The Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed the death of Hip-Hop Artist, Actor & Producer Heavy D Tuesday evening, saying that he had collapsed at his home and was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died shortly after noon. The cause of death was not known as of Tuesday night, but the Beverly Hills police said that there was no evidence of foul play and that the death appeared to be medically related.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Heavy D was one of Hip-Hop’s most popular and charismatic figures, a girthy slickster who was an eager seducer and was unafraid of the dance floor. He was the frontman of Heavy D & the Boyz, which became the first act signed to Uptown Records, the label that was integral in building the bridge between Hip-Hop and R&B.
Thanks in part to production from the New Jack Swing auteur Teddy Riley that matched hard-snapping drums with sensual melodies, Heavy D & the Boyz became key figures in the softening of Hip-Hop’s sharp edges. At the time, blending Hip-Hop and R&B was still something of a novelty, but Heavy D’s work felt seamless. He was a nimble and jubilant-sounding rapper who always chose charm over aggression.
Heavy D has sold over four million albums, and worked with artists including Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Supercat, Naughty By Nature, LeVert and a host of others. Heavy D & the Boyz were famous for their energetic, rambunctious stage shows and have toured with Keith Sweat, Public Enemy, Hammer, Boogie Down Productions, The O’Jays, Digital Underground, and Big Daddy Kane, among others.
Born Dwight Meyers in Jamaica, Heavy D and his family moved to the Mt. Vernon suburb of New York when he was a child. There he chiseled a slick combination of toasting (a form of rap that extends back to club music in Jamaica), East Coast Hip-Hop and classic American Soul. Heavy D & The Boyz (DJ Eddie F, G. Whiz and the late Trouble T-Roy) took their stab at the big time in 1986 with the release of their debut album. Heavy then 17, had been rapping since he was 8 years old.
From 1987 to 1999, Heavy D scored several Top 10 R&B smashes, including the gold singles “Now That We Found Love” (with Aaron Hall), “Big Daddy,” “Alright” with Janet Jackson and “Just Coolin’,” a #1 R&B hit in 1988 for LeVert.
Signed to the trailblazing Uptown Records imprint, Heavy D & The Boyz debuted with 1987’s Living Large, which included the R&B Top 20 “Don’t You Know” as well as “The Overweight Lover’s In The House” and a cover of “Mr. Big Stuff.” They followed in 1989 with their breakthrough platinum album Big Tyme and its hits “We Got Our Own Thang” (#10), “Somebody For Me” (#8) and “Gyrlz, They Love Me” (#12). Following the tragic death of T-Roy, Heavy D dedicated 1991’s platinum Peaceful Journey to his friend. That album featured “Is It Good To You” (#13 R&B and Top 40 pop) and Heavy’s remake of Gamble and Huff’s “Now That We Found Love” (#5 R&B and #11 pop). Following 1992’s Blue Funk, 1994’s platinum Nuttin’ But Love scored with the title track (#18 R&B, Top 40 pop), “Got Me Waiting” (#3 R&B, #20 pop) and “Black Coffee” (#15 R&B). Waterbed Hev in 1997 went gold and spun off the R&B #5 hit “Big Daddy.”
Though Heavy D continued to record music — including a reggae-influenced album, “Vibes,” in 2008 — and performed as a rapper as recently as the 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards this summer, he was better known in recent years for his acting work. He had recurring roles on TV shows including “Roc,” “The Tracy Morgan Show,” “Living Single” and “Boston Public,” and roles in the films “The Cider House Rules” and the current film “Tower Heist.”
Heavy D is survived by his daughter, Xea.
– Additional reporting by the New York Times!
[Go Down Memory Lane; With The Late Great, Heavy D]