Published Thu, October 27, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT
Heavy D, Trouble T-Roy, G-Whiz and DJ Eddie F. would take Hip-Hop by storm in 1987. The Heavy-led group would put Mt. Vernon on the Hip-Hop map, en route to announcing the nimble rapper with the oversized personality as a major star.
Born Dwight Myers, Heavy D was the first to emerge out of the Money Earnin' Mount Vernon scene. The charismatic emcee bonded with fellow aspiring artists from around the way, like up-and-coming DJ Eddie F.
"Mt. Vernon is small," Eddie F said in 2020. "They knew everybody, even if you didn't hang out with 'em on a day-to-day basis. But Troy was the one who knew everybody and kinda put the group together." Troy brought Heavy D to a party that DJ Eddie F was deejaying, and that was what connected what would become Heavy D & The Boyz. Even before the group came together, Eddie and Heavy had immediate musical chemistry and a singer named Al B. Sure! often joined them during their basement recording sessions.
Aspiring emcee Albert Brown had been a star quarterback for the Mount Vernon High School Knights, but he would reject an athletic scholarship to the University of Iowa to pursue a music career. Dwight Myers (aka Heavy D) had also gone to Mt. Vernon High, and his little cousin Peter Phillips was attending.
"I knew Al from school," Eddie recalled. "Al introduced me to [keyboardist] Nevelle Hodge. We all started making demos together." Al was attempting to be a rapper, and fashioned himself after Slick Rick and Dana Dane. He even came up with his stage name from a Dana Dane line from Dane's hit single "Nightmares":
She said, 'Listen, Dana Dane, I think I have the cure/But I have to hear one more before I'll be sure'"
He would dub himself "Al B. Sure!" as a nod to the Dana Dane lyric. Over time, everyone agreed that Al B. Sure! was better as a singer than as a rapper. But it was Al who called Russell Simmons' Rush Management office to try and secure a meeting with the famed rap exec. Heavy D and Eddie F. drove from Mount Vernon to Manhattan and met with Rush Management VP Andre Harrell. Harrell was impressed with Heavy's personality and persistence, and Harrell let them know that he was leaving Rush Management to launch his own label. And he wanted Heavy D & The Boyz.
The label Harrell was launching would be Uptown Records. Harrell had a vision for a label where Hip-Hop and R&B coexisted seamlessly. Heavy D & The Boyz were Hip-Hop to the core, but pairing them with up-and-coming producer Teddy Riley gave them a polish that would be suitable for R&B radio, where Hip-Hop was still often only marginally played. It was all part of his vision for his new label.
“When I met Andre, I thought, ‘This is a guy who could have been doing this 50 years ago,’ ” commented famed entertainment attorney Nina Shaw in 1993. “He took talent and molded it like the guys in the early days of Hollywood. They were in the glove business and went and made movies. Andre started with music and now he’s doing TV and movies in his own way. He’s the same kind of force, and you don’t find that spirit much anymore.”
Riley had scored hits for Doug E. Fresh ("The Show") and Kool Moe Dee ("Wild, Wild West," "How Ya Like Me Now"), and DJ Eddie F was soaking up production knowledge from the Harlem hitmaker. Riley's sensibility heavily informs the debut album from Heavy D & The Boyz, as Living Large often features and benefits from Eddie's sampling instincts bolstered by Riley's sheen. "Nikes" is an answer of sorts to Run-D.M.C.'s "My Adidas," another sneaker anthem that foreshadowed how Hip-Hop and kicks would be forever fused. "Chunky But Funky" is percussive, groovy anthem from Riley, and another track that typifies early Heavy D's almost Fat Boys-esque tendency towards anthems about his "lovable big guy" persona.
But a song like "Dedicated" is an important marker for Heavy D & The Boyz and Teddy Riley. The song's heavy R&B-leanings foreshadow what would become something of a Heavy D trademark: smoothed-out, R&B-leaning production for him to flex his suave ladies' man persona. And for Riley, it's an early indicator of the new jack swing sound he would infuse into mainstream R&B with Keith Sweat's Make It Last Forever in late 1987.
But on Living Large, Heavy D & The Boyz were still very much a dance-driven act. The album's second half, with tracks like the rock-tinged "Rock The Bass," and uptempo songs like "Here We Go" and "On The Dancefloor," keeps things squarely focused on body-moving, establishing that very few acts were churning out dance tracks as infectious as this crew.
A flip of the O'Jay's classic "For The Love of Money" is the bedrock for the hometown anthem "Moneyearnin' Mt. Vernon." The tribute became a rallying cry for artists coming out of the town in Westchester County, and Heavy D & The Boyz led the charge. Soon, Al B. Sure!, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and a Harlem transplant named Sean "Puffy" Combs would emerge from the same scene. Living Large became a launchpad for a generation of Mt. Vernon talent.
But the album's signature song is arguably "The Overweight Lover's In the House," a track produced by superproducer Marley Marl. Marley was launching the Juice Crew into orbit when he produced the hit for Heavy D & The Boyz, a song that would become an unofficial theme song for Heavy D.
"When I made my first record, my biggest dream was just to hear the record on Mr. Magic or Marley Marl. Sit in the park, maybe drink a 40 with your boombox and your crew and be like, 'We did it, we made it!'" Heavy D told D-Nice years later. The success of "The Overweight Lover's in the House" was propelled by its accompanying music video, which featured the rapper showing off his dance moves and staying true to himself. "Being a guy who was a plus size rapper, if you will, I never looked at myself as outside of the normal person. I guess that was part of the appeal. I believed everything I was saying."
Heavy D & The Boyz kicked down the door for Mt. Vernon with their lively debut album; showcasing DJ Eddie F's sampling instincts buffed with Teddy Riley's sheen. And, of course, highlighting the charisma of their iconic young frontman.