By Dan Hyman

See also: On the Eve of the Grammys, Heavy D Discusses His Nomination, Reggae, Diddy and More

Heavy D, the iconic rapper and founder of hip-hop group Heavy D and the Boyz, died today in Los Angles. He was 44. The rapper was reportedly rushed to the hospital after being found unconscious in his Beverly Hills home. Police are still investigating the official cause of death, but no foul play appears to be involved.

Born Dwight Errington Meyers in Jamaica on May 24, 1967, Heavy D was one of the early pioneers of the hip-hop/R&B hybrid that has come to dominate contemporary pop music. Heavy D & The Boyz were the first group signed to Uptown Records — which would later include Mary J. Blige and Soul for Real.

In 1987, Heavy D & The Boyz broke into the mainstream with their debut album Living Large. While not a commercial success, the album has since gone on to be revered as a classic. In 1998, The Source named it one of the 100 Best Rap Albums Ever. The first major hit single for D and the Boyz would come in 1991 via the the funked-up jam “Now That We Found Love” off their third album, Peaceful Journey.

The group would achieve further recognition by recording the theme song for the sketch comedy shows In Living Color, and later MADtv. Comedian Tommy Davidson, who appeared on both shows, gives Heavy D credit for inventing In Living Color's mantra — “What's mine is yours, What's yours is mine” — via the theme song. “It was D's brilliance to come up with the line that summed up our historic show,” says Davidson in a statement. But D was more than just a co-worker to Davidson. “I considered him a brother,” says Davidson, “who made an indelible mark on me as a performer and a human being.”

D parlayed his experience working around actors into a full-fledged acting career. He made appearances in TV shows such as Boston Public, The Tracy Morgan Show, Bones, and on the big screen in Step Up. Most recently, he made a cameo in the just-released Tower Heist where he played a security guard.

In later years, D would also release a pair of solo albums (Waterbed Hev and Heavy) before trying his hand at reggae via 2008's Vibes. Last month, he made his first live performance in 15 years at the BET Hip Hop Awards.

Since news of his passing hit the Internet earlier today, hip-hop icons have poured out their condolences and respect for the fallen icon. “We'll never forget you babe!” tweeted Nicki Minaj. Usher added, “I can't believe it. HEAVY D was just here. Truly gone too soon. My heart and support goes out to his family. R.I.P HEAVY.”

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