A star-studded memorial service was held for rapper Heavy D this week. According to reports, the 44-year old star died November 8th of a suspected heart attack, though an autopsy was inconclusive, pending a toxicology report. The memorial was held in his hometown of Vernon, New York.
A wide range of mourners turned up, including more than a few industry luminaries. Diddy, Al Sharpton, Doug E. Fresh and producer Teddy Riley were all in attendance. With a reserved sadness, a clearly distraught Diddy spoke to the gathering.
"Heavy D was the first person to believe in me. He's the person who made me who I am today," he said, adding that the rapper was "Somebody I shared my dreams and my secrets with, somebody that's been there for me at my lowest point, my darkest hour when nobody wanted to be beside me."
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at length, and at one point directed his attention to Heavy's young daughter, Xea, reading her a letter from a very high-profile fan.
"We extend our heartfelt condolences at this difficult time. He will be remembered for his infectious optimism and many contributions to American music. Please know that you and your family will be in our thoughts and prayers. That's from the President of the United States of America. I want you to frame that," Sharpton said.
Heavy D first rose to prominence in the late 80's, releasing some of hip-hop's first crossover hits with his group, Heavy D & the Boyz. The group released several hits, including "We Got Our Own Thang", "Somebody for Me", and "Gyrlz, They Love Me". The group scored their biggest and most enduring hit with "Now That We Found Love", released in 1991.
R&B singer Johnny Gill spoke briefly before performing a rendition of the gospel song "Never Would Have Made It", telling spectators "Just want to say to Heavy: Job well done."
The memorial was not without humor, however. Speaking about Heavy D's lifelong battle with obesity, Reverend Al Sharpton quipped "James Brown made us black and proud. He made us fat and proud."
After the service, hip-hop superstar Usher spoke to reporters, saying "Silently he's been influential in a lot of our careers. His love still lives on."