Born Dwight Arrington Myers in Jamaica in 1967, Heavy D found fame with his band "The Boyz", scoring hits with such tracks as Now That We Found Love.
He appeared on Michael Jackson's 1991 song Jam and recently performed at the singer's tribute concert in Cardiff.
"My heart goes out to the family and [loved] ones of Heavy D," tweeted Jackson's sister La Toya, who appeared with Heavy D at the event on 8 October.
Rapper Ice T has also expressed condolences, saying he felt "sick" at the news of the performer's death.
"We had a lot of great times touring together," tweeted MC Hammer. "He had a heart of gold."
Heavy D also made select film appearances, most recently alongside Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy in the comedy Tower Heist.
According to Lt Mark Rosen of the Beverly Hills police, the rapper experienced breathing difficulties while returning home from shopping.
After collapsing in an exterior hallway, he was transported to Cedars Sinai Medical Center where he later died.