It's almost fashionable these days to forget Heavy D, despite the fact that from 1987 through 1994 he was one of the most visible and popular stars in all of hip-hop. Even when it was cool for hardcore hip-hop to shun artists like MC Hammer and Young MC for taking rap commercial, almost nobody fronted on the Heavster when he DID a commercial for Sprite. Guest appearances on popular TV sitcoms like "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "Living Single" were the norm. You could even hear the Heavster's voice rocking the lyrics that opened "In Living Color" every week, and he was a recurring musical guest. It's hard to overstate just how successful Mr. Dwight Myers was. While the Fat Boys may have set the mold for being large and in charge, D took it to a whole new level. To put it plain and simple, nobody fronted on Heavy D. He could rock for young and old, for pop listeners and b-boys alike, and his charismatic personality made him as successful on TV as he was on the microphone. Myers did it all.
Ironically it was about the time that Heavy D and his Boyz dropped the album "Nuttin' But Love" that hip-hop started to now show him love any more. To refer to them as a group though, then or now, is a bit of a misnomer. As with records from Boogie Down Productions, they may have been a crew in name, but KRS-One dominated every track and was the only clear star. You could argue that his "Boyz" were the track producers and the backup dancers, but clearly the people came to see Heavy D - or at least they did up until that point. With the rise of the Wu-Tang Clan and Tha Dogg Pound, hip-hop went in a harder direction that the always commercially friendly D didn't seem to fit. He tried coming back without the Boyz on the albums "Waterbed Hev" and "Heavy" in the late 90's, but suddenly seemed derivative instead of innovative, looking to put his heavy frame into the slim jiggy style dominated by Bad Boy, and the whole thing came apart at the seems. As a result of this misguided style change and a lack of fan support, the once massively popular rapper has not dropped a new album in almost six and a half years. That's not to say Dwight Myers is suffering for it - he's picked up the acting side of his game and done a lot more TV and film in the interim, even appearing in acclaimed films like "The Cider House Rules" and serious TV dramas like "Bones" and "Boston Public."
Let's go back to where it all began though. It's been a long time since I've cracked the shrinkwrap on a compact disc only to see these words: "contains a program transferred from analog tape and therefore may contain some tape hiss and other anomalies." Remastered? Hell no. More like UNMASTERED. With all the recent Run-D.M.C. releases that have been getting the special treatment, maybe somebody should look into cleaning up Heavy D & the Boyz "Living Large" album too. Tape hiss or not, you can't stop the big man from picking up the mic to rock. Things start out very quickly with a track that is now widely recognized as a hip-hop classic - the Marley Marl produced jam called "The Overweight Lover's in the House." With a strong bassline, a horny horn sample that's undeniably fresh, and the ebullient personality of Heavy D taking over on the mic, anybody who wasn't familiar with the extra large rapper would quickly be hooked by this introduction:
"Sittin in my room with my smokin jacket on
The fireplace is burning and the girlie is WARM
Time to make my move, so gently I kiss her
Whisper in her ear, and tell her that I miss her
She might try to pop that boyfriend junk
But I don't really care because I know he's a punk
I'll stomp him like a roach if he tries to approach
He can't get close cause I'm the one who WROTE
the Book of Romance, so come on take a chance
You don't need a long look, all you need is a glance
If you wanna get warm, in my ARMS you belong
You have a problem, Hev'll solve 'em, nothin can go wrong
when the Overweight Lover's in the house!"
BAM, there it is. Heavy D showcased it all in one fell swoop. Being big sized was not a negative, it was a positive. Other contenders were chumps, while Heavy D was so suave on the mic and with his game even Robert 'Bitches' Freeman would have to admit that he laid it down QUITE FLAT. Just like that, big was in and big was sexy. Everybody from Notorious B.I.G. to Chubb Rock to Big Pun should write Heavy D a thank you note. This theme can be found repeateded throughout the aptly titled "Living Large," which not only described D's lifestyle but the newfound respect he intended to engender for the plus sized people of the world. Who could deny his right to on tracks like the swinging Andre Harrell produced "Mr. Big Stuff (Remix)?"
"I'm rough and tough and all that stuff
I make you dance and prance 'til you huff and puff
There's just no way you can get enough
of me - yo' Mister, Big Stuff!
I'm the overweight-er, prince dominator MC
Heavy D, constant weight gainer
And since I choose, the weight not to lose
I will stay THIS way so that I can bruise
MC's around, who front and frown
You go round for round, I go pound for pound
At the end of the party when you sayin goodnight
Don't come to me and say 'Take it light' - I'm your Mr. Big Stuff!"
The rhymes may seem a little dated, but when you hear his delivery it's clear they can't be faded. He was clearly the equal to any other popular New York rapper of the times, from LL Cool J to MC Shan, and could match them line for line - or as he says pound for pound. Technically though the Overweight Lover is not a New Yorker; that is to say, he's from the state but not from the City. He hails from a small town just North of the Bronx that is now world renowned for it's hip-hop sound thanks to Pete Rock. Before Heavy D came along though, nobody had used the phrase "Moneyearnin' Mount Vernon" in a rap. Myers not only made it part of the rap lexicon, he made it into a song:
"Get up party people, listen to this rap
Cause I'm about to throw down, and put my town on the map
MC Heavy D, delighted you be learnin
About the place where I rest, Moneyearnin' Mount Vernon!
My town is really quaint, but we ain't no saints
And if you think we're pooh-butts, think again we ain't
We're stormin strong, get taken out never
Force, with my stone cold terror
Not here to talk about that negative tip
Just makin sure you didn't make the mistake and slip"
It's a bit amazing looking back now how smoothly Heavy D combined being a sex symbol, a rap icon, and a hardcore "you can't fuck with me" MC while still remaining clean enough that this album didn't need a parental advisory on the front. Heavster had something form everybody on this album, from the party people who wanted to get "On the Dance Floor" to the shoe wearers who weren't feeling Adidas on "Nike" to the brothers and sisters who just wanted to "Rock the Bass" with a rapper who professed that he wasn't just an overweight rap sensation - he was "Overweighter":
"I'm an overweight lover, mic dominator
When I get loose, not another brother greater
DJ Eddie F will STORM the crossfader
And I am MC Heavy D... the Overweighter!
As I grab the mic to speak, all the rest should hush
Don't disagree it might lead to you, gettin crushed
My name is MC Heavy D, I'm known to the nation
The Overweighter is my creation
Full of intelligence, backed by elegance
Practically impossible for you to, rebel against
The form is strong and strictly up-to-dated
Sit back and listen to, what Heavy situated
Everything about "Living Large" is a throw back to the golden school era of the 1980's, which is just fine by me. You can tell just from the loops that Teddy Riley and DJ Eddie F use throughout this album that sampling was not a concern or even an afterthought - if it sounds good they looped it, and Heavy D always made it work with his uplifting rap. It's worth nothing though that even though Heavy came incredibly strong with supreme confidence on his debut, he's still a bit unpolished and rough around the edges on "Living Large." At times the clarity of his diction falters a bit, and the maturity of his lyrics is sometimes betrayed by how much younger he sounds than the MC (and actor) we'd come to know well over time. The beats are mostly satisfactory but occasionally feel a bit underproduced. Still it's safe to say that "Living Large" has aged well over time, and that whether or not it's the greatest record in his catalogue, it's a great testament to a rapper who redefined what cool was and left us all wanting much more. It's time hip-hop stopped treating Heavy D like a footnote in rap history and recognizing the important contributions he made, and picking up a copy of "Living Large" for yourself would be a great place to start.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: January 10, 2006