Rapper and actor Heavy D, who played an influential role in shaping
rap music in the late '80s and early '90s with a fusion of New Jack Swing and reggae, has died. He was 44.
Heavy D, who was born Dwight Arrington Myers, died Tuesday in the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after collapsing on the walkway outside his Beverly Hills home, according to law enforcement sources. The Los Angeles County coroner's office is investigating the cause of death.
Myers, who was 6 feet 3 and weighed more than 300 pounds at one point, anointed himself the "
PHOTOS: Heavy D | 1967-2011
He burst on the scene in the late 1980s as the frontman of the hip-hop group Heavy D and the Boyz, which he formed with neighborhood friends Eddie F (Edward Ferrel), G-Whiz (Glen Parrish) and Trouble T-Roy (Troy Dixon).
The Boyz were the first group signed to burgeoning Uptown Records, and their 1987 debut, "Living Large," reached the No. 10 spot on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Their 1989 album "Big Tyme" went platinum and yielded the hits "We Got Our Own Thang," "Somebody For Me" and "Gyrlz, They Love Me."
They went on to release three more albums and recorded the theme songs for the TV shows "In Living Color" and "MADtv" before Myers embarked on a solo career.
Born May 24, 1967, in Jamaica, Myers was the youngest of six children. His mother Eulah, a nurse, and father, Clifford, a film technician, moved the family to
He found success in the music industry despite having dropped out of school after the eighth grade. Myers garnered praise for his radio-friendly, playful flows and was embraced as an unlikely sex symbol by female fans who called him a "big teddy bear."
Suave and profane-free in his raps, Myers was often heralded as the "
"I'm not one of those pop guys. That's for wimps like
It wasn't long before industry players wanted to tap into his charm. Heavy D landed on a remix of
"I am in total disbelief....I was so blessed to not only meet him, but to collaborate with him," said R&B singer
Myers joined Sean "Puffy" Combs, Jermaine Dupri,
Later he focused on a successful acting career which included film roles in "The Cider House Rules," "Life" and the recently released
In September, Myers digitally released his ninth and final album, "Love Opus."
Myers' survivors include a daughter.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.