Rap legend Heavy D, whose late ‘80s and early ‘90s rap hits included the 1991 cover of “Now That We Found Love,”died Tuesday at 44. As Click Track reported:

Heavy D, a rapper who rose to stardom in the late-’80s and continued to be a force in hip-hop through the ’90s, passed away Tuesday at the age of 44, according to his management agency .

The Jamaican-American rapper, born Dwight Arrington Myers, who called himself “the overweight lover” but could still bust out plenty of dance moves, found success with his 1987 debut album, “Living Large” and even more with the 1989 followup “Big Tyme,” which spawned hits such as “We Got Our Own Thang”and “Gyrlz, They Love Me.” Another of his best-known songs was a 1991 cover of “Now That We Found Love.” He also performed the theme song for sketch comedy show “In Living Color.”Heavy D had just recently released a new album, “Love Opus,” earlier this year. A recent performance at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awardswas his first in 15 years.

The rapper’s last tweet, “BE INSPIRED” was sent just hours before he collapsed outside his home. As AP explained :

It was as if Heavy D knew that it would be his last tweet.

The self-proclaimed “overweight lover” of hip hop, who became one of rap’s top hit makers with his charming combination of humor and positivity, enthusiastically told his Twitter followers Tuesday morning to “BE INSPIRED!”

He later collapsed outside his Beverly Hills home following a shopping trip, unable to breathe, before he was transported to a nearby hospital where he died. He was 44. Detectives found no signs of foul play and believe his death was medically related, said police Lt. Mark Rosen.

“BE INSPIRED!” was typical of the positive tweets Heavy D would send, and as his final tweet, it was fitting for the life that Heavy D lived.

The deep-voiced rapper’s earliest hit, “The Overweight Lover’s in the House,” played up his hefty frame. But while that nickname would stick, his weight did not become his shtick like the Fat Boys. What drew people to his music was his singular style celebrating an easygoing, party vibe — sometimes humorous, sometimes inspiring and usually positive.

Heavy D, who was never afraid to bust a move or perform as a character, also found success on the screen. He created the theme songs for the sketch comedy shows “In Living Color” and “MADtv” and acted on such TV shows as “Boston Public,” ‘’The Tracy Morgan Show” and “Law & Order: SVU,” as well as in the films “Life,” ‘’Step Up” and most recently “Tower Heist.”

While switching between acting and performing in the late 1990s, Heavy D wasn’t as musically successful with his later Boyz-free albums. He attempted a reggae-fueled comeback in 2008 with the album “Vibes,” which didn’t contain any rapping, before he returned to his lyrical roots on his most recent effort, “Love Opus,” which was released in September.

A lighter Heavy D — coming in at apparently 135 pounds less than his former weight — returned to the stage for a pair of energetic performances last month. He delivered a medley of past hits at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta, and joined La Toya Jackson on stage for a rendition of “Jam” at the tribute concert for Michael Jackson in Cardiff, Wales.

For all his playful nature, Heavy D was also known to inject insightful lyrics and socially conscious messages in his songs. As Chris Jenkins reported:

Before Biggie Smalls, before Rick Ross, there was Heavy D. A rapper who reveled- even celebrated- in having a little bit of heft in the gut.

Hip-hop has always been about bravado. But here was a dude in 1987, straight from Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon, who made the oversized rapper less of a gimmick (like the Fat Boys were) and more of an artist that was meant to be taken seriously. Like Biggie and later Big Pun, he wasn’t running from being larger the life. Why? Because he could rhyme in just about any fashion imaginable. Sure, he had that hustle about him that we all love about rappers. But he was funny: Who didn’t shake their head at “The Overweight Lover’s in the House”? He was conscious: his line in 1989’s “Self Destruction” is classic. He spit, in part:

A-yo, here’s the situation: idodicy

Nonsense, violence, not a good policy

Therefore, we must ignore, fightin’ and fussin’

Heavy’s at the door so there’ll be no bum-rushing...

He was romantic. He was inspirational. And he was a big-boy playboy who liked to dance. You had to take his game seriously because he was really good at what he did: I still remember trying to rock the moves from the 1988 “We Got Our Own Thang” video. That boy could move!

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