Heavy D passed away yesterday at the age of just 44.
I'm not entirely sure how to explain Heavy to a generation that probably has only a vague idea of what he did. He had hits, yes, but also a much deeper catalog than he's given credit for. Impact, too. Among people my age he burned early hip hop imprints on the brains of the uninitiated by way of the In Living Color theme, Jackson collabs and Sprite commercials. He put on for his hometown of Mount Vernon, giving everyone from cousin Pete Rock to Diddy himself their first breaks. He helped usher in the dancehall trend in hip hop, eventually helping to shatter and shift the entire modern rap language into what we know it to be today. He made it cool to be fat, suave even, in a time when his full framed peers kept it goofy. In fact he was one of the first artists to push the grown and sexy angle in hip hop, regardless of size.
So if you're so inclined, just check a few joints from 1992's Blue Funk (and then maybe go and buy it). It might not be his most representative work but it's probably the easiest entry point for the Heavster neophyte. Not only is it entirely better than one might expect any rapper's fourth album to be, it's a testament to the man's versatility, the incredibly rare case of a pop rap vet re-immersing himself into more street/underground strains of hip hop without sounding forced or undignified. It's really striking how well he aged out of the flattop and wop era into making more head noddish boom bap, lyrically dominating productions from icons like Pete and DJ Premier as well as less heralded but nearly as talented peers like Tribe familia Skeff Anslem and Tony Dofat, who tends to double down on those Pete Rock echoed-the-fuck-out horns to create an effect that a more manipulative critic might describe as psychedelic. And then there's the closing posse cut, "A Buncha N*ggas" which not only features Guru and Busta Rhymes but also the on-record debut from a little rapper named Biggie Smalls, who no doubt took a few notes on Hev's overweight lover swag.