We reflect on late hip-hop legend's career and impact on the next generation.
By Kelley L. Carter
There was this odd but super cool sound that rolled off Heavy D's tongue that we all tried to emulate. It was his melodic calling card; it was the key thing he inserted into Heavy D & the Boyz' "We Got Our Own Thang."
Its significance was cemented in pop culture when he guest-starred in a 1989 episode of one of the era's hottest sitcoms, "A Different World." He was set to be a featured performer at a fundraiser on the show, and the pompous, pretentious Whitley wasn't having it.
"I'll tell you what lacks melody is that diddly diddly diddly diddly diddly dee," she drawled, displaying her disgust for hip-hop, completely unaware that she was, in fact, bemoaning Heavy D himself.
Heav, playing a caricature of himself (and an old junior high friend of Dwayne Wayne), laughed and shrugged it off. We all chuckled with the laugh track as Whitley realized her mistake and Heavy showed her the right way to do the thing that had all of us — in the 'hood, in the 'burbs and in the sticks — trying to copy him every time we heard one of his wicked, uptempo tracks. We next see him onstage, doing that infamous Heavy D shake, performing the track "Somebody for Me," the single that questioned — and longed for — a woman's affections for the man who dubbed himself the Overweight Lover.
Heavy D, born Dwight Arrington Myers, died Tuesday (November 8) at an L.A. hospital. He was a young 44.
TMZ is reporting that a 911 call was placed from his Beverly Hills home around 11:25 a.m. PT to report an unconscious male on the walkway. When help arrived, the entertainer was conscious and speaking and was taken to the hospital.
He died shortly thereafter.
Heav was that kind of touchable performer. We felt comfortable with his Overweight Lover nickname — he was the big guy who could move. His size never stopped him. He moved in ways that intimidated the slimmest dude in the crowd.
He was smooth, dapper and celebrated the around-the-way-girl through song; his music helped soundtrack 10th-grade dances near and far, and his colorful, danceable and at times sensitive brand of hip-hop clearly proved to be wildly influential to new-millennium household names like Diddy or Drake.
In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who came up after Heavy D that doesn't cite him as an influence — and if they didn't say it out loud, their showmanship certainly was a giveaway.
He brought professionalism to live hip-hop shows, and because he fancied a variety of music and musical stylings, his shows were thought-out, deliberate and defined all that New Jack Swing embodied.
Heavy brought the bounce to hip-hop and his smooth delivery made every woman look at big boys with new eyes. He was sexy — so were his lyrics, and so was his style. He was one of few rappers to collaborate with Michael Jackson (he rapped on "Jam"), and we all applauded when he linked up with Janet Jackson for an "Alright" remix.
His death is tragic for a number of reasons. Until last month, we hadn't seen Heavy perform live onstage in 15 years. When he hit the stage back in October for the BET Hip Hop Awards, he showed the young guys that he could still swing with the new New Jacks.
He also showed off an amazing 135-pound weight loss, but his hip-hop moniker was still fitting for a guy who gave so much to a musical genre that continues to shape pop culture.
Even past his hit-producing hip-hop prime, Heavy continued to be a force in entertainment. He'd often dabbled in film and television, and most recently. we saw him in an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and the just-released "Tower Heist."
Some of hip-hop's biggest luminaries tweeted their affections for the rapper Tuesday. It was undeniable what he brought to the genre.
He was one of the biggest who ever did it — and he got there because he did his own thang.