Rapper and actor Heavy D, one of the defining voices of hip-hop's late-80s and early-90s golden
age, has died. The 44-year-old was taken to hospital with breathing problems, just hours after he
wrote to his followers on Twitter, "BE INSPIRED!"
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
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!"