Late rapper Heavy D to be honored with sculpture in his New York hometown
Heavy D is getting a tribute in his hometown of Mount Vernon, New York.
The rapper, whose given name was Dwight Errington Myers, was a Jamaica-born recording artist who grew up in Mount Vernon. He died in 2011 at the age of 44.
Called "Peaceful Journey" after the title of a Heavy D song, the sculpture is being created by New York artist Eto Otitigbe and will be placed in the Fleetwood neighborhood of the city. Otitigbe is a polymedia artist whose works, which reference Blackness, power and technology, have been exhibited nationally and internationally for over 15 years.
He said said Heavy D’s music was transformative for him in his youth.
“The sounds coming out of Mount Vernon with Heavy D, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth were really unique,” said Otitigbe, who grew up in Albany, New York, listening to hip-hop. “I wanted to pay homage to the Mount Vernon community that had such an important place in hip-hop with this work of art.”
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Heavy D started out as the frontman of Heavy D & the Boyz, which became the first act signed to Uptown Records; he later became president of the label. His influence on the music world was global.
Otitigbe said the original call for ideas for the commission was not specific to the late singer.
"It was for any kind of public artwork and I chose to reference Heavy D’s music. It was through his music that I personally had a connection to Mount Vernon," he said. “This sculpture offers me a chance to pay tribute to his music and hip-hop culture, all of which had an immense influence on me as I navigated my youth.”
Otitigbe said he chose "Peaceful Journey" for his work because he said the song “offers a thoughtful and complex picture of the lives of Black and Brown people [living] in places like Mount Vernon, the Bronx or Los Angeles.”
He described it as "a triumphal arch."
When completed, the sculpture, made from Vermont marble and steel, will resemble a hive and reference pointed archways notable in South East Asian and Islamic architecture, said the artist. It will be located on the corner of Fleetwood Avenue and Broad Street at the site of a new residential building. The building developer, 42 Broad, commissioned the work.
“Otitigbe’s abstract artwork will add a spectacular focal point to a gateway to the City of Mount Vernon," noted Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard in a press release. "Heavy D was an integral part of making Mount Vernon the Jewel of Westchester; his influence in the creation of this sculpture makes it more meaningful."
The artwork was one of 50 considered for the commission through an open competitive process conducted by ArtsWestchester. Otitigbe has been working on the project for more than a year.
“I set out to design an artwork that played with the theme of transformation. I was thinking about movement, departures, homecomings and transitions," Otitibge said. "Personally, I was experiencing a major life transition as I balanced the joys and challenges of being a new father."
When completed, the stone monolith will also convey a sense of balance and affirmation and offer viewers the hope for a peaceful journey, explained Otitigbe, an assistant professor in the art department of Brooklyn College.
“The idea of taking a journey today, is very different than a year ago; it now has a lot more risk in it. It’s not easy, each day, each trip," he said.
"Although Heavy D has begun his ‘peaceful journey,’ Mr. Otitigbe’s sculptural arch is a true testament to the pride, resilience and transformation of Mount Vernon,” noted Patterson-Howard.
Otitigbe is hoping to have the work finished by the end of the year, but plans for its unveiling are still up in the air. "It would have been a massive party," he said, noting that he has been in touch with Heavy D's family, friends and bandmates. "We hope to have them involved in some way, and they are really excited about it, but because of COVID, it is really difficult to plan anything like that."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Heavy D: Late rapper to be honored with sculpture in his hometown