Hip-Hop Pioneer Heavy D Dies at 44

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The singer performed at the BET Hip Hop Awards on Oct. 1 in Atlanta.

He started out as a rapper, transitioned to acting, scored a role in a film nominated for a best picture Oscar and continued to work steadily on the small and big screens -- including a turn as a courthouse guard in Tower Heist. He was behind the scenes and in front of the camera but never took a breather from his first love: music. The Jamaica-born, New York-raised Heavy D (nee Dwight Arrington Myers) died Nov. 8 after falling at his Beverly Hills home.

Heavy D was a pioneering force in hip-hop. His group, Heavy D & the Boyz, was among the first signings to Universal subsidiary Uptown Records, and their unique blend of reggae, R&B and pop, coupled with a message of positivity, helped usher in a new urban sound in the late 1980s. The group had several hits for the label, the biggest being 1991's "Now That We Found Love," and would go on to sell more than 3.5 million albums. He also rapped on Michael Jackson's 1992 hit "Jam" and performed at the Jackson tribute show Oct. 8 in Wales.

His entree into TV came by way of a theme song for the Fox 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.' "

But with acting aspirations of his own, he soon started landing bit parts in shows including Tales From the Crypt and Living Single; he had a recurring role on the latter as Darryl, a friend of Kim Fields' character Regine.

The 1999 Oscar contender The Cider House Rules, starring Tobey Maguire and Michael Caine, was perhaps D's highest-profile casting. He played Peaches in an ensemble that included another music star, Erykah Badu. Steady acting work followed, including stints on Law & Order: SVU, Boston Public and Bones. He released a new album, Love Opus, on Universal Republic, on Sept. 27.

The night before he died, Heavy D tweeted his reaction to boxing legend Joe Frazier's death to his 150,000 followers, writing, "Be inspired!"