by Kianna Alexander
Born in Jamaica but raised in the Moneyearnin’ Mount Vernon, we first heard Heavy D’s voice in 1987, when he and the Boyz (DJ Eddie F, G-Whiz, and the late Trouble T-Roy) released their debut album Livin’ Large. He came strong right out of the gate with tracks like “The Overweight Lover’s in the House” and “Mr. Big Stuff,” embracing his size and wearing it as a badge of honor. On “Don’t You Know,” with a little help from R&B crooner Al. B. Sure, he professed his love for a woman and waxed sentimental by imagining what their wedding day would be like.
“Got Me Waiting,” “Somebody for Me” and “Now That We Found Love” looked at relationships in a more pensive, thoughtful way. Love is not cut and dry, and Hev knew that. And anyone who’s heard “Black Coffee” knows it is a manifesto of sorts, on which he uplifts and edifies Black women during a time when most rappers were busy calling women distasteful names.
Even at times when Hev used two of the most common practices in hip-hop: sampling or collaborations, he did it a way only he could. The super sexy “Keep It Comin’,” one of his underappreciated tracks from 1997’s Waterbed Hev, is a prime example of sampling done right, as Hev lays down game over the Gap Band’s classic track “Yearning for Your Love.” And if you want to hear a hip-hop supergroup, before that was really a thing, “On Point,” featuring the late Big Pun and Eightball, is a must listen. That track goes hard, y’all.
From being one of the only men in Hip-Hop to embrace their larger size and stray from hypermasculinity in his music, Hev’s impact in Hip-Hop is apparent. Yet beyond giving us some of the best Hip-Hop to bless our ears, he also had a hand in the careers of some of our most beloved Hip-Hop Soul artists.
In the early nineties, he made the call to Uptown head Andre Harrell that secured an internship for Sean “Diddy” Combs. Combs would go on to produce the debut album of the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” Mary J. Blige. It was also Heavy who heard a demo by a group of four young guys from North Carolina and introduced them to Harrell. That group was Jodeci, who would go on to fuse Gospel, New Jack Swing and Hip-Hop Soul in their music.
Additionally, he would work with Soul for Real, Monifah, Guy, LeVert and Changing Faces. Hev is also credited as a guest artist, producer, and composer for industry giants and pioneers like Queen Latifah and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
“We’ve Got Our Own Thang” contains one of my favorite Heavy D lines:
In this life, I strive for improvement/Be your own guide, follow your own movement.
Hev succinctly encapsulated what he was all about. Whether he was working on his own music, or collaborating with another artist, he was all about individuality and being true to himself. With his words, he encouraged us to do the same. Rest in peace, Hev. There will never be another.
Kianna Alexander is the author of more than 35 published romances as well as a serious music lover. When she's not writing, she can be found with her husband and two kids, being domestic, to the sounds of Miguel, Ro James, or classic hip hop. Find her online at www.AuthorKiannaAlexader.com.