The outpouring of love for Heavy D among the hip-hop community after news of his demise hit the internet a few days ago has, not unexpectedly, been rather tremendous. It seems like just about every rapper of note has their own strong memories of Hev—for the older generation of rappers, it might be memories of working with him or meeting up with him at parties or events, and for the newer generation it might be memories of his music soundtracking school dances, gracing favorite TV shows, inspiring karaoke sing-alongs.
In between these two generations falls ?uestlove of The Roots, who was young enough to be a fan of Heavy D growing up but old enough to also have been a near-collaborator of his as their careers later intersected. Quest recently posted a blog entry to the OK Player site talking about his memories of Heavy D, first having a coincidental run-in with him at the Grammys back in the mid-’90s, then having a pulse-racing run in with him later in the decade that resulted in the two striking up a true friendship.
Quest begins his story at the ’97 Grammys, where he was a nominee for his production work on Erykah Badu’s 1997 album Baduizm (which ended up winning the Best R&B Album award), and how he was attempting to duck Puff Daddy based on some minor bad blood they had from a perceived B.I.G. dis in the group’s “What They Do?” video and an unfortunate run-in at a Mos Def concert a bit later. Writes the drummer:
i debated on running to the bathroom at that very moment or waiting to get back to my hotel room while off the radar of any type of surprise attack. but this couldn’t wait. told her “3 mins”. seems like a flash but damn if that wasn’t long enough for her to be laughing like “damn the wolves are out tonight, 5 dudes just tried to gimme their business cards the instant you left.” we went through em amazed at how fast people operate when backs are turned. the most elaborate of the business cards read Dwight “Heavy D” Myers. i was like (playfully) “damn, even Hev tryna cock block” he was nowhere in sight, but then again i really wasn’t tryna look all that hard neither.
A couple years later, Quest gets an unexpected call from legendary singer/songwriter/producer Babyface asking him to come work on an album with him. Quest is surprised but flattered, and agrees, but is dismayed when three huge bodyguard types end up escorting him to the studio, thinking the entire arrangement might be a set up from Puff, exacting his long-overdue vengeance for the petty slights a few years prior.
(these electronic gates open……crrrrrreeeeeeeeaaaaaakkk real real slow)
oh god….something aint right.
(we then enter a basement garage)
—i swear i heard the second part of Derek & the Dominoes “Layla” playing in the atmosphere.
its dark. greek columns is what i can make out as the 4 of us march in a desolate building in the middle of nowhere.
i really truly thought this was a wrap.
Puffy is finally gonna strike his overdue 4 year snowball in the freezer revenge on me in la.
But when he finally gets there, Quest is reassured by a familiar figure:
we walk up the last of the stairs and make a sharp left into a room when suddenly…..
“man, im stuck on these snare patches, i been stuck for like 2 hours tryna chop it right……whussup man! such a fan of yours man i was so nervous to meet you. Hev”
its hard to describe, but if you can imagine the exasperated “you are my density” look George McFly had on his face in Back to the Future. that just about sums it up.
After telling this story, and explaining how he and Heavy D went on to be friends, Quest explains how he feels D has been underappreciated for his contributions to hip-hop history, specifically in the iconic figures he helped get their big break:
it was Hev that included pre new jack godstatus Teddy Riley on his debut record. it was Hev that put his influential cousin Pete Rock on his first major hip hop production. it was Hev that gave bug-a-boo intern turned forbes mainstay Sean “Puffy” Combs his very first real job at Uptown records. it was Hev that first utilized the (now commonplace but then? a production quagmire) time compression production method for samples playing in the same bpms but using different keys (see “Love Sexy” on Blue Funk, historical hip hop 1st in production). not to mention using his influence to give an unsigned Notorious BIG his debut on the same album.
Finally, Quest closes with another anecdote, this time of the last time he saw Heavy D, when the rapper performed with The Roots onstage in Chicago:
i last saw Hev as he did a cameo with The Roots in chicago and we went through a history of his hits. he was kinda nervous backstage and said he hasn’t done this in almost 8 years. i was about to ask him should we just stick to 1 or 2 joints instead of the 5 we planned on unleashing….cut to him leaping & jumping like it was 91 all over again. backstage i was like “what happened to all that nervous talk?!” he was like “man yall had me inspired! i was ready to do an entire album up there with yall, told you! i aint playin! im tryna get on yall level!”
It’s a very touching, very well-written tribute to Heavy D, and it can and should be read in its entirety here.