When I talk about my love for hip hop, I often say that the artist that really made me start buying albums was Rakim. The first CD that I ever bought with my own money was Redman’s debut. But, the first cassette that I every owned was Heavy D and the Boyz: Big Tyme. Sure, I rocked Big Daddy Kane with my cousin who bout 12 inch vinyl records. I would also listen to my brother tapes as well so I was always into hip hop, but Heavy D represented something to me.
When I was a sophomore in High School I had very few friends. I felt like I was the smallest kid in all of Saint Raymond’s High School for Boys. I lived in Riverdale at the time because years earlier, my mother decided to move me to yet another section in the Bronx. I did not care for this place, I was in the whitest neighborhood I have every seen up to that point. The commute was something I had to get used to. I had to find my way from Castle Hill Ave all the way to Riverdale. This meant taking three buses.
I ended up making friends with kids from my school who lived in Washington Heights that took the exact route I did. Some were even seniors that I ended up hanging out with. But, despite this, I was relatively unhappy. I couldn’t speak to girls and I was just this short nerdy kid trying to find his way. Then one of my buddies asked me if I liked Heavy D. Of course I did, who wouldn’t like The Overweight Lover? So he gave me his cassette. Maybe he lent it to me and I just never gave it back…but I still have it.
I listened to Big Tyme everyday on my walkman. As I look back at it now, this was the first album that I listened to from start to finish. Not one bad song. He set the bar for me when it came to buying future albums. I remember how listening to this album got me through the days where school was hard in a time where my parents fought over me and their failing marriage. More importantly, I found it hard to fit in and I remember a particular line from his song “We Got Our Thang“: Don’t be down with everyone, let ’em all be down with you. This one line made me rethink many things in my life. I realized that I shouldnt have to fit in. I should just be me and let people deal with it.
Heavy D became a huge part of my High School life through this album. First, Big Tyme itself is a classic. Every track stands alone, but I absolutely love the song, “Somebody for Me“. This was another song that just spoke to me because he raps about how hard it was to find the one for him. It seemed to hold true to me for so many years. He was trying to find someone who loved him for who he is and I appreciated that. I remember some girl telling a friend of mine in high school that I would be cute if I had an earring and a mustache and got rid of the nerdy glasses. I was ready to get my ear pierced! But, my brother told me that I should not have to fix my appearance for anyone. A woman needs to like you for who you are now. It made me think of that song.
Let me not to forget that he indeed a pioneer of the industry. The collaboration on Somebody for Me was with Al B Sure and at the time Hip Hop/R&B songs were rare. When I was in college he has this song with called “Dem No Worry We” with Supercat that was crazy! Dancehall was just becoming a sensation when that came out and I am pretty sure he was the first or one of the first Hip Hop artist to be on a Dancehall track. He moved to television with appearances on Its A Different World. He maintained relevance within the industry by continuously dropping albums in the 90’s. However, I think because he was not the gangsta/pimp type, he was not getting the airplay or the credit he was due.
When I think about the tapes that I made in college to listen to, I think about all the people who I put along side him. Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, EPMD, Jungle Brothers, Big Daddy Kane, and that is just to name a few. Heavy D died way too young. We joke about when we are all old and they will have the legends of hip hop performances like you see in those old Motown shows..who would actually look good performing? Well, Heavy D would have. He would have rocked it with songs that are timeless. He was never negative. He never used the N-word. He was always about being positive to women and the community. We not only lost a music legend, we lost a humanitarian.