I remember the day the iTunes Music Store opened up pretty well. I was working for Apple at the time, and we had the event streaming live in our in-store theater -- back when Apple Stores had theaters. I remember watching the keynote, being amazed by what Steve Jobs had pulled off, and then immediately thinking "OK, what's going to be the first song I buy?"
When the store went live, I flipped through the various browsing options it had, including the year-end Billboard charts. I decided to make my first purchase off of those, and when I came across "Now That We Found Love" by Heavy D and the Boyz, it was a no brainer. It was a song I'd had on cassette single, but somehow never got on CD and hadn't even illegally downloaded between 1998 and 2003. Now it's one of the top 50 most-played tracks in my iTunes library -- specifically, 43rd out of 13,155, putting it in the top 0.5% overall. Well, now it's much higher because I was listening to it on loop today after hearing the news that Heavy D died at the age of 44.
I feel like, as a rapper, Heavy D never really got quite the respect he deserved. It's easy to pigeonhole him as a "fun" rapper just because he wasn't vulger, profane or "gangsta", but his lyrical skills were really impressive. Probably the best example is the 1994 track "Let's Get It On", where Heavy easily holds his own with Brand Nubian's Grand Puba, Tupac Shakur and a young Notorious B.I.G. Some of his early stuff, particularly 1989's "Big Tyme" album, is equally quality.
Obviously, Heavy D is also always going to be associated with the TV show "In Living Color", for which he performed the theme song. Check out his moves during this live performance; for a big guy, he could really move.
Still, you know what stood out the most to me about Heavy D throughout his career, whether it was rapping or acting? He always seemed happy. I didn't know him personally, so I don't know if that was true or not, but just watch that "Now That We Found Love" video and try not to crack a smile. It's impossible. Just last month, he performed at the BET Hip Hop Awards and he seemed to be in great shape and great spirits, and it really seemed like it could be the launching point for a career renaissance. Now he's gone, and far too soon.