Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nuttin' but love.

You walk on the moon float like a balloon
You see it's never too late and it's never too soon
Take it from me what it's aiight to be. . . .

. . . .in living color

And how would you feel knowin' prejudice was obsolete
And all mankind danced to the exact beat
And at night it was safe to walk down the street?

~ from the intro to "In Living Color" - lyrics by Heavy D


There's something about hearing of the mortality of people from my own generation that grabs at my heartstrings.  It evokes different emotions in me than those brought on by elders passing on.  When someone my age dies or gets ill, I feel like some kind of mirror has been turned on me saying, "You do realize you might be next, don't you?" Followed by, "And if not you, somebody your age that you care a whole bunch about--you do realize that don't you?"

So some of you reading this are fully aware of the identity of this man pictured above. For those who don't, this is a photo of a hip-hop artist known to most as "Heavy D."  Yesterday, Heavy D died at the age of 44 from a sudden death of unclear cause.

I'm sad about this because even though I didn't know Heav personally, I knew him.  He sold platinum albums and unlike many artists of this genre, managed to always be a good guy.  A fun-loving teddy bear of a person whose rap persona was larger than life--and a part of his moniker.  He never seemed to take himself too seriously, and with a chuckle, would proudly refer to himself as "The Overweight Lover."  I'm not sure too many big guys ever had this kind of "swagger" before Heavy D made it cool (plus if they did, none of them could move like Heav--no way, no how.)

He inspired a whole generation of hip hop kids. In fact, he was hip hop "royalty" as evidenced by this line in a popular rap song:

"It was all a dream
I used to read 'Word Up' magazine
Salt 'n' Pepa and Heavy D up in a limousine. . ."

~ Notorious B.I.G.

As someone who grew up in the inner city in the seventies and eighties, I was there when hip hop music was born.  I was on the corner turning double dutch and reciting every word to "Rapper's Delight" and practicing pop locking moves with my friends. I sat cross-legged in the living room watching Soul Train and hearing newscasters call this noisy chanting music "a passing phase."  Some people grew up with the invention of color television, younger folks grew up with the advent of the internet. Me? I grew up with hip hop.  And Heavy D was right there beat-boxing and break-dancing on the corners with us. . . .reminding us that our culture wasn't so bad after all. Affirming that there wasn't anything wrong with all of us hip hop kids of different shapes, sizes, and hues living our beat-filled lives in living color.

(Heav' had the best line in this compilation. . . . I still know every single word twenty years later!)

 Heavy D's conscious lyrics on the epidemic of black-on-black crime spoke to our generation:

"Here's the situation--idio(di)cy!
Nonsense, violence? Not a good policy.
Therefore we must ignore fighting and fussing
Heav' is at the door so there'll be no bum-rushing

They call us animals--Umm mm, I don't agree with them
I prove them wrong, but right is what you're provin' 'em.
Take heed before I lead to what I'm sayin'
or we'll all be on our knees praying."

~ Heavy D in "Self Destruction"

Anyways.  I guess I could look at all of this clinically couldn't I? I mean, I am an internist and all, aren't I? Surely, the doctor in me could point out the fact that it was only a matter of time before this obese man would face some kind of health consequences. Like I could say that his weight, though part of his M.O., was bad news and a total ticking time bomb so he got what was coming to him.  I could do that. But I won't and probably never will. Today, instead of making it clinical, I'm imagining his family and his friends and his fans and how broken they all must feel. I refuse to make this clinical because loving people and missing people isn't clinical, is it?

I was just talking to one of my medical students the other day about this very thing. She lost her father shortly before school started and we talked about how much she misses him. The things she wants to talk to him about and explain to him and seek his counsel on.  And we'd just been talking about death and dying and cancer and clinical things, but when I looked into her glassy, tired eyes, I recognized that none of that really mattered right then. Loving and missing someone isn't clinical. No it is not.

So yeah, I'm just thinking about songs I liked by Heav and what I was doing in my life when some of those songs were playing on my radio. I smiled when I remembered huddling around a television in my dorm room watching "In Living Color" and rocking out to his intro while J.Lo danced her heart out hoping to get discovered. That makes me happy to think of all of that.

Last month Heavy D had just made a mini-comeback by performing on The BET Hip Hop Awards show. No one had seen him on stage in years, and folks couldn't stop talking about how good it was to see him again! It was a medley of some of his best hits and best of all, he looked exuberant and happy and not like a "has been." Everyone was shouting, "Go Heav! Go Heav!" -- including me and Harry from our couch. Because for those of us who grew up with Heavy D, seeing him on that stage was awesome. That stage was our stage, too.

Heavy D was alive when EMS technicians reached him yesterday. It seemed to be some kind of cardiopulmonary arrest, but he was still breathing when they arrived.  He died shortly after reaching the hospital yesterday evening. Some part of me hopes that he wasn't terrified and also hopes he'd told the people that he loved the most exactly how he felt. Or at least showed them.

Less heavier version

For those who can't shake the clinical, I'll tell you this:  Heavy D had actually lost some substantial weight over the last several years.  He had dabbled in acting and appeared svelte in quite a few roles. This thinner version of "The Overweight Lover"  threw many for a loop.  In his last television appearance, he was back to the old Heav.  Seeing his weight up. . .then down. . .then up again told me something that I knew all along--that he was no different than any of us and was simply a work in progress. . .  just like me.

So here's to Heavy D, to works in progress, and to making your mark. Here's to taking the clinical out of love and adding a little more love to the clinical. And more than that, here's to living your very best life. . . . in living color.

Rest in peace, Heavy D. I got nuttin' but love for you, honey.

Heavy D's last performance at the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2011

And my favorite Heavy D video "Nuttin' But Love." (Hey SB~ check out Cynthia Bailey from the Atlanta Housewives pre-housewives.)


  1. Great post!! I haven't been able to put my thoughts about his passing into words yet, but you hit on many of the same points.

  2. I have been singing "Now That We Found Love" all day.

    Love this post, you are such a great writer.

  3. What a great post -- thank you for weaving your own life with Heavy D's. I loved watching the videos with my son -- he did, too.

  4. This was a wonderful tribute! I loved Heavy D & it feels like losing someone you grew up with. Been listening to alot of his music over the last 36 hours and it is a reminder of my coming of age & has me feeling so reflective.

  5. This is the most perfect thing I have read on the passing of Heavy D. It is so beautiful, and it moves me to my core that even as a clinician, you went to the humanness of how much we will miss him, how entwined his music and his being were with your life, all our lives, and the loss from our world of a light-filled soul. Thank you for this. It is just just right.

  6. You got me with this one, Sis! PLUS, you posted my favorite Heavy D & the Boyz "Girls, they love me!" To this very day, tell me you don't move in your seat when you hear "Now That We Found Love"!!!

    I didn't know Heavy D, but Shawn was very good friends with him. She only has wonderful things to say about him, mainly that his daughter was the light of his life. I can almost guarantee you that the people he loved knew they were loved by him.

    And I LOVE YOU!!!


  7. mrstdj-- thanks for reading!

    Steph -- I couldn't believe it when I heard!

    RM -- I've had that song in my head too! I love your writing, too.

    Elizabeth -- It felt good honoring him. Thanks for sharing the videos with your son.

    BC -- Thanks so much for reflecting with me!

    Angella -- You always have the words that lift me. This is your gift, sister. Thanks.

    Biz-- It warms my heart to hear that he had a good relationship with his daughter but breaks my heart to know she lost her daddy. You made it just that much more real and that much LESS clinical. Forward this to Shawn B--she certainly knows how to pick her friends, doesn't she? :)

    I love YOU to, little freckle-faced girl!



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