Heavy D. (1967-2011)

The music world lost a singular talent when Dwight Arrington Myers, known professionally as Heavy D. passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday at the age of 44.

a three decade career with hits across multiple eras of hip-hop

His career spanned three decades with a string of hits across multiple eras of hip-hop. Rap music is resistant to reinvention and maturation, but Heavy D. was one of the few artists who could adapt to the genre’s rapidly changing trends, achieve commercial success and maintain respect from his core audience. He emerged in 1987 at the dawn of hip-hop’s golden era with feel-good jams like “Mr. Big Stuff” and “The Overweight Lover’s In The House” that remain staple old school cuts.

It was 1989’s “Big Tyme” album where he really blossomed as a recording artist and performer. Always prescient to emerging styles before they took hold, Heavy D. allowed New Jack Swing pioneer Teddy Riley a bigger role on the record and it yielded crossover dancefloor burners like “We Got Our Own Thang” and “Somebody For Me”. The visuals for “We Got Our Own Thang” were particularly stunning, with a highly stylized clip of the portly rapper moving effortlessly with his dancers Trouble T-Roy and G-Whiz. The suave big dude with the swift tongue and fancy footwork remained a staple of his appeal all the way to his last televised appearance on 2011’s BET Hip-Hop Awards.

Heavy D., by peer and friend D-Nice

More classic dance jams followed, from 1991’s “Now That We Found Love” to 1994’s “Nuttin’ But Love”. And even with his knack for pop hits, he kept serious rap heads satisfied with his more street oriented album “Blue Funk”. He always celebrated his Jamaican roots with dancehall inflected songs, frequent collaborations with hot artists from the islands and even a full album of him singing reggae, 2008’s “Vibes”. His theme song for the comedy show “In Living Color” is an indelible element of that show’s lasting influence. And he was admired by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, lending unforgettable verses to “Jam” and “Alright” respectively.

Beyond a catalog full of classics, Heavy D.’s impact can be measured by his business acumen and professional generosity. As an A&R, producer and executive at Uptown Records, Heavy D. was responsible for launching the careers of Pete Rock, Diddy a.k.a. Sean “Puffy” Combs and The Notorious B.I.G..

Heavy D’s acting career includes multiple television shows and feature films, most notably 1999’s “The Cider House Rules” and a recurring role in “Boston Public”.

Heavy D will be remembered as hip-hop’s classiest performer, one who consistently bridged generation gaps and made it cool to dance, rap and love with style.

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