Entertainment & Arts

Hip-hop star Heavy D dies aged 44

Heavy D
Image caption Heavy D's last tweet to his fans encouraged them to "be inspired"

US recording artist Heavy D, the self-proclaimed "overweight lover" of hip-hop, who became one of rap's biggest stars in the 1980s, has died aged 44.

He died on Tuesday after being found unconscious at his Los Angeles home.

Born Dwight Arrington Myers in Jamaica in 1967, Heavy D found fame with his band "The Boyz", scoring hits with such tracks as Now That We Found Love.

He appeared on Michael Jackson's 1991 song Jam and recently performed at the singer's tribute concert in Cardiff.

"My heart goes out to the family and [loved] ones of Heavy D," tweeted Jackson's sister La Toya, who appeared with Heavy D at the event on 8 October.

Although he was known for his big frame, Heavy D never let his size become his defining characteristic.

The charismatic MC was more often a seducer and a comedian. "What's it going to be, me or the TV?" he chided his lover on Now That We Found Love, his biggest UK hit.

With his band, The Boyz, he set the tone for New Jack Swing - sparse production, big R&B hooks and metallic drum loops - paving the way for the likes of Bobby Brown and Blackstreet.

Three of his albums - Big Tyme (1989), Peaceful Journey (1991) and Nuttin' but Love (1994) - went platinum in the US.

In the early 1990s, he duetted with the likes of Notorious BIG and Janet Jackson, cheekily branding the latter "a walking bank vault" on her hit single Alright.

His music suffered as his acting career took off, with appearances on TV shows such as Law & Order: SVU and Boston Public in the early 2000s.

He also made select film appearances, with roles in The Cider House Rules and, most recently, alongside Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in the comedy Tower Heist.

However, he continued to create music and his last album, Love Opus, was considered a return to form when it was released in September this year.

Heart of gold

Rapper Ice T was among the rapper's peers expressing condolences, saying he felt "sick" at the news of the Heavy D's death.

"Stop for a second, take a breath and realize how lucky you are to be alive," he wrote after hearing the news.

"We had a lot of great times touring together," tweeted MC Hammer. "He had a heart of gold."

According to Lt Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills police, the rapper experienced breathing difficulties while returning home from shopping.

After collapsing in an exterior hallway, he was transported to Cedars Sinai Medical Center where he later died.

The musician is survived by family members including his daughter Xea.

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