On his fourth release, Heavy D handed over the production duties to three of the hottest underground producers in the business at the time--Tony Dofat, DJ Premier, and his younger cousin Pete Rock--as well as excellent newcomer Jesse West, and the results are outstanding, if completely unlike any previous or subsequent Heavy D & the Boyz recording. Whereas the Heavster's style had always been positive and accessible before, careful not to come across as too confrontational or provocative, he came entirely streetwise on Blue Funk, altering (if only for the moment) his straight-laced reputation. Whether it was a deliberate attempt to shift creative gears and explore different headspace--between each track there is a brief pseudo-therapeutic session--or merely a natural outgrowth of the circles in which the rapper was traveling at the time, the result is one of his least orthodox but most thoroughly satisfying efforts. It takes a moment to register that it is the Overweight Lover who is spitting out lyrics on "Who's the Man?," a song that even liberally quotes the non-upstanding Cypress Hill. He almost could have passed for Notorious B.I.G. (who, indeed, later shows up on the album) in a blind taste test. Of course, he didn't abandon his sensitivity entirely, as "Truthful," with its R&B hook, immediately makes clear, and still tossed several lovey-dovey cuts to the around-the-way girls. But the album decidedly hits with more force, from the smack-talking "Talk Is Cheap" right down to the final "A Buncha Niggas," on which D successfully orchestrates another top-notch posse cut along the lines of Peaceful Journey's uncharacteristic "Don't Curse." Perhaps sonically the album veered too far from the commercial-ready sound that he had successfully mined up to that point, but Blue Funk managed only a lackluster reception from critics. (It was a slightly different story with the public, reaching certified gold status.) In any event, it remains a stellar, wholly underrated entry in his discography.