Heavy D, a rapper whose imposing size and crossover success helped make him a major rap star, died Tuesday afternoon at a Los Angeles hospital. According to confirmed reports, the 44-year-old rapper was found conscious on the walkway near his Beverly Hills home around 11:25 am when a 911 call was placed. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1 p.m. PST. Police are investigating, but foul play is not suspected.
Grandmaster Flash was one of the first in the media to relay the news when he took to Twitter, saying “I was just told Heavy D passed away.” That message created a snowball of reactions — and prayers — from fans.
Heavy D last tweeted late on Monday or early Tuesday on Joe Frazier’s death, “SMOKIN JOE FRAZIER..RIP.. truly one of the best heavyweight champs that ever lived.. GODS SPEED, MR FRAZIER!’ An hour later tweeted,”BE INSPIRED!.”
Born Dwight Errington Myers in Jamaica in 1967, Heavy D moved to the Bronx in 1967 and became friends with Glen Parrish (G-Wiz), Eddie F (Eddie Ferrell) and Troy Dixon (Trouble T-Roy), who formed the rap group Heavy D & the Boyz. In 1986, their demo reached Uptown Records head Andre Harrell, and the group became the first artist signed to the label.
“Living Large,” Heavy D & the Boyz’s debut album, was released in 1987 and spawned hits like “Mr. Big Stuff,” while 1989’s “Big Tyme” served as the group’s commercial breakthrough with tracks like “We Got Our Own Thang” and “Somebody For Me.” Following Dixon’s death in 1990, Heavy D released the 1991 tribute album “Peaceful Journey.”
His first No. 1 on the Rap chart was 1989’s “Somebody for Me” and he later scored crossover hits with 1991’s “Now That We Found Love” and “Big Daddy” in 1997. His highest charting single came in 1990 when he teamed up with Janet Jackson on the No. 4 Hot 100 hit “Alright (Remix).”
Following a familiar path for many rappers, Heavy D eventually began exploring the acting world, with movie roles in 1999’s “Life” and 2002’s “Big Trouble” as well as a recurring role on the Fox drama “Boston Public.” He also wrote and performed the theme song for the landmark TV sketch comedy, “In Living Colour.”
After collaborating with artists like K-Ci & Jojo, Big Daddy Kane and Gang Starr as an artist, Heavy D contributed production work to tracks by Beanie Sigel and Timbaland & Magoo in the 2000s. Heavy D’s final album, “Vibes,” was released in 2008 and favored a reggae fusion sound instead of the rapper’s accessible brand of hip hop.
Last month, on Oct. 1, Heavy D performed 80s classics — “Nuttin’ But Love,” “Is It Good to You,” and “I Want Somebody” — at the 2011 BET’s Hip-Hop Awards. Tyrse joined him on stage to sing the chorus to “Now That We Found Love,” widely considered the star’s most identifiable track. He also performed the song “Jam” at the Michael Jackson tribute concert in Wales on Oct. 8 in a duet with La Toya Jackson.