I distinctly remember when the rap game broke out from being a largely underground musical genre heard pretty much in the clubs and afterhour spots in the Bronx and Harlem where I'd hung out back in the late 70's. Sugarhill Gang's "Rappers Delight" was THE radio friendly jam that appealed to everybody - black/white/young/old but trust me when I tell you, there was a WHOLE lot more rapping on disco 45's before Sylvia Robinson produced that now classic chart topper. I recall hanging-out with a really wealthy - not rich - wealthy, white kid while studying in London for a semester and listening to "Rappers Delight" in his parents mansion before hitting some clubs. He asked me if I thought rap would last or if it was just a passing trend. "It's a fad," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. Probably because I was an African American he seemed to take my word as gospel and nodded in agreement. Hey, I never thought Law & Order would get cancelled either. So I was wrong...With that said, I confess now AND then - I've never been a rap fan per se - listened to it, danced to it and even quoted some of it but I've never, ever bought it. I can tell you straight away why Heavy D appealed to me - his ability to dance. I was on the treadmill at my gym at 5:15a.m. Wednesday, November 9 when I saw t.v. images of Hev performing. "Hmmm, hope he's o.k." I thought to myself as the song on my Ipod ended. I couldn't imagine why early morning, local news would be reporting on Heavy D otherwise - unless he was in town...
Friday, November 19, 2011
8:50a.m.: It's a brisk, blue-skyed November morning as I get a later than anticipated start down the Merritt Parkway towards Mt. Vernon, NY to attend Dwight "Heavy D" Myers' funeral. I'd been directed to be at my friend - the current mayor of Mount Vernon's mother's home "between 8:30-9, please, please, please" for our pick up by his driver. I knew as I got to Fairfield at 8:20 that traffic was not going to cooperate and I'd be getting there on CP time. I hate that...
9:10a.m.: I parked and walked/skipped up the stairs to the house relieved not to see the shiny, black SUV idling out front yet, unless of course they'd left my late, black butt. Nah, they would've at least called to tell me they were leaving me, right?
9:45a.m.: On the dot "Tony" our driver's ringing the doorbell after the Mayor had called and said he'd be there at 9:45. Mama Mayor, Sister Mayor and I jump UP into the backseat of the Tahoe and we are whisked through the streets and police barricades right up to the front entrance of Grace Baptist Church. On the way over Tony said, "I think that's what's his names' car - the one with the pregnant wife," in a barely detectable Caribbean accent. "Who? Jay-Z?" Sister Mayor and I ask simultaneously. Mama Mayor turns to me and asks "Who?" I answer, "You know - Jay-Z, Beyonce's husband?" Mama Mayor is 89 years young after all and says, "I don't know him but I know Beyonce." "Well, it's Mr. Beyonce then!" Sister Mayor says and we laugh. "How do you know it was Him Tony?" I ask. "Because I heard he bought that same kind of Mercedes van that just went by," was his reply as I observed a totally blacked out van pass in front of us. I guess - especially if you're rolling with an entourage...
We enter the vestibule and are greeted by attractive young men and women with clipboards and headsets. A couple of middle-aged, white uniformed church ushers walked right up to us announcing to the headsetters, "this is the Mayor and his family" and escorted us right past them - no questions asked. Someone on our right handed us a slick, oblong program and someone on our left gave us a small note card with a picture of Hev rockin' a black derby being tilted up off of his face with a silver tipped walking stick. While in the car the Mayor remarked that he'd been told Diddy was paying for the funeral but HE was paying for everything that went on outside of the funeral - i.e., police/other municipal workers that would keep things orderly and legit. The church was a fairly modern structure; the sanctuary a horseshoe design with the pulpit/musician's area/choir stand at the opening of the "U". High, wood panelled ceilings, tall stained glass windows and comfy red velvet pews completed the vibe. SOMEBODY was paying tithes and giving offerings here. A whole lotta somebodies. The usher directed us to our pew, telling us as we sat "nobody but the Mayor's staff can set on this pew." Cool with me. Two guys that had been in a SUV behind us slid in on my right and a chick with a tight, black dress and platform peeptoe Tim's squeezed in on my left. So much for the comfy-ness. This was going to be tight. There was a constant stream of people moving up/down the aisles, a brother with a red fez minus the tassle and black framed schoolboys walked back and forth looking really official but not really doing anything I could see. I don't know - I guess it was the hat but I just figured he was part of some muslim security detail - except nobody else had a fez on - red or otherwise. Just him. It's a look.
The viewing was still going on and many people were gathered near or waiting in the center aisle to get to the casket. I had the sinking feeling that I'd fought traffic to make it all the way here and I wasn't going to be able to view and pay my respects up close and personal-like. We'd also been instructed by the usher after seating us that in so many words, "you move you lose, the barbershop rules" so I dared not get up. The church was about two thirds full by this time and it looked to seat maybe 700-800. Not gonna be big enough.
10:40a.m.: More people press in, the celebrities are beginning to arrive in earnest. Will and Jada, Latifah, John Legend, Usher, Allen Payne (I swear that's a texturized toupee - it's always the same length!), Jay-Z, MC Lyte, Yolanda Adams, Andre Harrel, Steve Stout, Diddy, oh and Al B. Sure. Can't leave him out. He wore a stingy brimmed fedora pulled low on his brow and the requisite dark shades. More beefy than when I last saw him (about 15 years ago at some showcase in Manhattan). He seemed to be taking it really hard - crying on just about everyone he embraced. And there was a LOT of embracing, handshaking and dapping going on. It was almost like people were relieved to be in the land of the living and grateful to be able to interact on a truly real level - absolutely no pretense. Heck, Jada had a black headwrap on, knotted in the back with big, dark sunglasses - like she just got off the red-eye from L.A. and came right to the church from the airport. Yolanda Adams had the rattiest ponytail I've seen outside of reception at the Welfare Office - with a turquoise rhinestone covered beret and a black and white striped knit dress. Latifah's naturally wavy hair was pulled up in a loose bun on top of her head, no makeup, none needed. Her skin was flawless. Usher, thisclose to being pocket-sized but with a really big head. Or maybe it was the afro mohawk.
The service was scheduled to begin at 11a.m. and there was no way I was going to make it without going to the loo. Blessedly, Platform Tim's whispered to me she needed to "go." I seized the opportunity and went with. On our way back to our seats we grabbed the chance to go view the body and extend sympathies to the family. Side note: I don't know the family. I met Mr. Myers years back at Mama Mayor's 75th birthday party at a country club in Rye. A very nice gentleman. Hev's only sister Portia sat on the end of the families' pew. Her thick, black, wavy hair pulled back into a big, curly ponytail. She wore dark shades and a simple black dress, the top was sheer black and I could see a medium sized treble cleft tatoo over her left shoulder. Clearly Diddy spent a buck or two - I can't even tell you what the casket looked like I was so awed by the flowers! Gorgeous white calla lilies in individual pots of tiny white flowers bordered the bier. A bed of creamy white gardenias blanketed the casket. Two huge, carnationed hearts anchored an equally huge black/white still photo of Heavy in profile, sans shades - looking pensive. He appeared absolutely peaceful in repose. An elegant dove gray suit, a crisp edge up, his eyelashes way longer than the half-falsies I was wearing, hands folded over his stomach. He wasn't "heavy" or fat - just a big guy. I noticed he had a peach ribbon pinned on his lapel as did a select few others. I wondered what it symbolized. I didn't want to linger as though I was studying him which of course I was - but offered a brief prayer for his soul and continued journey. Diddy, his arm in a sling brushed past me saying "excuse me". Everyone is being ultra polite in this crush of bodies. His mom Janis kept her long mink on as she sat and greeted industry folks from her perch on the front pew. I've got to say I was less than impressed with her blonder streaked blonde beauty supply store wig. Enough with the dark brown skin/blonde thing, o.k.? Enough. I left Platform Tim's hugging and kissing on the family and took the scenic route back to my seat. Even though I was wearing my now legendary vintage "Toot" eyeglasses I could only see what was squarely in front of me. Whenever I'm in large crowds I never see faces - just people. Unless you call my name, I don't even see you. So I could've passed Barack Obama on my way back to my seat, just didn't see him. Five minutes or so before the final viewing Heavy's young daughter Xea came down the aisle to my right holding Diddy's hand. He led her to the casket and soon a bunch of Hev's boys surrounded her as she bid her final farewell to her daddy. Ever hear 1000 people sniffling at the same time?
11:05a.m.: The funeral processional begins. The family is seated, the clergy which includes Rev. Al Sharpton take their spots in the pulpit and Don King passes by on my right with an American flag draped around his neck. The same flag I suspect, he accessorized with at Joe Frazier's funeral the week before. Psalm 27 is read for the Old Testament scripture and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 for the New - both read by Heavy's aunts. In between and aft Kim Burrell sang "Trust in God" and Johnny Gill PERFORMED Marvin Sapp's "Never Could Have Made It". I'm not a big fan of either of these singers and neither song changed my opinion. A really long prayer of consolation was offered by Rev. Louis Sanders and I took that time to take a quick power nap waking up in time to join in the congregational hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness", one of my all time favs. Anthony Hamilton, every bit as small as Musiq Soulchild, sang what he said was a song Heavy "made him record" - "A Change is Gonna Come" - the old Sam Cooke classic. It was recording worthy.
11:35a.m.: The Mayor, who had just been defeated by the former encumbent whom HE defeated in the last mayoral election in this fair hamlet takes the podium. I must say he is crispy clean - and not just because he's my friend. He smugly introduces himself as the "Mayor of Mt. Vernon. Correction, the Mayor of Money Earnin' Mt. Vernon!" to a rousing applause. Ahhh, self-aggrandizement wrapped in a lil' political posturing maketh the heart merry, no? He goes on to note that Heavy put Mt. Vernon "on the map" and that along with the "World Series rings, Oscars, Grammys and Superbowl rings to come out of Mt. Vernon it was Heavy who put others on his shoulders" and helped them ride the train to fame. He ended with "We've got nuthin' but love for you Heavy" and a big ol' unexpected embrace for Mayor-elect as he took the podium after him. Last time I saw him he was still rockin' the #2 pencil thin grey dreads. All bad. So I didn't recognize him at first with his cleaned up, respectable older gentleman look he was giving us. I just remember him saying, "Diddy, you put Mt. Vernon on the map too." Like, how dare you neglect to mention Sean - afterall, this is his event! Or at least that's what I read into his little shade throwing remark.
Yolanda, tall and model thin with what the plastic surgeon who I consulted with explained to me as having a "concave" stomach muscle (flat stomach) as opposed to the "convex" stomach muscle (guttage - like mine) is up next to sing. She says that she'd been with Hev in London recently for the Michael Jackson tribute and how she, along with so many others had been the beneficiary of his bear hugs and what a genuine brother he was. She gave the nod to whomever was running the sound system to start her track for "Just a Prayer Away" and then waited and waited some more before finally just opening her mouth and KILLING the song acapella. I immediately forgave her the ratty ponytail.
11:45a.m.: 2 of Hev's nieces sing the duet they say they sang for their uncle - Hev's brother - one of 2 who preceded him in death - "His Eye is On The Sparrow". The young girls have pretty voices and they start out strong but start to dissolve in grief. Auntie Portia gets in between the 2, grabs a mic and with a beautiful strong alto fills in their sorrowful blanks. They aim for a harmonic ending but it just isn't there.
11:50: Heavy's daughter is first in the line up to give tributes. A sweet faced girl of about 11, she's well spoken and composed and for her own sake as well as ours, brief - stating simply that he was a great father and that she loved him and would miss him. His friend Lew Tucker who I'd met when he was working for Bad Boy some years ago spoke of how Heavy had all of his secrets and would thankfully take them to his grave. His cousin from Jamaica, Dale Delapenha - a thinner version of Heavy made us laugh with his cultured accent and tales of their exploits in Jamaica. "When my father died Heavy called and said he was going to pay for the funeral. I felt as his son it was my responsibility. Heavy called me and said, 'Nigga PLEASE! He was my uncle before he was your father!" and that was the end of that. Andre Harrell preceded Yolanda Adams, regaling us with the story of how he and Heavy met. "He called one day and asked to speak to Russell Simmons. I said 'He's not here.' He said, 'Can I speak to you then?' I said, 'No.' And he called back again and again until finally he asked me, 'How you doin' man? How's your day goin?' I thought to myself 'I'm having therapy with this guy! He's asking me about MY day!' He told of how he took Heavy to a party where Janet Jackson would be and once they got there Janet grabbed him and he never saw Heavy again that night. The next thing he knew Heavy was rapping on Janet's hit song, "Alright".
12:05p.m.: Diddy's up. His sunglasses and suit jacket off, clean shaven, he looks young. He begins with how much he admired Heavy and how Hev didn't ever see himself as a big guy and how light he was on his feet. It is a common thread in everyone's expressions. He said he had a "master plan" of how he'd meet Hev - he found out where he lived and he'd walk up and down the street figuring Heavy had to come home sooner or later; he'd see Diddy, Diddy would say, "Hey Hev, what's up?" Hev would roll his car window down, they'd introduce themselves, talk and Diddy would ask to be his manager. Boom.Except he said Hev would just keep driving past him, ignoring his "Hey Hev" opening line. He moved to Plan B and started hanging at the pizza place Heavy frequented. They met, Hev was encouraging to him, giving him an internship at Uptown Records and the 2 became fast friends. Once Hev invited him to his house where he had "wall-to-wall carpeting. really - the walls had carpeting on them. I thought he was BALLIN'! They talked long into the night of their dreams and aspirations, how they would live once they made it big and how most their dreams had come true. He said Heavy didn't like to fly so when he asked to come stay at Diddy's place in Miami recently for "3 days" while meeting with Latifah and Shakim, he thought this was the grand opportunity to show Heavy how he was ballin'. "I called my chef and told him Hev was coming and 3 days turned into 3 weeks." He said he loved apple turnovers and had asked chef to make some for him one night except he didn't want to eat the sweet treats so late at night and instead planned to have them in the morning before working out. "I ran down to the kitchen all ready to have my apple turnovers except the plate was there, the plastic wrap that covered them was there but there was no apple turnovers. I was pissed. I got on the intercom and called everybody down for a meeting to find out who ate my apple turnovers. Nobody admitted to eating them. Heavy - i know you ate my apple turnovers!"
Rev. Al spoke of how he didn't really bother to attend "these funerals" anymore. He'd grown weary of making up good things to say about not-so-good people. "Are you that big of a star that the people on the ground can't look up to you?" Heavy was an exception. He joked about how when he first met Hev, he himself was much heavier and since Hev was so big on hugging it was difficult for the 2 of them to embrace so they "invented the fist bump!" He surprised sweet Xea with a personal letter written to her from President Barack Obama. More tears.
1:10p.m. Pastor Richardson, aware of the lateness of the hour gives a relatively heartfelt eulogy in about 15 minutes aimed mainly at comforting Hev's family. He kept calling Xea, "Drea" until somebody finally figured out who he was talking about and corrected him. He observed that the family could've held the funeral at any number of churchs in the NY area but chose Grace Baptist because it was their family church. He says that when Xea and Portia went for their private viewings at separate times they both said the same thing, "That's not him." They understood one of the more difficult concepts in the death experience. Our bodies are just temporary dwelling places, "earthly tents", in the more meaningful spiritual journey we're all on. Funny, I spoke the same words when I viewed my mom's "tent" 2 months ago for the last time - "that's not her." He tells how when he spoke to Mrs. Myers the first day her voice was heavy with grief. It was the same on the second day he spoke with her. "But on the third day she sounded different, stronger. I asked her what happened, you sound different? She said,'Jesus stopped by!'"
1:30p.m.: We're serenaded by Hev's "Peaceful Journey" as we exit the sanctuary. It was a dignified Homegoing celebrating a man who clearly used the gifts God had given him along with the talents he'd cultivated to the fullest. Rapper, Producer, Record Exec, Dancer (!), Actor, Daddy, Brother, Uncle, Friend, Son. I just saw him in Tower Heist last weekend while in Jersey hanging with my nephew. I loved him in one of his first roles as "Bo-Kane", the wise neighborhood dealer in 'New Jersey Drive' back in '95 or '96. Really, how many of us can say we've made the most of the hand we've been dealt? His light shined really bright for 44 brief years. The third of his parents' 4 sons to be buried. I'm so sorry - that's enough to break the average person DOWN. Yet the love and strength the Myers family exhibited was just the encouragement I needed 2 months after my own mom's death to bolster my faith walk. You never know who's watching you as you go through life's challenges. As my pastor always says, the devil ain't after you - he's after your faith. With out faith, you're done.
The Overweight Lover has left the house.
God keep him.