Words by Zondra Hughes
Amir Shaw Contributed Reporting to This Story
Cover Image by Tammie Reed
Heavy D had lost the weight — for the most part — and appeared to be in the best shape of his life.
His career was now on the right track too, after a lukewarm reception for his reggae-without-rap album, Vibes, was released in 2008. At that time, the Jamaican-born rapper said he was reaching back to his roots.
“I didn’t want to disrespect the hip-hop culture by doing a hip-hop album with half the passion,” he said. “I truly believe that I’ve given my best to rap music. Anything more would be less than stellar culture. The people deserve better. My spirit was leaning more toward my roots.”
In 2011, the rapper returned to hip-hop with Love Opus, which was released in September. In October, Heavy D gave an electric performance on the BET Hip Hop Awards that paid homage to old-school hip-hop and showed the new school that he still had it.
“I’m so glad that we got to work together for his performance at last month’s BET Hip-Hop Awards. Hev was focused, energetic and happy. He worked hard, as he always had, to excite the crowd,” noted Stephen Hill, BET’s president of music programming and specials.
Fresh off a European tour, Heavy D was also on the big screen, with a cameo appearance in the Eddie Murphy-lead hit comedy, Tower Heist. Behind the scenes, however, according to one source within Heavy D’s camp, the 44-year-old performer was battling pneumonia. The world-renowned “overweight lover MC” went shopping Tuesday, Nov. 8, and when he returned to his home, “He collapsed in an exterior hallway,” said Lt. Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Paramedics were called, and during the 911 call, Heavy D was conscious and talking. By the time paramedics arrived, however, Heavy D had labored breathing. His condition took a turn for the worse, and hours later, Heavy D was pronounced dead at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
The official cause of Heavy D’s death is pending an autopsy, however Lt. Rosen added, “There doesn’t appear to be any foul play. We believe it was medically related.”
Nick Cannon was among the many celebrities and fans who couldn’t wrap their heads around the stunning loss. Cannon said he had just talked to Heavy D and, “He was just encouraging me about life.”
Heavy D — born Dwight Arrington Myers — was gangsta rap’s alter ego. Born in Jamaica in 1967 to Eulahlee Myers, a nurse, and Clifford Vincent Myers, a movieola tech, Heavy D moved to the Bronx when he was a toddler, and then on to Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Heavy D dropped out of the ninth grade and collaborated with deejay G-Wiz (Glen Parrish), his best friend since third grade, Eddie F (Eddie Ferrell), and Troy Dixon, aka Trouble T-Roy, who met Eddie and Glen through the New York party scene.
The foursome became Heavy D & the Boyz and began shopping their demo tapes.Legendary Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell heard the demo and signed the group in 1986. One year later, Heavy D & the Boyz released their debut album, Living Large that featured “Mr. Big Stuff” and “The Overweight Lover’s in the House.”
With suggestive, yet sweet lyrics, and smooth dance moves, Heavy D became the teddy bear of a man that any woman could love, while laying out the “just chillin’ ” soundtrack that any hip-hop head could jam to.
“Heavy D’s ‘Who’s the Man’ was one of my first pieces of vinyl when I first started deejaying,” DJ Drama notes. “Definitely one of the first five records I spent money on.”
Heavy D & the Boyz’s major hit, “The Overweight Lover’s in the House,” called attention to Heavy D’s imposing size, but his weight wouldn’t be his calling-card for long. Heavy D’s thick voice poured over catchy, funky, bass-laden tracks such as “Somebody for Me,” which overshadowed his girth and allowed the rapper to spread his brand around instead.
The debut album, Living Large, went gold, and the group’s sophomore effort, Big Tyme, which featured the hit, “We Got Our Own Thang,” went platinum. The group’s success laid the foundation for Jodeci and Mary J. Blige.
Heavy D & the Boyz released three more successful albums, including 1991’s platinum-selling Peaceful Journey, which was dedicated to Trouble T-Roy and Hev’s brother, Tony. The album was named by Hev’s other brother, Jerry, who died a few years after it was released.
In time, Heavy D struck out on his own and racked up a few high-profile collaborations, including the 1991 Michael Jackson single “Jam” and the 1997 duet “Keep It Coming” with B.B. King.
Outside of the recording studio, Heavy D had a keen eye for the business side of the music industry, and in 1995 he became the president of Uptown Records, marking the first time ever a rapper became president of an existing record label — almost a full decade before Jay-Z assumed the president’s chair at Def Jam. Heavy D was also quite the visionary, having hired future music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs.
In the early 2000s, Heavy D produced several hit records for prominent acts in hip-hop and R&B. Some of his credits include “Gunz & Roses” by Jay-Z and Lenny Kravitz; “Feel It In The Air” by Beanie Sigel, and “Summer Rain” by Carl Thomas.
Heavy D was among the first hip-hop stars to go Hollywood as well, with movie roles and television appearances on various shows, including “A Different World” and “Living Single.”
The versatile artist also worked behind the scenes, creating theme songs for “The Tracy Morgan Show,” “Boston Public,” “In Living Color” and “MADtv.” He also starred in and produced Tom Cole’s stage play, Medal of Honor Rag. Will Smith served as the executive producer on the project and actor Delroy Lindo directed.
His final appearance in film was a cameo appearance in the hit comedy Tower Heist, starring Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller.
Through movie roles, music, and in real life, Heavy D touched the lives of millions.
“Most know Heavy D as a rap icon,” said actor-comedian Tommy Davidson. “I considered him a brother who made an indelible mark on me as a performer and a human being. I miss him already.”
“He was a unique figure in hip-hop and will be missed,” added BET’s Stephen Hill.
Ironically, Heavy D sent an RIP message regarding the loss of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Frazier just a day before his own death. Heavy D tweeted: SMOKIN JOE FRAZIER..RIP.. truly one of the best heavyweight champs that ever lived.. GODS SPEED,MR FRAZIER!
This time around, the fans were tweeting their grief for him.
Nas tweeted: “RIP TO A REAL HIP HOP LEGEND HEAVY D!”
Usher tweeted: “This is too heavy, I can’t believe it. HEAVY D was just here. Truly gone too soon. My heart and support goes out to his family. R.I.P HEAVY.”
“I am deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Heavy D, a longtime friend and a beautiful person,” wrote Russell Simmons.
LL Cool J tweeted, “May GOD embrace the soul of Heavy D and Bless his family. I respected you Heavy and I always will.”
Timbaland tweeted his shock, “I’m at a loss for words R.I.P. Heavy D.”
Nicki Minaj added: “We’ll never forget you babe! #hiphopelite #RIPHeavyD.”
Heavy D was “part of what’s good about the world,” Ice T tweeted. “Stop for a second, take a breath and realize how lucky you are to be alive.”
And on the last day of his life, Heavy D tweeted to his 168,000-plus followers: “Be inspired.”