Heavy D Dies: 5 Things to Know About the Rapper-Actor

Heavy D Headshot - P 2011
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Upon his untimely death at 44, the Jamaica-born, Queens-raised artist leaves behind a legacy of pop culture influence and one impressive resume.

He started out as a rapper, transitioned to acting, scored a role on an Oscar-nominated film and continued to work steadily on the small screen and big screen, behind the scenes and in front of the camera, without ever taking a breather from his first love: music. Jamaica-born Heavy D (née Dwight Errington Myers) died on Nov. 8 after falling in his Beverly Hills home.

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Here, five things to know about the beloved artist: 

  1. Heavy D & The Boyz helped usher in a new urban sound and mantra during the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. Among the first signings to Universal subsidiary Uptown Records, Heavy D & The Boyz’s unique blend of reggae, R&B and pop coupled with its message of positivity led to a number of hits, chief among them 1989’s “Somebody for Me,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard rap chart, and 1991’s “Now That We Found Love" (see video). The group would sell more than 3.5 million albums in its career.
  2. His entre into television came through music… By way of composing the theme song for the show In Living Color, which aired from 1990 to 1994. In fact, comedian Tommy Davidson credits D with the “brilliance to come up with the line that summed up our historic show on its opening... 'What's mine is yours, what's yours is mine.’” 
  3. He always had acting aspirations of his own. In the mid-90s Heavy D started landing bit parts in shows like Tales for the Crypt and Living Single, where he had a recurring role as Darryl, a friend of Kim Fields’ character Regine. The Oscar-nominated 1999 film The Cider House Rules, starring Tobey Maguire and Michael Caine,was perhaps his highest profile casting. He played Peaches in am ensemble cast that included another music star, Erykah Badu. Steady acting work followed, including stints on Law & Order: SVU, Boston Public, and most recently, Tower Heist, where he played a security guard.   
  4. He remained an in-demand music collaborator well after his first hits. Heavy D was close with several members of the Jackson family, appearing as a rapper on Michael Jackson’s 1992 hit “Jam” and on Janet Jackson’s 1990 single "Alright (Remix)," which climbed as high as No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Just a month ago, he joined LaToya Jackson onstage in Cardiff Wales for the Michael Jackson Forever Tribute concert. Performing a medley of his own hits on the 2011 BET Hip-hop Awards held on October 12 in Atlanta, Heavy D was joined by Tyrese. In 1997, he collaborated with B.B. King on the guitar great’s duets album Deuces Wild.

  5. He was well-liked and respected by the entertainment community. The title to his new album, Love Opus, released on September 27, pretty much says it all, as did a tweet he published on November 1 which read, "I love the idea of love." Heavy was loved back. Dozens of music luminaries took to Twitter to relay messages of appreciation and condolences. "#RIP Heavy D - Good Good Dude!," wrote producer Rodney Jerkins. "R.I.P Rap legend Heavy D One Of The Most Influential Rappers Of The '90s Era... Another Sad Day For Music," offered Sean Kingston, while DJ Samantha Ronson tweeted, "So effing sad. I met him a few times around the way and he was incredibly kind and cool. another great loss." Says Davidson: "Most know Heavy D as a rap icon; I considered him a brother who made an indelible mark on me as a performer AND a human being. I miss him already."