With heavy hearts, they mourned the loss of Heavy D.
Diddy, Russell Simmons, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith were among the celebrity mourners who gathered in the rapper's hometown of Mt. Vernon, N.Y. today, to bid goodbye to Big Daddy and celebrate his extraordinary life, which was unexpectedly cut short last week at the age of 44.
"[Heavy] was the first person to believe in me," said Diddy, otherwise known as Sean Combs, from the altar about their long friendship which began after the '90s hitmaker gave him his first break with an internship at Uptown Records.
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a memorable and at times funny eulogy, even garnering laughs at one point that while James Brown "made us black and proud, [Heavy] made us fat and proud."
Sharpton also read a note of condolence sent to mourners by President Barack Obama.
"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," read Sharpton, quoting the commander in chief.
"Just want to say to Heavy: job well done," said Gill during a tearful turn at the podium, before breaking into a heartwrenching performance of the gospel song "Never Would Have Made It."
Heavy D, real name Dwight Arrington Myers, collapsed at his home in Beverly Hills on Nov. 8 after experiencing respiratory problems. An autopsy proved inconclusive and the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office is expected to rule on a cause of death as soon as toxicology tests are completed in a few weeks.
Myers' family has come forward to suggest he died as the result of complications from pneumonia.
Friday's private service came a day after more than 1,000 fans turned out for a public memorial, standing in line for hours for a chance to view Heavy D's open casket, which was surrounded by flowers and photos of the entertainer.
Afterward, Pepa (from Salt N Pepa) and Flavor Flav, along with Shawn and Marlon Wayans (Heavy D & the Boyz sang the theme song for In Living Color) joined Diddy, Simmons and Heavy D's close friends and family assembed for a separate private wake, fondly remembering the talented emcee, his lasting message of love and his most important legacy: devoted father to daughter Xea.
Blige—whom Heavy D mentored to great success early on in her career—was also scheduled to attend this afternoon's private funeral.
Grieving the loss of the beloved hip-hop legend, she told BET.com: "He was all of our big brother. He always had a word of encouragement."
Noting the solemn occasion, a number of Myers' celebrity pals, some of whom weren't able to attend today's service, bid farewell with a moment of silence on Twitter.
"In Honor of
@Heavyd who's being buried today, let's have a moment of Silence...We have truly lost an Extraordinary Talent," tweeted La Toya Jackson, who had performed with Heavy at the Michael Jackson Forever Tribute in Wales just a month ago.
"Taking a twitter moment of silence for a couple of days in honor of my brother Heavy D-
#RIPHeavyD Love u!God Bless his fam-Talk to yall soon," added Sean Combs, who, before he became known as Diddy, got his start after Heavy gave him an internship at Uptown Records.
"Smile for Heavy D today. last night's wake was difficult," tweeted Simmons.
For those who knew him best, Heavy D's relatives recalled a "kind and giving spirit" who had a "heart of gold" and love of family.
"Though Hev will most notably be remembered for his work both behind-the-scenes and in the forefront, he will always be remembered by us as a generous soul who remained humble and unselfish till his final days," Myers' family said in a statement.
It went on: "The name and the success of Heavy D will always be synonymous with music forever. He never compromised his values and artistry, and encouraged his peers to do the same. To us, Hev was the one who made us laugh, cry, sing, dance and turn a frown upside down. As a family, we are devastated by Hev's passing, but through our faith in God and support from family, friends and fans, we are comforted, blessed and will remain strong. His 'bear hugs' are going to be deeply missed."
Rest in peace, Heavy.
(Originally published Nov. 18, 2011, at 9:37 a.m. PT)