The hip hop producer reflects on the inspiring life of his cousin and mentor.
Hip hop producer Pete Rock, born Peter Phillips, was Heavy D's younger cousin. We spoke to him less than 24 hours after he learned of the legendary rapper's untimely passing at age 44. Through tears, he reminisced about the good times and gave thanks for all of the support he and the rest of the family have been receiving from friends and fans. "Heavy was our world," said Pete, 41. "The craziest, funniest guy to be around. He knew how to make you comfortable, would joke all the time, always clowning. It’s so hard to talk about someone you love so much, who’s no longer here. He gave me everything. He was my number one fan. All he did was brag and boast about how his cousin was dope. The fact that he left behind his mother and father, to see them so sad, it breaks my heart," he added.
Here, Pete Rock remembers his cousin and idol, Heavy D, in his own words.
The Good Times:
I was 13 years old when Heavy first started having success. When “Mr. Big Stuff” first came out, I had never seen so many people in my little town happy. We were so happy in the hood. I can’t even describe that moment, you had to be there. He put Mount Vernon on the map. When the video for “Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon” came out, it was exciting for us. Salt 'N Pepa was in the video; it was such a beautiful time.
His brother, Floyd, taught me how to DJ, how to scratch. I was always deejaying since I was 7 years old. I was intrigued by it and I was nurtured — [I] started doing stuff on my own when I was 12. Because of Hev I met Howie Tee, Teddy Riley — I’m sitting around like a sponge. Like, oh my God, I can’t believe I’m around all this. I had always said I wanted to be the man behind the music. I had no idea it could really happen and it came from Hev telling Marley to give me a shot. I was only 15 when I got the DJ job on NY’s WBLS. I was the youngest DJ ever in NY. Hev was so proud.
I think Hev was the most proud when I made him hit records [laughs]. He made sure I got paid, he loved having family in the business that he could actually trust. I did a lot of co-producing for him, from the Big Time album on. My favorite song we did was “Got Me Waiting,” that used a sample from Luther Vandross’s “Don’t You Know That.” When we were kids, we used to ride our bikes around the hood with our radios, box on our shoulder, playing our favorite songs. That Luther record was an anthem in our hood. We figured nobody sampled Luther before and that record meant so much to us.
On Hearing News of Heavy's Death:
Hev lost two brothers and Troy [Heavy's friend and backup dancer], so we’re familiar with the pain. This news felt like a 12 gauge shot to the heart. It’s hard to grasp, I feel like he’s gonna call me any second. We spoke to each other every other day. I just spent the weekend at his house and we did a song together. He didn’t want me to leave, kept trying to keep me at his house, thinking of things for me to do. I was laughing 'cause I was like, 'Hev, I got to go home and get back to work [laughs]!' I now realize that God allowed us to have that time together for a reason. He wanted to put me with him one last time. We had so much fun, ate Chinese food, really ate like crazy in the studio [laughs]. I thank God for Hev believing in me. The last words I heard him say was how proud he was of me.
So many artists have called me — Nas, Erykah Badu — so many people who miss him, too. All this time I’ve been grieving with his parents, my family, [I] didn’t realize that other people were grieving, too. Last night Puff was with us, we all gathered in a circle and something made us laugh like crazy. When Hev had his weight, you couldn’t leave no food around [laughs]!
I didn’t think I was an emotional person, I’m usually cool, but this is so hard. I just keep going back to the good memories in my mind. I could always talk to him about anything, I could lean on him for anything. I want people to know how much I loved this man. He gave me everything he could possibly give me. He was so supportive and I owe him so much. This is a big loss for my family, we just can’t believe he’s gone. He inspired us all.
(Photos from left: Jerritt Clark/WireImage/Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)