Celebrating one of the most underrated artists in mainstream hip-hop
In 2011 we lost an artist I consider criminally underrated and under-acknowledged in hip hop conversations. We’ve touched on him in previous #MusicSermons: looking at the book of Uptown and remembering how hard we danced in the 90s, but today we’re going to properly focus on Dwight Errington Meyers, better known as Heavy D.
Without Heav, there’s no Uptown legacy as we know it, there’s not even a Bad Boy as we know it….But we’ll get into all that. Let’s start at the beginning: The Money Earnin’
Mount Vernon, above the Bronx, is home to Heavy (by way of Jamaica), Puffy, Pete Rock, CL Smooth, Al B. Sure and more. Harlem, the Bronx and points north — Mt. Vernon included — are deemed “Uptown,” if you speak NYC.
I consider Heav the cornerstone of Uptown Records, and we’ll talk more about that later, too. Long before Big and Pun were on the scene claiming Big Sexy status, the Overweight Lover had set the stage. Also PLEASE get into Heav’s footwork.
Coca Cola fits, flight suits, fresh Nike’s, gold rope chains… The fashion statements were so real. (Wops)
Even in the early days Heav felt to me — and this is co-signed by the way people who knew him talk about him — like a big brother in the game. An elder-statesman from the jump.
When Uptown started, the roster included Finesse & Synquis, Groove B. Chill, and Marley Marl. But it was Heavy and Al B. Sure who set the tone and tempo for what the label was going to become: the marriage of r&b and hip-hop; party music, but not too cool to smooth out.
Living Large wasn’t considered a huge commercial success, but the follow up, Big Tyme, came with HITS. New jack swing was emerging on the music scene, and Uptown was getting in its bag as a label.
YOOOOO…. I’m sorry. “We Got Out Own Thang” is my sh*t. Right now. Today. Still. I gotta run that back.
Also need to — again — emphasize the footwork. The Boys got it IN.
Three Top 5 singles, and production from Eddie F (The “F” was for “fine”), Teddy Riley (of course), Marly Marl (who also did a lot of Living Large) and of course collabs with label mate/Mount Vernon neighbor Al B. Sure.
The Bum Diddly solidified his Big Smooth Cool brother persona. Heav was stylish, light on his feet, and all the girls, the girls, they loved him.
By this point, Heav is a star in hip-hop, and moving into the mainstream. Heavy D and the Boyz were one of the first acts tapped when Sprite started their legendary hip-hop campaigns.
As we already covered, Heav was smooth with it. Female friendly from the door. And “safe” hip-hop (and I say that with no shots). So when Janet needed a feature, who’d she call?
Oh, speaking of features, lemme back up a couple of years, cause I almost forgot about when Heavy D was in effect, and cooling’ with Levert.
Back to 1990. New jack swing culture is in full effect. Life and music is bright and full of energy. We get it poppin’ (please refer to my We Danced Hard AF in the 90s sermon). A groundbreaking sketch comedy show is hitting the air. We need a theme song!
That boy was so light on his damn feet!
Heavy D & the Boyz are supporting Big Tyme with a live ass tour (that came to my hometown of Greenville, SC like three times). Then, playing around after a show, Troy “Trouble T. Roy” Dixon dies in a fall at 22. Pete Rock (Heav’s cousin) and CL Smooth’s “T.hey R.eminisce O.ver Y.ou” is about him.
Eddie F. has said that Tory’s death changed something in the group, because he was friends with everyone separately before they got together. He called Troy “the glue”. But Heavy, Eddie and G Whiz come back about a year after Troy’s death with Peaceful Journey.
While it didn’t hit the same heights as Big Tyme (which, full disclosure is my fav), Peaceful Journey was still solid. Heavy tapped into his yardie roots for this remake with label mate Aaron Hall.
Label-mate Teddy Riley had “Is It Good to You” on it on the Juice soundtrack right before Heav, but Heav’s version is probably better known.
“You Can’t See What I Can See” was the bside posse-cut “Don’t Curse” (no clip) but I don’t think it was ever on an album. (Somebody tell me if I’m wrong).
Yes, that’s Pac walking around all up and through here, and Puff chilling in the background.
Around this same time, another Jackson sibling taps Heavy for a feature. This video is comedy.
Another Heavy feature to highlight here, tapping into his yardie roots, with the Don Dada (and at some point I delve more into the relationship with Supercat and Uptown/Bad Boy). This was my joint.
Heavy had mad more albums. Two more with The Boyz, and several more solo. I’m gonna hit some highlights moving forward, starting with the title track for the next album.
From the last Heavy D album with The Boyz, a partnership we apparently owe to Heav. Bret Ratner met Chris Tucker on the “Nuttin’ But Love” video shoot, which lead to him coming on board for Rush Hour (allegedly).
And hey young Cynthia Bailey!
When Nuttin But Love dropped, the new jack swing era was making way for the hip-hop soul era, and a lot of rappers who’d been in the game since the ‘80s couldn’t make the transition. Heav flowed with it, though.
Hey, Big Lez.
Around this time, Bad Boy was taking Uptown’s spot at the label moving urban culture. Andre Harrell left to run Motown, and Heavy became the first rapper to head a label, working with two of his signees. First, Soul 4 Real…
And with his signee from before he took the reigns, Monifah.
But Uptown was never going to return to its former glory, and Heavy really wanted to be a creative, not an executive. So he stepped down in a few years, and Uptown folded in 99.
I also mentioned earlier that there may be no Bad Boy as we know it without Heav. While Puff always gives Dre all props for starting his career, he also says fellow Mt. Vernon native Heavy is the one that actually gave him the internship, and let him get his foot in the door.
What I am happy about, is that just months before his death, Heavy got his flowers. A whole new generation of music lovers got to see why we loved the Overweight Lover so much when he had his moment at the BET Hip Hop Awards. I’ll close with this.