the fuck did they not receive costarring credit? I'm not sure how important it is for me to know this, since the track is relatively awful in nature, but I just want to know how the parties involved were able to justify this action.

10. WHAT GOES ON
Kenny Parker's beat is alright, but I can't get past the grammatically frustrating hook. I suppose this is as good a way to end your album as any, but I didn't find it very memorable.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Takin' Mine isn't entirely horrible, as Heather B. has obviously studied her craft quite a bit before taking up with the mic, and Kenny Parker provides musical soundscapes which are mostly complementary. While a handful of tracks are really good, what causes this project the ultimately fail is the redundancy of the subject matter: it would seem that Heather B. truly cannot rhyme about anything specific in particular, so she elects to talk shit for the duration of all ten tracks. I didn't want to hear her rhyme about her time on MTV, but there are other things in the world going on, you know. As a result, this somewhat-promising female rapper has only been heard from sparingly since 1996, which is a damn shame.

BUY OR BURN? Burn this if you must. Some of it is quite entertaining, but it's a chore to listen to the entire disc straight through, no matter how short this fucker actually is.

BEST TRACKS: "My Kinda N---a"; "If Headz Only Knew"

-Max

2 comments:

  1. I downloaded this album a few weeks ago. It's not bad.
    'My Kinda N***a' is definitely the highlight. Lil' Fame tore that shit up. And the beat for 'Da Heartbreaka' could pump anyone up.

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  2. AnonymousMay 23, 2010

    i think youre too hard on this album. in my opinion, almost all of the tracks are bangers, she has an insane delivery that just makes you bump your head, but yes, some of them are kind of lame/boring. i get depressed listening to the hook in "real niggaz up".

    but id still say buy.

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