Dwight “Heavy D” Myers, the artist, actor and music executive whose feel-good music shaped everything that was right and fun and beautiful about 1990s hip hop, is gone from here—and my heart is so very heavy over his passing. He was such a jewel. A rare, beautiful, sweet, sweet jewel of a man. No, I did not know him personally, but as a young entertainment reporter at the New York Daily News in the 90s, I spent enough time around icy rappers, actors, singers, movie directors, entertainment executives and all of their clingers-on to recognize an artist who was human and had both a big heart and warm blood pumping through his veins. Heavy D was that guy.
I had the great honor and pleasure of spending a day with Heavy D for a profile I penned on him for the cover of the paper’s Sunday section. From 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., I shadowed him from stop to stop as he promoted Waterbed Hev, his seventh album, and I promise you, this man was nothing but sweet, respectful, gracious and forthcoming—not because he thought he needed to be but because that was genuinely who he was. I could just feel it. And everyone I talked to about him acknowledged the same. The story ran in May of 1997; I found the piece, “Ooh, That’s Heavy Stuff,” on the Daily News website; the following excerpt attests to Heavy’s character—his heart:
“You always think of Heavy D as the cutting-edge of hip hop,” says Hot 97 radio show host Ed Lover, putting aside his jokes. “He’s just a great entertainer. He’s never been gassed up on himself. He always has time for everybody. Whenever you see him in the street, it’s never Heavy D and a phalanx of bodyguards it’s Heavy D and his boys. He’s always approachable.”
Lover takes a breath, then adds, “He’s the classiest person in hip hop ever.”
Heavy’s stop at Hot 97 is the beginning of yet another exhaustive day in the exhaustive schedule of this rapper-cum-record executive, who spends most of his time these days promoting his new album and mining talent as a senior vice president for the Universal Music Group, which distributes Uptown. He got up at 7:30 this morning, only 3 1/2 short hours after he put his head down to sleep at 4 a.m.
10:45 a.m., the lower 60s, on the East Side
After his Hot 97 appearance and breakfast at the Parker Meridien, Heavy has come back to his apartment to change clothes. Now dressed to the nines in cream and black and topped off with a dark-brown fedora, he comes out of his apartment building where he lives in a bright and beautifully furnished one-bedroom bachelor pad with a spectacular Manhattan view. He graciously holds the door open to his limousine for two lady guests—a reporter and his publicist. Loud sounds—really loud sounds—suddenly pierce the air.
“Aaaaaaaaaggghhhh! It’s Heavy Deeeeeeeee!!!!!!”
Little girls. Lots of them. With cameras and pens and paper and braids flying in the air. Running. They were staking out the Regis and Kathie Lee show for some other star, got lucky and spotted the Heavster.
A not-so-big man would have pretended he didn’t see a thing. But not this big man. Heavy rolls the window down. A millisecond later, two brown hands come reaching for his cheeks.
“You’re sooooo cuuuute!” the fan says, moving his pinched face from side to side.
“Can I take a picture?” another shouts after she clicks.
“I love you, Heavy!”
Whenever Heavy walks down the street, everybody gives him love—little kids, young women, grandfathers, buppies, Latinas and white guys, everybody. They want to shake his hand. They smile and say “Hey, Heavy!” They spell out their names as they shove a piece of paper and pen in his face and he signs every one of them with a smile.
What keeps them coming?
Heavy answers in parable form: “It’s so funny. I was watching a movie with a young lady the other night and a question came up: Would you rather be loved or feared? And I said, `I’d rather be respected.’ She said, `Respect is not an option,’ and I said, `But it is.’
“If someone loves you, there’s a thin line between love and hate. They can easily hate you. If someone fears you, a scared person will do his best to get rid of you because he fears you. If someone respects you, it’s in between… It’s like, `He’s a nice guy, not a problem at all. I’m not threatened by him honestly, he’s cool to be around.’
“I’d rather be respected.”
Heavy D was and is respected—by so many of us who appreciate his talent, love his music and wish there were more artists like him who understood and embraced honor in their craft, their audience and the way they conduct themselves. I don’t think it’s a coincidence or ironic at all that Heavy’s last tweet was, “BE INSPIRED!”
It suits him.
Fly with the angels, sweet, sweet man. You will be missed, but your musical legacy and the memories that we all have of you being a stand-up, big-hearted guy, assures that you will never, ever be forgotten.