Hip-hop veteran hailed by peers, including LL Cool J and Nicki Minaj, collapsed with breathing problems and died in hospital.
Rapper and actor Heavy D, one of the defining voices of hip-hop‘s
Paramedics arrived at Heavy D’s Beverly Hills condo at around noon on Tuesday, after receiving a 911 call from a neighbour. The rapper was conscious and talking, but had collapsed after returning home from a shopping trip. “There doesn’t appear to be any foul play,” police lieutenant Mark Rosen told the New York Daily News. “We believe it was medically related.” According to LA’s KTLA News, Heavy was suffering from pneumonia after a recent trip from Europe. He was taken by ambulance to Cedars Sinai Medical Center, where he died at about 1pm. Autopsy results are forthcoming.
Born Dwight Arrington Myers in Jamaica and raised in New York state, Heavy D barrelled into hip-hop history alongside G-Whiz, Trouble T-Roy and Eddie F – collectively known as Heavy D & the Boyz. Discovered by Def Jam exec Andre Harrell, who had helped launch the careers of LL Cool J and Run-DMC, the group’s debut album came out on his Uptown Records in 1987.
Although Heavy’s 300lb swagger became notorious with the single The Overweight Lover’s In the House, it wasn’t until 1989’s Big Tyme that the Boyz really hit the mainstream. They mixed nimble rhymes with snatches of R&B and reggae, becoming key players in the genre known as new jack swing – and offering a playful alternative to contemporaries such as Public Enemy and NWA.
With 1991’s Peaceful Journey, Heavy D & the Boyz went platinum; the singles Now That We Found Love, Is It Good To You and Don’t Curse were cemented in hip-hop history. The group gained further prominence by recording the theme-song to sketch show In Living Color, and Heavy later collaborated with acts including BB King, Notorious BIG, and with Michael Jackson, on the 1991 single Jam. After their last album, 1993’s Nuttin’ But Love, Heavy continued releasing solo albums – most recently Love Opus, released in September this year.
Heavy also became an actor, appearing in episodes of Boston Public and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. His film roles included The Cider House Rules, and a cameo in recent release Tower Heist.
Despite his acting appearances, Heavy D hadn’t performed live in 15 years when he made his return last month. He joined La Toya Jackson for a rendition of Run at the Michael Jackson tribute concert in Wales, and delivered a medley of hits at the Bet Hip-Hop awards. Just this week, he spoke to DJ Tim Westwood on BBC Radio 1Xtra, saying he prepared for the Bet show by practicing eight hours a day for six weeks.
Hip-hop stars were expressing their sorrow over Heavy’s sudden death, writing mini-eulogies on Twitter. LL Cool J, Common, Estelle, Usher,Timbaland, Big Boi and Nicki Minaj were among those who posted messages. “I can’t even think right now yall [sic]. Heav was my dude. What a friend. My heart is heavy,” wrote Q-Tip.
“U will be missed Heavy D so many laughs we’ve shared but your Music is Timeless and will Always be Around 4ever,” added Missy Elliott.Brandy paid tribute by referring back to the rapper’s final message. “I am shocked, overwhelmed, and all of the above at the death of @heavyd,” she said. “May you rest in peace!! I love you and I promise to live INSPIRED!”