There’s always a despondent, taken aback sense that arises when losing an influential component of the soundtrack to your childhood. Especially an imposing and heedful ingredient that served as a large additive (with just a way with words) to the Hip-Hop culture-introducing pie that I’d digest and convoy with my temperament moving forward. This, however, became the unfortunate case on Tuesday afternoon when news reports spread that Heavy D-the hefty-yet-nimble pioneer and seamlessly-flowing rapper, actor and producer-had shockingly returned to his Beverly Hills home from early day shopping to difficulty breathing; later being taken to nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where the famously self-billed “Overweight Lover” would die at 44 from reasons still unidentified.
In the early ’90s, before the acutely funky, melodic symmetry of Dr. Dre played off the running cool of Snoop Dogg to manufacture my hometown’s rage and smoked-out misogyny; before the unhurried, well-crafted and conceptualized Southern hospitality of Outkast was learned of; before the unshackling of Nas’ self-conscious rationalism over crawling piano chords and before The Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan sharply brought to life the dark and complex storytelling aesthetics of East Coast hustling; there was the sweeping Teddy Riley-directed New Jack Swing era of hardened, burly drums and rolling electronica funk fusing with pleasure-seeking melodies to ignite the poetic justice of rappers meeting singers-the big, gritty and sampled drum breaks meeting the lightly dance-pop rhythms and swinging disco-tinged percussion which everyone from New Edition to Christopher Williams, Boyz II Men to Whitney Houston, were dancing to with revitalized footwork.
None, however, luxuriantly dressed, donned a parted hi-top or trampled any combativeness dexterously like Heavy D-born Dwight Arrington Myers in Jamaica before spending the majority of his youth in “Money Earnin'” Mt. Vernon, New York-the hefty seducer with a flying gift of gab, who was as quick-witted and nimble on the microphone as he was on the dance floor. For a man of his size to be so fleet-footed, it was truly a rarity, and one, upon childhood viewing, that really pushed the amusing, Saturday morning-dancing merriment for which my juvenile feet would bounce over Hip-Hop and R&B’s liquified bridge-that Heavy D played a big role in upholding-into continued joy for the lifestyle.
The frontman of Heavy D & the Boyz, the first act inked to Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records, Heavy D and Boyz G-Whiz, Eddie F and Trouble “T-Roy,”-whose tragic, accidental balcony fall inspired Heav’s first cousin Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s seminal classic, “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)”-took the late 80s and early 90s by listener-connecting-storm with easygoing party mastery laced with subtle humor. All, of course, spearheaded by the gentle giant Heavy D, who played to his size and jubilant charisma; shinning humbly on five group albums and various co-starring acts which heaved to a placing of his dynamic riddling everywhere from along the side of Big Daddy Kane, Grand Puba, Tupac Shakur, and Soul For Real to the rhythm nations of Janet and Michael Jackson to name a few.
From their debut “Living Large” (1987) to “Big Tyme,” (1989) “Peaceful Journey” (1991) to Nuttin’ but Love,” (1994) essential energetic gems lived within in them all. Novelty rap that afforded a large lineage of hits including “The Overweight Lover’s in the House”-etching the inception of one of the greatest monikers into existence-“Somebody For Me,” “Mr. Big Stuff,” “Black Coffee,” and the brilliantly forthright and sublime “Nuttin’ But Love” and “Is It Good To You.” Furthermore, probably my two favorites: “Gyrlz, They Love Me,” which set forth the blueprint, over an organically drumming score, for the heavyset to sprinkle on themselves larger-than-life allurement and obtain Don Juan-insignia, and “Now That We Found Love,” which saw him blend red-blooded funk with Jack Swing’s orchestrator Riley, Aaron Hall and the timeless, sampled cultivating of the O’Jays to craft a supersonic showpiece that leaves you without choice but to groove, rumble and twist into a good place.
A transcendent place Heavy D was able not only to spring words over, but orchestrate for others to do the same. His work behind the boards was certainly also worthy of acclaim, as his chest box of credits included stunningly beautiful inclusions onto revered (by me at least) soul albums like Anthony Hamilton’s “The Point of It All” and Carl Thomas’ “Emotional,” as well as orchestrating the slithering guitar picking for Jay-Z’s 2002 “Guns & Roses,” co-starring Lenny Kravitz, and score for Jay’s former right-hand man, Beanie Sigel, on “Feel it in the Air,” the stirring admission of paranoia over a grief-stricken backdrop that intertwines with a shimmering sax to duplicate as easily one of my favorite numbers of the 2000s.
Be that as it may, Heavy D’s magnetism was simply not fit to be confined in one realm, as he’d spread the dynamism widespread throughout film. He played the brisk, spinning and positively vibrant auteur of “doing what you want to do” with the “In Living Color” theme song; humorous, regulating doorman to Biggie-who benefited the most from “The Overweight Lover MC” laying forth a stencil for big philanderers, as well as Heavy D introducing Biggie’s Bad Boy head honcho Sean “Diddy” Combs to Harrell; Combs’ first foot into the industry door-and his epic “One More Chance” house party; and leaned on overriding likableness to role-playing in Living Single (where he had a recurring role as “Regine’s” on-again, off-again beau, Darryl), A Different World, Roc, Boston Public, along the side of movies like Big Trouble and the Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence-starring Life.
Less than a week ago, I smirked at his surprise courthouse guard inclusion in the Brett Ratner-produced Tower Heist (Random Fact: Ratner also directed Heavy D and the Boyz’ “Nuttin’ But Love” video), as with that alongside a recent guest spot on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit in late September and his first live performance in 15 years during the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards, a more-than-deserve comeback seemed on the horizon; making the Tuesday’s tragic unveiling all the more shocking.
His passing becoming as heart-rendering for his fans as it is knowing that a younger generation probably was just introduced to him during his show-closing performance at the aforementioned celebration of Hip-Hop. Leaving on stage a sample spread of his influential repertoire, however, he also left a lasting message for all with the same commanding, party-jumping positivity and optimism while introducing himself with the kickin’ “Uptown Crew“: BE INSPIRED!
Just as Heavy D was during a career that, in turn, instilled a prevailing need for similar earnestness that we’re better off for witnessing. Rest in Power, Heavy D, “I got nothing but love for you.”