The Rapper You Could Bring Home to Mama

Heavy D, who died Tuesday at the age of 44, kept fans dancing -- and also kept it clean.

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Heavy D & the Boyz in 1988 (Getty Images).

Hip-hop music legend Heavy D passed away today, and his fans are surely mourning the beloved artist's untimely death. According to TMZ, the rapper collapsed in his Beverly Hills, Calif., home this morning after returning from a shopping trip. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and pronounced dead at 1 p.m.

Born Dwight Errington Myers, the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native came to rap prominence in the late 1980s and flourished in the early '90s thanks to a cadre of dance-floor-motivating and radio-friendly hits from his group, Heavy D & the Boyz. Known for being an agile dancer despite his size, he also became a hip-hop sex symbol and was affectionately dubbed the Overweight Lover.

Heavy D & the Boyz' hits relied more on wit and having a good time than gangster posturing and machismo. The group's breakthrough album was 1989's platinum-selling Big Tyme, which spawned a number of hits, including "Somebody for Me," featuring Al B. Sure; "We Got Out Own Thang"; and the reggae-flavored "Gyrlz, They Love Me."

Tragedy struck in July 1990, when group member Troy "Trouble T-Roy" Dixon died after accidentally falling from a balcony following a show in Indianapolis. Heavy D & the Boyz would continue on, dropping three more albums, including the platinum-selling Peaceful Journey (1991) and plenty more hits, including "Black Coffee," "Is It Good to You" and "Nuttin but Love."

"Got Me Waiting," released in 1994 on the group's last album, Nuttin' but Love, reached No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 1 on the Billboard rap chart. 1997's "Big Daddy" was the only notable hit from Hev's solo album Waterbed Hev; he also released Heavy, in 1999. In addition, Hev famously created the theme song to the hit television comedy-skit show In Living Color and appeared on Michael Jackson's "Jam" in 1991.

Although it had been years since his last hit, Hev's career nevertheless left an indelible imprint in hip-hop. He was an early advocate of the talents of his deejaying cousin, the now legendary hip-hop producer Pete Rock. Heavy D & the Boyz were one of the marquee acts on Andre Harrell's Uptown Records, which released their debut album, Livin' Large, in 1987.

It was at Uptown that Sean Diddy Combs rose from intern to vice president of A&R, and where the template of a big man as sex symbol inspired the fledgling mogul's artistic direction of an artist he signed from Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, N.Y., called the Notorious B.I.G.

Heavy was also one of the first rappers to successfully break into Hollywood, with some of his acting credits including The Cider House Rules and recurring roles in television shows Roc and Boston Public. Most recently he had a brief cameo in the Eddie Murphy comedy Tower Heist.

Throughout his career, his usually family-friendly lyrics effortlessly touched on topics like romantic relationships and used R&B-infused rhythms -- a style that au courant rappers like Drake now make their living utilizing. In October, Hev was seen rocking the crowd and landing his dance steps while performing a medley of his hits on the stage of the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards. He looked so spry during his performance that it makes his passing at the age of 44 all the more jarring.

One of his lesser-known hits, yet a favorite among devout fans, is 1991's "Don't Curse." On the song, its guest artists -- some of hip-hop's most respected rappers, including Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap -- were forbidden to use any expletives in their verses. Q-Tip rhymed, "Don't want to hear no drama, because the bum-diddly Hev is a fav of my momma's."

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