It may not have been embraced by the entire hip-hop community, but P.M. Dawn's ponderously titled debut Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience was a startling reimagination of the music's possibilities. In the post-De La Soul age, hip-hop seemed open to all sorts of eccentrics, but P.M. Dawn was still difficult for purists to accept: They were unabashed hippies whose sound and sensibility held very little street appeal, if any. Of the Heart... is soaked in new age spirituality and philosophical introspection, and a song title like "To Serenade a Rainbow" is likely to raise eyebrows among more than just skeptical b-boys. It's true that there's some occasional sappiness and navel-gazing, but it's also true that the group's outlook is an indispensable part of its musical aesthetic, and that's where Of the Heart... pushes into the realm of transcendence. It still sounds revolutionary today, although you'd have to call it a Velvet Revolution: It's soft and airy, with ethereal vocal harmonies layered over lush backing tracks and danceable beats. The shimmering ballads "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" (built on an unlikely sample of Spandau Ballet's "True") and "Paper Doll" were the hits, but they aren't quite representative of the album as a whole. Some tracks, like "Comatose" and "A Watcher's Point of View (Don't 'Cha Think)," are surprisingly funky and driving, and there's also an even more explicit nod to the dancefloor in the Todd Terry hip-house collaboration "Shake." The more reflective raps ("Reality Used to Be a Friend of Mine," "Even After I Die," "In the Presence of Mirrors") strike a fascinating balance between those sensibilities, and there's still little else like them. In the end, Of the Heart... is enormously daring in its own way, proving that pop, R&B, and hip-hop could come together for creative, not necessarily commercial, reasons.
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey