Who was 24-Carat Black?

Hosts Joe Watson and Toby Brazwell take a hard look at legendary tracks of the past and present, connecting the dots on the music they sample and the songs that inspired them. Join us for Season 3, where Riffs takes a deep dive into the tragic world of 24-Carat Black, the band everyone has heard, but nobody has heard of.

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Now That We Found Heavy Love

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Heavy D and the Boys had a smash hit in 1991 with Now That We Found Love, and Joe and Toby examine how this track interpolates the 1973 hit from the O’Jays with the same name. Join us as we follow Heavy D’s career to full-fledged entertainment mogul and learn more about the soul group that had an enormous influence on future generations.

What we geek out over in this episode:

Canton McKinley High School, Cougars, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Gamble and Huff, Philadelphia International, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Me and Mrs. Jones, Jamaica, Andre Harrell, The Meters, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Tom Scott and the California Dreamers, Third World, In Living Color, Soul for Real, Fat Larry’s Band.

Bonus Material: 70’s soul group The Whatnauts and their influence on hip hop.

Joe: Hello and Welcome to Riffs on Riffs, where we explore the collision of original and sampled tracks and the artists who made them. I’m your host, Joe Watson, and I’m here with my co-host, Toby Brazwell. Together, we listen to the legendary tracks and the timeless—but sometimes not-so-well-known—songs they sampled from. Toby, what are we listening to today?

Toby: We are listening to the Overweight Lover Heavy D and his hit single Now That We Found Love. This episode is going to be a lot of fun.

Joe: No doubt my friend. This song takes me back to a special summer back in the day, and this song always puts a big smile on my face.

Toby: Why don’t we hop in the Delorean and see what track was sampled to make this hit?


Joe: Toby can you tell the good people what we are listening to.

Toby: Gladly. This track is called Now that We Found Love by the O Jays. And before you ask… Yes I would love to get into their history. The O'Jays were formed in 1958 in Canton, Ohio. The group’s original members were Eddie LeVert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bill Isles, and Bobby Massey They all attended school together at McKinley High School. Go Bulldogs.

Joe: Wait.. did you go to McKinley?

Toby: No I didn’t, but I love High School sports and besides… me cheering for my high school might lead to misinterpretation.

Joe: Why is that.. What was your mascot?

Toby: Well somehow I think saying Go Cougars might come out different than intended.

Joe: Good point. Back to the O’jays. It turns out that they were inspired to form a group after watching a performance by this group.

Joe: That was the hit song Why Do Fools sung by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. That song reached No 1 on the billboards in January of 1956. Still a great song after all this time. Actually I think they made a movie about Frankie Lymon with Larenz Tate.

Toby: Inspired by Frankie Lymon, the boys formed a group and called themselves the Triumphs before switching the name to the Mascots in 1960. They were signed to a label in Cincinnati and released their debut song single called Miracles. Miracles got them some airplay love from a Cleveland based Dj named Eddie O’Jay. More importantly he gave them some career advice that helped the group so much that they changed their name again to The O’Jays to honor him.

Joe: The O’Jays were signed by the Imperial record label and released their first single in 1963 called Lonely Drifter. This was the first song to make it to the Charts so let’s take a listen.

Toby: They released several more singles and then the group became a quartet after Bill Isles left the group in 1965. Their group released their first album entitled Comin Thru that same year. In 1967 they left Imperial and were signed to the label Bell where they managed to land another single on the charts and this song actually was their first in the top 10 hit.

Joe: Let’s take a listen to that single- this song is called I’ll be Sweeter Tomorrow

Joe: Despite that song charting, they still weren’t happy with the level of success they accomplished up to this point and were actually thinking about quitting the business. What a shame that would’ve been.

Toby: And that’s when fate would have them meeting Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff from the production team called Gamble and Huff. Gamble and Huff formed PHiladelphia International Records in 1971 to compete with Berry Gordy’s Motown label and signed the O’Jays in 1972. Gamble and Huff’s signature sound called the Philly Sound helped The O’Jays to find the success they had been looking for.

Joe: Some of you might not know about Philadelphia International, but allow me to familiarize you. This is the label that helped the O’Jays sell 170 million gold and platinum songs from 1971 to the early 1980’s

Toby: Respect and allow me double down on that respect and say that there’s a saying .. that Game recognizes game… Well talent recognizes talent. And speaking of talent let’s talk about the talent that Philadelphia International signed….

Joe: Ok give me some names.

Toby: I’m gonna do you one better. I’m gonna give you songs and you can name the artist

Joe: Let’s do it! Game on!!

Toby: Here’s the first one

Play If only You Knew

Joe: I know that voice anywhere…. That’s the Godmother of Soul- aka Patti Labelle/

Ok, hit me with the next one.

Toby: Gladly! What about this…

Joe: Well that’s Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. I recognize the legendary lead vocals from Teddy Pendergrass.

Toby: That’s a great segue buddy. That is indeed Harld Melvin and the Blue Notes led by the vocals of Teddy Pendergrass who later signed a deal with Philadelphia International and came out with this hit…

Toby: Ok here’s the last one….

Joe: Oh wow…. you went back. you. that’s Billy Paul infamous single.. Me and Mrs. Jones. Well let’s get back to the O’jays.

Toby: Before Philadelphia International was formed, Gamble and Huff started working with the O’jays as part of a label called Neptune. Neptune unfortunately folded and that resulted in Bobby Massey leaving the group. And then there were 3.

Joe: That sounds like an Agatha Christie novel. Fortunately, it would stay at 3 members and with the new label, The O’Jays set their sites on releasing a new single called Back Stabber in 1972. This song made it to the top 5 on the charts and really established what the Philly Sound was all about. Let’s take a listen to Backstabbers from their debut album with same name.

Toby: That wasn’t the only hit they had from their first album so let’s listen to another one. This is the top ten hit called Love Train. This one of the songs that can be played any day to ensure a good time.

Joe: OnNov 10, 1973 The O’Jays released their next studio album entitled Ship Ahoy. This actually was a concept album that addressed issues that were socially relevant in addition to love songs.

Toby: This album has several hits on it including our first featured track. Let’s take a listen to that again:

Toby: In addition to that song, this album also has several other hits. One of those tracks is For the Love of money. Before it was the theme song for the show The Apprentice, it was a chart topping song that was also featured in the film New Jack City which just happens to be one of my favorite movies from back in the early 90’s. This is is For the Love of Money

Joe: Outside of the music in this song, the message contained in the music is definitely a staple in Gamble and Huff music. I love the fact that they show how skilled they are by changing subject matter from love ballads to social injustices. That’s not an easy thing to do, but they always make it look easy

Toby: You and I have discussed a lot of the ways that we evaluate music from artist to artist. One thing that we look at is musicality and lyrics, but we haven’t really discussed replay value. We have all listened to albums that were good for a specific time period but when listened to years later it doesn’t resonate. That’s definitely not the case for the O’Jays and I think that’s a reason why it’s a group that gets sampled often.

Joe: Sammy Strain joined the group after William Powell was diagnosed and later died of cancer on May 26, 1977. The group continued to put out albums and is the case with so many of our episodes we won’t be able to go thru every one of their 29 studio album releases but I encourage you all to take a listen to their catalogue.

Toby: Before we switch artists, I do want to play one of my favorite tracks from the O’Jays. This is Use to be My Girl from their 1978 release entitled So Full Of Love

Joe: Good stuff my friend. Let’s dive into our second featured artist, Heavy D and the Boyz. Toby, can you tell us a little more about Heavy D?

Toby: Dwight Arrington Myers was born on May 24, 1967 in Jamaica, and then moved to Mount Vernon, NY in the early 70’s. Of course, living in New York at that time means that he had a front row seat to the emerging rap scene.

Joe: Dwight started making his own demo tapes in middle school, and by the time high school rolled around he decided to form a group with his buddies. Taking the moniker Heavy D, he joined forces with DJ Eddie F, Trouble T-Roy, and G-Wiz.

Toby: Andre Harrell was an executive at Def Jam looking to form a new label, Uptown records. He heard the early demos from Heavy D and they Boyz and in 1986, they became the first group signed to the label.

Joe: in 1987, they released their debut album, Living Large. It would reach #92 on the pop charts and #10 on the Top Soul Albums. The lead single introduced the world to Heavy D’s other nickname. Let’s hear“TheOverweight Lovers in the House.”

Toby: This track was destined for success just based on the songs that it samples. We’ve got James Brown’s 1971 jam, Escape-ism, The JB’s 1970 track Hot Pants Road, and another JB’s track, Pass the Peas from 1972.

Joe: I don’t like peas. Their gross.

Toby: You don’t have to eat anything, just open up your eardrums! Let’s hear Pass the Peas.

Joe: If peas were that funky — in a good way — I might like them more. Anyway, another track from Living Large had a more R&B vibe and helped the album go Gold. Let’s hear Don’t You Know.

Toby: The success of their debut led to work with producers Marly Marl and Teddy Riley on their 1989 album, Big Tyme. The first single, Gylrz, They Love Me hit #12 on the R&B charts and #4 on the Rap charts. Let’s hear that.

Joe: Once again, they are sampling all the right stuff. In this case, it’s the 1969 track Thinking from The Meters. Let’s give that a spin.

Toby: Big Tyme would land all the way at #1 on the R&B/Hip Hop charts and #19 on the pop charts. This is also when we see Heavy D starting to branch out into other work, including a colllab with Janet Jackson on a remix of one of her many hits from the Rhythm Nation 1814 album, Alright. Let’s hear how Heavy D lends his rhymes to that track.

Joe: Sadly, tragedy struck on tour for the Big Tyme album. Band member Trouble T-Roy fell two stories to his death, and the band and the community were grief stricken.

Toby: A tribute to Troy was made by Pete Rock and CL Smooth and went to #1 on the hot rap charts. Let’s listen to They Reminisce Over You(TROY).

Joe: Pete Rock would say this about that song:

I was kind of depressed when I made it. And to this day, I can't believe I made it through, the way I was feeling. I guess it was for my boy. When I found the record by Tom Scott, basically I just heard something incredible that touched me and made me cry. It had such a beautiful bassline, and I started with that first. I found some other sounds and then heard some sax in there and used that. Next thing you know, I have a beautiful beat made. When I mixed the song down, I had Charlie Brown from Leaders of the New School in the session with me, and we all just started crying."

Toby: Let’s talk for a minute about that sample. Tom Scott and the California Dreamers did a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s song “Today”in 1967. His sax solo is what’s used for They Reminisce. Let’s have a listen.

Joe: What’s crazy is how popular that song is because of the sample. The song appeared on Tom Scott’s album “TheHoneysuckle Breeze,” and I bet you could have picked it up for pennies back in the day. Now, the original vinyl sells for an average of $165!

Toby: Let’s finish connecting the dots back to the original Jefferson Airplane track, Today, which was also released in 1967 on their Surrealistic Pillow album. A guy named Jerry Garcia played lead guitar on this track, you might have heard of him.

Joe: It’s pretty cool that a 1967 track from Jefferson Airplane, covered by a saxophone player — who, by the way, was a founding member of the Blues Brothers — would end up on a #1 rap tribute track two decades later. Those connections are what I love about this show.

Toby: Agreed. And one more fun fact, Tom Scott’s dad, Nathan Scott, scored over 850 TV shows and 100 films, including Dragnet and Lassie. So I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Joe: Back to Heavy D and the Boyz. Their 1991 album was also in part a tribute to T-Roy and was entitled Peaceful Journey. This contains our second featured track, Now That We Found Love. Let’s give it another spin.

Toby: This song charted in the top ten in multiple countries, including #4 on the US Rap singles chart and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit #5 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop album charts. Heavy D’s version features vocals from Aaron Hall, perhaps more well known as one of the members of Guy.

Joe: Toby, I’m sure you had some Guy on the Brazwell mix tape. But while this song is obviously an interpolation of the O’Jays hit, I think it might be a little bit closer to a Jamaican bands cover of it.

Toby: You’re right. In 1980, the Jamaican reggae band Third World released their third album, Journey to Addis. Their cover of Now That We Found Love reached #47 on the Hot 100 and #10 on UK charts. Let’s hear that.

Joe: We know that Heavy D was born in Jamaica, so perhaps not that much of a leap to think that he’d have heard this track.

Toby: Another track off of Peaceful Journey would reach #8 on the rap charts. Let’s listen to Don’t Curse.

Joe: Still sampling the masters I see. Let’s take a listen to the Booker T and the MGs song,“HipHug-Her” that was used for Don’t Curse.

Toby: Around 1991 Heavy started moving into acting and producing. Let’s take a listen to his work on the theme song for the show In Living Color

Joe: This show was iconic on so many levels. I mean, besides the work by Keenan Ivory Wayans and the rest of his family, this show introduced us to Jamie Foxx, James Carrey — who would later change his name to Jim, Jennifer Lopez made her debut as a fly girl, and I just learned that Rosie Perez was the original choreographer of the fly girls.

Toby: Obviously tons of talent, which would explain why the show was so popular. Speaking of talent, Heavy D certainly had an ear for it. He convinced Uptown founder Andre Harrell to hire an intern by the name of Sean Combs — another guy you might have heard of.

Joe: Heavy D would go on to more success both with The Boyz and in his solo career. He eventually became President of Uptown Records, where he developed, wrote for and produced acts like Soul for Real. Let’s hear their 1995 hit from their debut album, Candy Rain.

Toby: There is no doubt that Heavy D was an entertainment heavyweight. He became Senior Vice President of Universal Music Group. He had acclaimed roles in movies like Cidar House Rules and TV shows like Bones, Living Single, Boston Public, and Law & Order SVU.

Joe: Not to mention his work on albums by Babyface, Jay-Z, and Timbaland. Sadly, Heavy D left us on November 8, 2011 at the age of 44. He had a pulmonary embolism that led to a blood clot, likely caused by a lengthy airplane ride. As the song goes, They Reminisce Over You.

Toby: Rest in Peace. What do you say now we move on to our bonus material? What do we have today?

Joe: Today let’s spend a little time giving some love to the 70’s soul group from Baltimore, The Whatnauts. These guys may not have been mainstream chart toppers, but their body of work certainly has provided many samples for other artists, including Heavy D.

Toby: Why don’t we start with that Heavy D track from their 1994 album Nuthin But Love. This song is called Sex With You.

Joe: The original 1981 track by the Whatnauts is called Help is On the Way, and it’s funky! Let’s hear that.

Toby: It’s easy to see why these cats have been sampled 140 times! How about we take a listen to another popular track that samples Help is on the Way. This is De La Soul’s 1991 jam Ring Ring Ring (HaHa Hey)

Joe: This one went to #1 in Switzerland! And Finland! And also #22 on the US R&B/Hip Hop charts. It also confused some folks as to where the original sample was from.

Toby: Yep, before we had Heavy D, we had Fat Larry James, founder of Fat Larry’s Band. They had a track called Act Like You Know that very clearly interpolates Help is on the Way. Let’s hear that.

Joe: Fat Larry’s Band also gave us this drum break from their song Down on the Avenue, which has been sampled NWA, Ice-T and Run DMC. And frankly, should be sampled even more! Let’s hear it.

Toby: Back to the Whatnauts, let’s listen to their 1970 track Message from a Black Man.

Joe: Now let’s hear how Nas sampled that for his 2008 track You Can’t Stop Us Now

Toby: Let’s also hear how RZA used it for his track You Can’t Stop Me Now

Joe: Me, you, us. We can’t be stopped! And folks can’t stop sampling The Whatnauts. Even Kanye has gotten into the act, though he may be late to the party. Let’s listen to his track, Late.

Toby: Now let’s hear the original Whatnaut’s track, also from their 1970 debut album. This is a song called I’ll Erase Away Your Pain.

Joe: The Whatnauts are one of many examples of bands that laid down some delicious grooves that were picked up by later generations. It’s nice to be able to shine a light on these bands and pay tribute to the original artists. Unfortunately, our time has come to an end, but let the good people know what we will be talking about next time.

Toby: Absolutely- We will be hanging in the sunshine and talking about my life with my good friend Roy.

Joe: Sounds good. Everybody Loves the Sunshine. Until then, thanks for listening, and we’ll catch you next time for Riffs on Riffs.

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