R.I.P. Heavy D

TMZ reports that the absurdly charismatic late-’80s/early-’90s rap star Heavy D died earlier today at a hospital in L.A. He was 44, and this is just massively sad.

The Overweight Lover was born in Jamaica and moved to New York as a child. He and his group, the Boyz, first arrived with their 1987 album Living Large; their 1989 follow-up Big Tyme was one of the first rap tapes I ever owned. On these records, Heavy pioneered a lively, friendly, hugely accessible form of pop-rap that, along with records by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, helped rap cross over to middle-class white kids like me. He was also a truly marvelous dancer, especially for a man of his size, something that the videos below demonstrate nicely.

Heavy’s never been considered an all-time rap great or anything, but a look back at his career reveals that the man got a whole lot done. He did the theme song to In Living Color, he guested on big singles from Michael and Janet Jackson, and he eventually made the transition to legit actor, going from rapsploitation fare like New Jersey Drive to mainstream movies like The Cider House Rules and TV shows like Boston Public. In the past month, he performed at the BET Hip-Hop Awards and had a cameo in The Tower Heist. We don’t yet know how he died; we only know that it sucks. Below, check out some of the man’s videos.

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