Hip hop legend Dwight Arrington Myers, known and loved by the world as “Heavy D,” passed away on Tuesday at the age of 44.
And the news is hitting me hard for a couple of reasons. Even though I grew up in Trinidad, Heavy D was known and loved and was a big part of the soundtrack to my formative years. Listening to his music in the wake of his sudden passing is taking me back in time, to an era when hip hop music was lighthearted and fun, when it was cool to dance hard and break a sweat and do moves nobody else was doing. To an era where I didn’t feel compelled to turn down the music when my mother walked by, lest she heard some questionable lyrics. An era that portrayed a lifestyle that was desirable but didn’t seem altogether inaccessible.
I miss those days.
Heavy D died much too young, and so suddenly one can’t help but feel an enormous void in the world of hip hop. It still hurts and doesn’t sound right when you hear someone say RIP, Heavy D. In the wake of this tremendous loss, I am struck by Heavy D’s last tweet. Be Inspired. Hev inspired MANY. And here’s what I hope his legacy inspires in the hearts of hip hop fans, and in the future of the musical genre he helped to shape.
1 — Be true to YOURSELF, above all other things.
Did you ever hear about Heavy D in a rap battle? Or having beef with another rapper? Talking trash about other rappers or musicians? Getting arrested, or being in a physical altercation? I never did. From everything I’ve seen and heard and read, Heavy D was just a hard worker and a good man, who embraced his appearance and loved the ladies. He wasn’t about wanting to be surrounded by fake friends or having women in his life who weren’t about a meaningful relationship. The Overweight Lover loved women enough to never call them names.
2 — Live a good, happy life and give back to your community. We shine brightest when we shine together.
Heavy D lived an aspirational lifestyle — “Salt N Pepa, Heavy D up in the limousine” — but he remained accessible to his fans and held close ties to his neighborhood. In this beautifully penned tribute by Denene Miller of My Brown Baby, she paints a portrait of a man who was loved by the people, and in turn, loved the people.
“After his Hot 97 appearance and breakfast at the Parker Meridien, Heavy has come back to his apartment to change clothes. Now dressed to the nines in cream and black and topped off with a dark-brown fedora, he comes out of his apartment building where he lives in a bright and beautifully furnished one-bedroom bachelor pad with a spectacular Manhattan view. He graciously holds the door open to his limousine for two lady guests—a reporter and his publicist. Loud sounds—really loud sounds—suddenly pierce the air.
“Aaaaaaaaaggghhhh! It’s Heavy Deeeeeeeee!!!!!!”
Little girls. Lots of them. With cameras and pens and paper and braids flying in the air. Running. They were staking out the Regis and Kathie Lee show for some other star, got lucky and spotted the Heavster.
A not-so-big man would have pretended he didn’t see a thing. But not this big man. Heavy rolls the window down. A millisecond later, two brown hands come reaching for his cheeks.
“You’re sooooo cuuuute!” the fan says, moving his pinched face from side to side.
“Can I take a picture?” another shouts after she clicks.
“I love you, Heavy!”
Whenever Heavy walks down the street, everybody gives him love—little kids, young women, grandfathers, buppies, Latinas and white guys, everybody. They want to shake his hand. They smile and say “Hey, Heavy!” They spell out their names as they shove a piece of paper and pen in his face and he signs every one of them with a smile.”
That’s a beautiful image, and that’s what fame could and should be. Unfortunately as a writer and blogger, I’ve seen far too many celebrities who don’t enjoy fan interaction nearly as much, and can be off putting to the fans who are so excited to meet them.
Heavy D was a star in his own right but he never failed to put a friend on, bless an up and coming artist with a guest verse, or to do a guest cameo in a homie’s video.
It’s widely known that Heavy D was the man who took Sean “Diddy” Combs under his wing and ushered him into the record biz as an intern. His cousin Pete Rock just told a very similar story of his own success — in this interview via NahRight.com.
3 — Speak out about the things you believe in, even if they aren’t “cool”.
Heavy D never denigrated women, and he used his star power to speak out on issues that mattered to him and his community. Hev was a great contributor to KRS-One’s Stop the Violence movement, who addressed the black community with the unforgettable track Self Destruction.
When Heavy D noticed the change in hip hop’s playful spirit, he addressed his concerns with Don’t Curse, featuring Kool G Rap, Grand Puba, C.L. Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock, and a super young Q-Tip.
They definitely don’t make em like that anymore.
4 — Dancing is cool. Fun can be innocent.
Hev proved that you can mack to the ladies without being disrespectful. His songs were about being a lover, but never in a profane or sleazy way. Most often when he spoke about girls loving him or being a lover, his verses were about romancing the ladies and making them happy.
The early hits that made him a superstar also showed off his surprisingly nimble dance moves, and back in those days EVERYONE was down to dance and that’s what parties were about. This was the heyday of the house party era and Hev’s music provided the ideal soundtrack.
5 – Remember your roots. Celebrate your ancestry.
With a name like Dwight Arrington Myers, there’s not a Caribbean person alive who wouldn’t recognize Heavy D as one of our own. Even though he rapped with an American accent, Heavy D also repped Jamaica to the max and created some seminal dancehall hits with legends of the genre. His songs with Super Cat were huge hits throughout the islands.
If that song isn’t on the official soundtrack to my youth….this one definitely is.
Heavy D also collaborated with other legends of reggae and dancehall, including Frankie Paul, Cocoa Tea, Buju Banton and Sizzla. And on his 2008 reggae album the Grammy-nominated Vibes, Heavy D sang the songs of his culture. Listen to his cover of reggae classic, Queen Majesty.
Hev could sing! Who knew?
6 — Take CARE of YOURSELF.
I’m not here to discuss weight and health and the co-relationship between them…but I will admit this. Heavy D’s death was yet another wakeup call for myself and my family. I had pneumonia once, back in college and it’s a terrifying feeling, having little control over your respiratory system. I’ve struggled with my weight almost all my life, and I’ve definitely found myself feeling out of breath while climbing stairs before and it is scary and not cool at all.
In all of the articles I’ve read in researching this topic it has become apparent to me that Heavy D suffered from a syndrome many of us do regardless of weight or gender or ethnicity — the Putting Everything Ahead of Yourself syndrome. Heavy D was the kind of man who stayed up late and woke up early, traveling and touring, putting in major hours in the studio and working on his performances — and that kind of relentless grinding will take a toll on your body. He has already been added to the list of hip hop and R&B stars who died due to health issues, and it’s a tragedy that he passed away so soon and with so much more ahead of him.
In every memorial post I’ve read about Heavy D, there’s a profound sense of loss. Russell Simmons called him “the only rapper everybody always loved.” His dear friend dream hampton spoke warmly of his proudest role — that of father to his 13 year old daughter. She tweeted “Hev’s daughter is 13. She’s probably not had 10 whole mornings in her life when he didn’t share breakfast with her. Pray for her.”
As much as fans feel heartache at the loss of Heavy D, his family and closest friends will feel it even more. Sadness all around.
RIP, Heavy D. The whole world is sending you love and wishing you a peaceful journey.
Please share your favorite Heavy D songs and memories with me in the comments.