Dwight Myers, the charismatic and rotund rapper known as Heavy D who had chart-topping hits in the 1980s and 1990s before embarking on careers as an actor and influential record executive, died Nov. 8 in Los Angeles. He was 44.
The Associated Press reported that he collapsed outside his home in Beverly Hills and died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Heavy D was hip-hop’s self-described “overweight lover.” As he proclaimed in one of his lyrics, no one possessed “more bounce to the ounce.”
Despite a peak weight of 395 pounds, Heavy D was a fleet-footed dancer who glided around the stage while reciting his raps with ease. His effortless moves — combined with his persistent charm and flirtatious lyrics — made him a sex symbol for many women.
Leading the group Heavy D and the Boyz, he was best known for catchy, danceable tunes that revolved around his love for women. His hits included “Now That We Found Love,” “Gyrlz, They Love Me,” and “Nuttin’ But Love.”
Heavy D also worked alongside many of the music industry’s top stars, including Michael Jackson, on his song “Jam,” and blues guitarist B.B. King, on the track “Keep it Coming.”
“He was a consummate performer,” hip-hop historian Joan Morgan said in an interview. “Here’s a guy who could dance and sing and rap and also had this real commitment to make music that his parents could listen to and he would not be embarrassed.”
Morgan said Heavy D made an effort in his music to avoid raw lyrics and show respect for women.
“At at time when hip-hop got increasingly more violent and increasingly more misogynistic, he really appreciated black women and black beauty,” said Morgan, who wrote the 1999 book “When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost: A Hip-hop Feminist Breaks It Down.”
After a successful musical career, he transitioned smoothly to the executive suites of Uptown Records in the mid-1990s and later Universal Music.
He was the first rapper to head a major music label, Morgan said, and he paved the way for performers-turned-label-executives such as Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lil Wayne.
At Uptown, Heavy D helped nurture the budding career of rhythm-and-blues singer Mary J. Blige and hired an auspicious intern, Sean “Diddy” Combs,” now an entrepreneur and record mogul.
Dwight Arrington Myers was born May 24, 1967, in Jamaica. His mother was a nurse, and his father was a film equipment repairman.
His family moved to Mount Vernon, N.Y., when he was 4. He began rapping as a teenager and formed the group Heavy D and the Boyz. After he and friends won $1,500 on an Atlantic City slot machine, the group invested in a drum machine.
They used the beat-making device to produce a demo tape that eventually landed in the hands of Andre Harrell, a Def Jam record executive. Heavy D and the Boyz was the first group Harrell signed to his new label, Uptown Records.
Heavy D’s first album, “Living Large,” came out in 1987 and his last, “Love Opus,” was released in September. A review in Rolling Stone called the 1991 album “Peaceful Journey” a “triumph of sung choruses, insistent hooks and clear, upbeat lyrics — a masterful display of pop rap’s strengths.”
In 1995, he earned strong reviews for his performance in the off-Broadway crime drama “Riff Raff,” written and directed by Laurence Fishburne. He later had recurring roles on the television shows “Boston Public” and “Bones.” He also appeared in movies including “Cider House Rules” (1999) and “Tower Heist,” which opened last week.
Heavy D had a daughter, Xea, but a complete list of survivors could not be confirmed.
Profiles of Heavy D emphasized his weight in relation to his sex appeal.
“It has nothing to do with looks,” he told The Washington Post in 1997. “I feel comfortable with myself, but it’s more about the personality.”
He added: “I feel sexy.”