Nov. 18, 2011— -- Rapper Heavy D, who was known for his free-flowing, playful hip-hop style, was remembered by family and friends -- and President Obama -- in a funeral service held today in New York.
Last week, the 44-year-old rapper collapsed outside his Beverly Hills, Calif., condominium.
He was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital, where he was pronounced dead on Nov. 8.
"We extend our heartfelt condolences at this difficult time. He will be remembered for his infectious optimism and many contributions to American music. Please know that you and your family will be in our thoughts and prayers," the president wrote in a letter, which the Rev. Al Sharpton read at the service, The Associated Press reported.
Heavy D's daughter, Xea Myers, said her father was "still here, not in the flesh, but in the spirit," according to the AP.
Singers such as Diddy and Usher attended the service held at the Grace Baptist Church in Heavy D's hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Heavy D was returning from a mall at around 11:30 a.m. and was climbing a set of stairs at his condominium when he experienced trouble breathing, according to the condo staff, who tried to help him to his home.
Ed Winters, a spokesman for the LA County coroner's office, told ABCNews.com last week that medication for flu-like symptoms were found in Heavy D's home, although Winters declined to name the medication. He said no illegal drugs were found.
Born Dwight Arrington Myers in Jamaica, Heavy D was the youngest of six children. His mother Eulahlee, a nurse, and father Clifford, a film technician, moved the family to Mount Vernon, N.Y., when he was young.
Poised for Comeback?
Heavy D seemed poised for a comeback before his unexpected death.
Last month the rapper, known as the "overweight lover," turned up on the BET Hip-Hop Awards, his first live appearance in 15 years.
At 6 feet 3, Heavy D once weighed more than 300 pounds, but in 2005 he shed 160 pounds for the lead role in the Hollywood stage production Medal of Honor Rag, produced by Will Smith.
In September, he digitally released his ninth and final album, "Love Opus."
He also made a cameo in Eddie Murphy and Ben Stiller's new movie, "Tower Heist," as his focus had shifted in recent years to TV and movie appearances.
But his fusion of New Jack Swing and reggae, made him one of the industry's major players in the late '80s and early '90s.
As hip-hop shifted, however, Heavy D seemed to get left behind.
He poured his energy into taking care of his 13-year-old daughter.
A former editor for the Source and writer for Vibe and Spin, dream hampton tweeted that Heavy D "often felt unappreciated in recent years. Hoping he feels the love."
Stephen Hill, the BET executive who oversaw the award's show where Heavy D made his last live appearance, said it took five years to get him back onstage.
"When I first ran into him five years ago ... he said, I've never been part of that nostalgia thing. You've never seen me go on tour. You've never seen me be part of a reunion," Hill said in a video posted on BET's website. "He wasn't interested in doing it then."
The night of Heavy D's big comeback performance, Hill said he was both nervous and excited but determined to nail his performance.
At dinner afterward, Hill remembered the joy on Heavy's face as he took in the accolades for his performance. "It was something long overdue," he said. "I think he felt that night how important he was to hip-hop."
On the Saturday before his death, Heavy D sent Hill an email thanking him and saying he was looking forward to continuing their discussion about marketing the rapper to the 35-plus, adult hip-hop audience.
The rapper had just returned from a trip to London, where he saw James Earl Jones in a stage production of "Driving Miss Daisy."
On his Twitter feed, he exhibited "relentless optimism," writing, "All glory comes from daring to begin," two days before his death. And "be inspired" on the day he collapsed in front of his Beverly Hills building.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.