It’s always weird for me to type up a eulogy for someone. Not only do I want to be respectful without mythologizing (as we far often tend to do when public figures pass away), but when the death is sudden, it hits you from so far out of left field that you almost don’t know how to put words together.

I came home from a day on the road to the news that rapper/singer/actor Dwight Meyers (AKA Heavy D.) had died suddenly at the age of 44. It’s been close to a decade and a half since Hev had anything resembling a pop hit, so he wasn’t really front of mind for too many folks from a pop culture standpoint unless you’d either watched the recent BET Hip-Hop Awards (at which he appeared) or caught his cameo in the movie “Tower Heist”. As a 35-year old card-carrying member of the hip-hop generation, though, it’s hard to believe not only that he’s gone, but that so many of the artists he’d collaborated with over his career are also gone. Not to sound like the Grim Reaper, but keep in mind that not only was he bandmates with the late Trouble T. Roy (forever immortalized in “They Reminisce Over You”, a smash recorded by Hev’s cousin Pete Rock and his partner CL Smooth), but he’d also recorded with Michael Jackson, Gerald and Sean LeVert, and Gang Starr’s Guru, as well as both 2Pac AND The Notorious B.I.G. If you’d told me at the age of 20 that all of those men would be deceased by 2011 (all passed before the age of 51), I’d have looked at you like you were insane.

At any rate, those who are too young to remember the glory days of hip-hop might not have a frame of reference as to Heavy D’s impact on the genre, but there was a point in time when Hev was easily one of the 5 or so most popular emcees in music. Futhermore, he was one of the few artists of hip-hop’s classic era that had widespread appeal. Pop radio wasn’t afraid of him. Urban radio wasn’t afraid of him. TV wasn’t afraid of him-he not only appeared as himself on “A Different World”, but he performed the theme song for “In Living Color” and co-wrote the theme song of “Living Single”. He was a teen idol that even the quiet storm crowd could get behind. He wasn’t a flossy sellout rapper like MC Hammer, but it can be argued that the only two emcees of the early Nineties to successfully navigate the thin line between street acceptance and crossover appeal (prior to Dre and Snoop changing everything) were LL Cool J and Heavy D.

Hev leaves behind a legacy of enjoyable albums as well as a handful of classic singles. He’s notable for not only being one of the first emcees to expand into acting (in addition to his movie roles, he was a regular on “The Tracy Morgan Show” back in the day), but for bringing the era of the sexy big guy into hip-hop, being the first rapper to collaborate with Janet AND Michael Jackson (how’s that for props?), and was also navigating a Grammy-nominated transition into reggae. He leaves behind a daughter as well as numerous family members, friends and fans, including his cousin Pete Rock, who he introduced into the hip-hop game and went on to become arguably the greatest rap producer of all time.

Rest in peace, Hev.

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