A simple but powerful two word command.
Those were the last words tweeted by Heavy D, a popular rapper who was key to bringing Dancehall and Reggae music to mainstream America in the ’90s. I was shocked to hear of his sudden death. True, I wasn’t a fan but I do remember seeing him all over my TV when I was younger and, of course, randomly busting out with “dem nuh worry weee eheeh eheeh.” I liked him and his music. Plus, he was just so young…just in his mid-40s. I think that he had a lot more to give to “us,” but…he already gave so much. His legacy is assured. When the idea for this post first began percolating in my mind it was going to be a straightforward recap of Heavy D’s life with specific focus on his work for and with Dancehall and Reggae in the U.S. When news of his death hit the Twitter streets a few people tweeted about this impact but in the days and weeks that followed, I didn’t see any kind of comprehensive piece about this impact so I wanted to fill that void. He was born in Clarendon, Jamaica as Dwight Ayers and moved to New York to become Heavy D (an ode to his physique as the Big Belly Gorgan) but he never forgot his Jamaican roots. He flew the flag high in his field. Collaborations with him and Super Cat were very popular and he did work with the Jamaican genres on his own. In fact his 2008 album Vibes was nominated for a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. I reached out to @MsRaine (journalist, PR maven, lover of Jamaican music and old school Hip Hop, among other things) for her comments on Heavy D
Heavy D was a pioneer for Jamaicans in Hip Hop music. Heavy D and KRS One were among the first artists to incorporate Dancehall into Hip Hop music, using Dancehall riddims and slang in their songs in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, bringing Dancehall to a whole new audience of young Black, White and Latino-American Hip Hop fans. Heavy D was a mentor to people like Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, and his influence was obvious when Diddy scored one of his early hits by pairing Supercat with his then up and coming artists Mary J Blige and Notorious B.I.G. on the “Dolly My Baby” remix. Heavy D’s success with Dancehall and Reggae influenced music opened a door for hardcore Dancehall acts like Supercat, Shabba Ranks, and Bounty Killer to gain a significant following among Hip Hop fans, and for Hip Hop artists like Busta Rhymes, and Notorious B.I.G., to embrace their Jamaican roots musically.
In other words: a big, meaningful, and lasting impact. My friend DJ Autograph echoed her sentiments
In the early ’90s Heavy & Shinehead were the two acts that were instrumental to [D]ancehall crossing over into the mainstream [U.S. culture]. Heavy’s collaboration with Supercat on 1992’s “Dem Nuh Worry We” coupled with the single Ghetto Red Hot helped to propel Supercat into mainstream success. He also had singles with Buju Banton (“Hotness“) and Supercat and Frankie Paul (“Big & Broad“)…His combo with Supercat opened the doors for other [Hip Hop] acts to fuse dancehall into their songs (Think KRS1, Smif-n-Wessun etc..).
He was the first act on Uptown Records. Andre Harrell was working at Def Jam when he got Heavy’s demo. Heavy was the one who convinced Andre to hire Puffy as an intern and remember Puffy worked extensively with Mary J. Blige on What’s The 411? so in a way if he hadn’t convinced Andre to hire Puffy there may not have been any Bad Boy Records and What’s the 411? may not have been the classic album it turned out to be.
He influenced not only Dancehall’s impact and reach but also the careers of folks who have become Hip Hop and R&B heavyweights.
Soon I will write that post. Now, in this moment, I can’t help but be moved by that simple two word command – Be inspired! – so that’s the post I will write today. I know I’m not the only one to be struck by his last tweet but for me, as I settle into this job, I’m sometimes struggling to keep an eye on the goals I had when I signed up for law school. The visions and dreams that I have for my own life. Sometimes I struggle not be complacent, not to get too comfortable – with the ease of the work, the regular paycheck, the comfort of your office…whatever it is. Oddly, I was talking to my brother today and he basically said the same thing about his job (that he’s had for a little over a year): he’s trying to keep learning and not to get too comfortable or to become complacent. I’ve discovered that this can be ridiculously hard if you’re in the wrong work environment. And by that I mean the environment that’s not for you, not about the people with whom you work or the necessity or utility of the work that you do. My dreams and goals are too big for me to slip into complacency. I cannot afford it. As Mad Eye would say, “Constant vigilance!”
Be Inspired. Bold, simple but not easy.
If you’ve lost a grip on those things then regain it. Seek out new inspirations too. Don’t be stagnant…that’s boring and just dangerous for your personal growth. Try to learn something new everyday…doesn’t have to be any complex idea either. Read memoirs and autobiographies about the folks who inspire you. (Biographies too but I think it’s better to read about their lives in their own voices.) This will remind you that they are human too and had to overcome obstacles. No memoirs? Then read their interviews. Try to understand how they think and plan and what they have done and then consider if those things can be adapted (read: not copied thoughtlessly) to your own life. No one who is successful came by that success easily or without some sacrifice. It requires work and, yes, sometimes failure. Listen, just read: expose your mind and little bubble to new things. And don’t be afraid to seek inspiration close to home. Lately I’ve truly come to appreciate the hard work and accomplishment of my friends Shar and Jhan. These ladies are accomplished professionals who do so much in 24 hours I wonder when they have time to sleep. And they’re not finished. Neither of them has yet reached 30 years old. They inspire me. When I feel like complaining I try to remember them to remind myself that I can do better and that I have done well, and I keep going.
Write down your goals, plan for how you’re going to achieve them. Talk about them – sometimes – with people whom you trust and who have your best interests in mind so that they can be true sounding boards. Pray about your goals. Don’t be afraid to hear “NO” or “Is that really best for you?” Harsh of course but maybe that’s something that you need to hear. Maybe it is what you need to refocus your goals or to seek new inspiration…or maybe it is what you need to reexamine your inspiration.
Something else too: know your history. Family, country, community…know your history. It will ground you and provide well-needed perspective.
Remaining and being inspired is not a passive endeavor. Seek. Spend some meaningful time on this. It’s an investment in yourself – present and future.