Dwight Arrington Myers was born May 2,4 1967 and tragically died too young on November 8, 2011. But during that time he had a rather impressive career in both music and acting. I was thinking about him recently. As a fan of rap music, the subject of “Greatest Rappers” comes up a lot, and it’s a subject I’ve debated many times with friends and family both online and in real life. Lots of people often list their Top 5 – Top 50 lists and spark further debate. Who will be on your list, and where they place on it, will often depend on your age and background. But there are a few names that tend to pop up with some regularity. Rakim, KRS-One, Nas, Jay Z, Eminem, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G.
But what criteria can you objectively judge a rapper and how “great” they are? Personally, I’m a fan of lyrics, I love the guys who can really come up with new and impressive ways to rhyme words together. That’s what guys like Rakim and KRS-One did when I was a kid, first getting into rap music, and it’s something Eminem does really well, which makes him one of my modern-day favorites. Then you have someone like Tupac who gets credit for his sheer record of material, as well as his vast subject matter. He could do gangsta rap, love songs, and political songs all equally well. There’s also commercial achievement to consider, with guys like Eminem and Jay Z have much longer careers in which they continue to release hit-albums well into their 40’s, than had previously been expected of rappers.
But, y’know, I was thinking, does someone have to really be exceptional to be considered one of the greatest? What about the workhorses, the guys who may not have the most complex rhyming skills but who just, consistently, make good music? Isn’t that in and of itself, pretty impressive?
And that brings me to Heavy D, the Overweight lover.
Heavy D and his group, The Boyz (consisting of D.J./Producer Eddie F and two dancers Trouble T-Roy and G-Whiz), released their debut album LIVIN’ LARGE on Uptown Records in 1987. Produced in large part by Teddy Riley as well as legendary D.J. Marly Marl. It was bolstered by the debut single, MR. BIG STUFF, which heavily samples the classic 1970 R&B hit of the same name by Jean Knight. But it was the follow-up single, THE OVERWEIGHT LOVER’S IN THE HOUSE, which really got my attention at the time.
You said I couldn’t do it, then it got done
And after you and I did it, you said it was FUN!
Now every day of your life you wanna be with me
When you got time to spend you spend time with Heavy D
Lyrically the songs are rather basic. But there’s a certain energy Heavy D brought to it when he recited them. He was a big dude, but confident enough to rap like he was a playboy. And the beats were always dance-able to, or least enough to make you nod your head when you listen to him.
The album was a minor success that put his name on the map. But over the course of the next seven years, Heavy D and The Boyz would release 4 more albums, all of which would become bigger successes.
1989’s BIG TYME would go platinum (sell more than one million copies) and spawn three top 10 rap hits that also crossed over to the R&B charts. 1991’s PEACEFUL JOURNEY would also go platinum, 1993’s BLUE FUNK would go Gold (half a million copies) and then they’d return to platinum status with 1994’s NUTTIN BUT LOVE, the title track of which is all-time favorite Heavy D and The Boyz song.
Heavy D had a formula, simple lyrics over a quick-tempo R&B-style beat with a catchy chorus, and it worked. I’ll note that after the 2nd album, group member Trouble T-Roy, Troy Dixon, died in a tragic accident (and went on to be immortalized in the hip-hop classic THEY REMINISCE OVER YOU by Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth), but the group soldiered on.
During this time, Heavy D appeared on Janet Jackon’s 1989 hit song ALRIGHT, and then on Micheal Jackson’s 1992 hit song JAM, as well as composing the theme song to the hit sketch comedy show IN LIVING COLOR.
Heavy D’s performances were impressive, despite his large frame, the man would work up a sweat on the dancefloor.
He also began an acting career, starting off playing himself on an episode of A DIFFERENT WORLD in 1989, which he would do again the next years on THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR, followed by roles playing other characters in a 1990 episode of the 21 Jump Street spin-off BOOKER, and then an episode of TALES FROM THE CRYPT in 1992. He’d also nab a recurring role on ROC in 1993, and then another one on LIVING SINGLE in 1994.
In 1997 he released his first solo album, WATERBED HEV, which would go GOLD. Three more solo albums would follow, none of which made much impact on the charts, and from then on the rest of his life was primarily spent as an actor, appearing in many TV shows and films, but nonetheless his record up to that point, 5 platinum or Gold albums, is darned impressive for a rapper of his era. And I feel like for that accomplishment alone he should be much better remembered.
He may not have broken any records, created any five mic “classics” or redefined the genre (although it certainly could be argued that he paved the way for Notorious B.I.G., by portraying himself as a sex symbol who happened to be overweight, as Biggie would later do), he just made a lot of hit songs on a consistent basis.
He may not be “The Greatest Of All Time,” but he was pretty great in his own way. R.I.P.