Heavy D: Legacy in the World of Hip Hop and RnB

Creative Legacy
November 10, 2019

Dwight Arrington Myers[1][2] (May 24, 1967 – November 8, 2011),[3] better known as Heavy D, was a Jamaican-born American rapper, record producer, singer, actor. Myers was the former leader of Heavy D & the Boyz, a group which included dancers/background vocalists G-Whiz (Glen Parrish), "Trouble" T. Roy (Troy Dixon), and Eddie F (born Edward Ferrell). The group maintained a sizable audience in the United States through most of the 1990s. The five albums the group released were produced by Teddy Riley, Marley Marl, DJ Premier, his cousin Pete Rock, and Eddie F.

In the mid-1980s, rapper-turned-record-executive Andre Harrell picked up a phone call that would change his life.

At the time, he was working at Def Jam via Russell Simmons' Rush Management empire, but just like that, opportunity struck. "Hey, we have this artist named Heavy D." On the other receiving end of this call was a convincing Albert Joseph Brown III, who would later be christened Al B. Sure! But that's for a different story. Over the phone, Harrell was being assured that the "cat" Heavy D was "brilliant" and his group, which comprised of DJ Eddie F, Trouble T. Roy, and G Whiz, was "a lifestyle group that's gonna say something." Now the words "lifestyle" and "different" could have very well piqued Harrell's interest because, after all, he is the architect of "ghetto-fabulous." However, it would take some more convincing.

1985

The year was 1985 when, without an appointment, Heavy D walked into the Rush Management offices in hopes of walking out with a deal. Simmons wasn't interested. Andre Harrell, however, was sold. "Andre believed in us from the start," Heavy D would tell New York Magazine in 1995. After spending months trying to convince Simmons otherwise, Harrell left Def Jam and launched Uptown Records in 1986. His first order of business as label head was signing Heavy D and his group the Boyz. By 1987, the group went platinum on their first effort, Living Large. Boasting hits like "Mr. Big Stuff" and "Don't You Know," the debut album title would fittingly come to capture the impact and essence of Uptown Record's undeniable groovemaster.

To the ladies, the charismatic rapper was the "Overweight Lover." To close family and friends, he was Dwight Errington Myers. In the history books, he is the ever incomparable Heavy D. Equipped with an insouciant flow and ever-congenial voice, Dwight "Heavy D" Myers was a superstar in every sense of the word. However, "superstar" was only a microcosm of his reach. Beyond a star, Hev was truly larger than life.

1989 - 1991

With his group, Heavy D & The Boyz, the robust, baritone-voiced rapper released a string of well-received albums, such as the aforementioned 1987 debut Living Large along with 1989's Big Tyme and 1991's Peaceful Journey. His group was also instrumental in helping to swing the pendulum for New Jack Swing as well as providing the spark to hip-hop soul. As a solo artist, Hev released four studio albums; became the only rapper to work with both Michael Jackson ("Jam") and Janet Jackson ("Alright"); rapped alongside both Biggie and 2Pac on Grand Puba's "Let's Get It On"; and collected countless credits for contributions to television and film.

But while it is public knowledge that he was one of hip-hop's early bonafide pop stars, a good portion of Heavy's illustrious moves were also made behind the scenes. You would be hard-pressed to name an artist who came up during and after his era that can't cite Uptown's marquee star as an influence — and if it wasn't acknowledged verbally, it was certainly showed in their artistry.

Over the past 25 years, this influence is locked into the very fabric of modern day hip-hop. His golden touch was essential in the development of rap as it grew from a micro to macro phenomenon between the late 1980s and 1990s. In celebrating the life of the rap game's perennial quarterback, we shine a spotlight on the magnitude of Heavy D's enduring influence.

Before the success of Guy, Al B. Sure!, Mary J. Blige, and Jodeci, it was Heavy D who provided the cement for Uptown Record's foundation. At the time, Def Jam was the towering record label and its signature sound was hardcore. "Def Jam had built a sound. Loud, abrasive, aggressive, alternative music," Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons revealed during an episode of BET's Inside the Label series. "Then, Andre comes in with 'Mr. Big Stuff.' I'm like 'What am I going to do with that?! What is that shit?! We don't do that here.'" With Russ uninterested, Harrell parted ways with Rush and launched Uptown off the potential of Heavy D. As history would have it, the risk was well worth it.

What songwriting great Smokey Robinson was to Berry Gordy in defining the Motown sound, it was Heavy D to Andre Harrell and Uptown Records. Besides churning out hits with his group the Boyz, Hev was instrumental in the structure of Uptown's roster. He helped get his fellow Mount Vernon pal Al B. Sure! signed to the label and made the call to get a young Sean Combs an internship. "One day he was outside and I said, "I really need you to make this call for me," Combs recollected in an interview this year. "He had the cell phone and he pulled it out, he made the call and he set up a meeting for me to meet with [Andre Harrell]."

Before the Notorious B.I.G., before Rick Ross, there was Heavy D. Embracing his hefty frame, the rapper made heavyset rappers less of a novelty act (à la The Fat Boys) and more of an artist to be taken serious. Light on his feet, smooth with the ladies ("Is It Good to You," "Overweight Lover"), and super fly, Hev used his size as fuel for what ultimately changed the narrative for the big guys.

"What's the best thing," a Los Angeles Times reporter asked the rapper in a 1991 interview. The question happened to be in reference to what Hev considered was the best parts to being a rapper. To that, he fittingly answered, "Being a 320-pound sex symbol."

The first R&B artist Heavy D worked with was fellow label mate Al B Sure. The first occurrence being on “Don’t You Know” from Heavy’s Living Large album. Then once again on Heavy D’s “Somebody for Me” from his 1989 album Big Tyme. At this point in his career Heavy D had established a name for himself and landed a collaboration with Janet Jackson on “Alright” from her album Rhythm Nation.

Heavy D – Don’t You Know feat. Al B Sure


Heavy D – Somebody for Me feat. Al B Sure

Janet Jackson – Alright feat. Heavy D

In 1990 Heavy D would contribute the self titled theme song to the classic sketch show In Living Color along with the R&B act The Gyrlz. That same year Heavy appeared on Guy’s Future album with the collaboration “Do Me Right”. Aaron Hall, the lead singer from the group would return the favor and appear on Heavy D’s “Now That We Found Love” from 1991’s Peaceful Journey. On Peaceful Journey, the self-titled album track included background vocals from Jodeci. A group that Heavy D was instrumental in getting signed to Uptown Records.  He then lined them up with a young Puff Daddy to spearhead artist development.

Heavy D – In Living Color feat. The Gyrlz

Guy – Do Me Right feat. Heavy D

Heavy D – Now That We Found Love feat. Aaron Hall

Heavy D – Peaceful Journey feat. Jodeci

That same year Heavy D would show up on the biggest album of his career, Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album. The song was “Jam” which served as a single off the project. Another highly visible appearance Heavy D made with an R&B artist was Mary J Blige on the remix to “My Love” produced by Teddy Riley.  A track from her 1993 sophomore album What’s the 411? Remix.

Michael Jackson – Jam feat. Heavy D

Mary J Blige – My Love (remix) feat. Heavy D (prod. by Teddy Riley)

1994 brought Heavy D’s most successful album to date, the double album project titled Nuttin But Love. The biggest song from the project was “Got Me Waiting” which had a remix featuring the group Silk. By the mid 90’s Heavy D became deeply involved in producing and a record label executive. One group he was very hands on with was Soul for Real. Serving as a writer and executive producer on several of their projects including their platinum selling debut 1995’s Candy Rain. Making an appearance on the remix to the title’s track. He was also instrumental with the career of R&B singer Monifah, producing a good amount of her first two projects and appearing on her 1996 debut single “I Miss You (Come Back Home)”.

Heavy D – Got Me Waiting (remix) feat. Silk

Soul for Real – Candy Rain (remix) feat. Heavy D

Monifah – I Miss You (Come Back Home) feat. Heavy D

During his career Heavy D was such a prominent figure in the R&B world. He recorded with some of the largest R&B artists of his time.  Beyond that though Heavy D discovered artists, gave them their big break.  As well as produce and help develop artists to achieve prominence. Heavy D, a true talent who is sorely missed.

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