On Tuesday, TMZ reported the results of the autopsy done on legendary rapper Heavy D. Only a short time before his death I sat with my kids watching him on the BET Awards. I told my son how important he was to hip-hop. My wife told my daughter how much we used to dance to his music “back in the day.” Not long after, he passed. Our whole household was confused. “He was just on TV, though,” my son said. Indeed he was.
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Heavy D died from a pulmonary embolism caused by deep leg vein thrombosis … and a long flight back to L.A. from a Michael Jackson memorial concert may have been a contributing factor. A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of one or more arteries in the lungs — most often caused by blood clots which travel into the lungs from other parts of the body. In Heavy’s case, the clot was formed in his legs. Officials from the L.A. County Coroner’s Office say Heavy also suffered from heart disease, which could have been a contributing factor in his death.
The truth is, deep leg vein thrombosis can happen to anyone who sits too long. If he was on a long plane ride, it’s easy to see how it happened. A friend of mine who is a journalist was recently diagnosed with the same issue from writing at his desk for extended hours. I write from a large exercise ball as much as I can to cut my chances of suffering the same fate.
If you listen to Hip-Hop and assess what people inside the rap community are eating, you get a lot of food that sounds good, but is not good for you. In the early days of Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, they rapped about 40 ounces, White Castle, and frank and beans. Fast forward a bit and Ludacris puts out albums with titles like “Chicken and Beer.” Ice Cube, Rakim, the Wu-Tang Clan, Diddy, and a lot of other rappers pushed various alcohol brands from St. Ides to Ciroc. We also cannot forget that Busta Rhymes almost single-handedly rebuilt the cognac industry in France with one rap song. It is hard to deny that hip-hop living can be hard on rappers’ bodies.
And if we look beyond Heavy D, we can see that hip-hop has had some seriously close calls. Nate Dogg and Patrice O’Neal died of strokes at a very young ages. Rick Ross, who was recently in the hospital due to seizures, is clearly obese and in need of a lifestyle change. In addition we saw pioneer rapper Erik Sermon from EPMD suffer a heart attack. People forget that Latino rapper Big Pun passed away from complications due to his unhealthy eating habits. It is hard to deny that folks from the hip-hop generation are in a state of emergency in regards to their health.
If we think realistically about how a diet of the above will affect you over the long term, we see why so many rappers are getting sick and dying. It is a very sad but harsh reality. At the same time, no one can deny how various pockets of hip-hop promoted good living over the years. KRS One, Public Enemy, Kam, and Monie Luv all made songs that promoted good diets. A lot of early rap promoted the dietary regimen of the Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. They spoke to the importance of eating more vegetables, less alcohol, and pork, but over the years, a lot of the healthy related raps were pushed to the back of the bus.
I wanted to get some clarity on the hip-hop and health, so I called Dr. Peter Goldman, a doctor to many of the top MMA fighters and coaches you see in the Ultimate Fighting Championships including BJ Penn and Jake Shields. Dr. Goldman is also from the hip-hop generation and was raised in Brooklyn. I asked him what he thought about how so many adults from that generation got to this state.
First of all, we have to consider how these habits and choices get formed. Some of the main sources of influence on the Hip-Hop generation are their parents, society in general, and Hip-Hop artists and their lyrics. The experiences with their parents in regards to how their parents demonstrate they should eat and live will obviously vary. Society in general sends many mixed messages on these topics. For the most part, with some exceptions, Hip-Hop lyrics do not encourage a particularly healthy lifestyle or healthy eating habits. So the result for the most part are listeners whose main sources of influence do not indicate that it is even desirable to be healthy and eat right, let alone tell them how to do it.
For those of us in their 30s and 40s, the time is now. But how do we begin?
By understanding that there are many components to being healthy. For example, eating right, exercising right, resting right, keeping the body balanced with some type of body work like chiropractic or massage, and of course addressing the mental and Spiritual components of health. In regards to diet a good start is including a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet, drinking plenty of healthy water, avoiding deep fried foods and artificial sweeteners and coloring. As far as exercise goes, it can be yoga, martial arts, walking, swimming, etc, just try to move your body every day. As for rest, make sure to sleep enough, and also make sure to rest the body and the mind when necessary.
Another big part of the equation is what concepts about themselves, their body, and health in general they hold in their subconscious mind. These concepts are mostly implanted there from birth to about 7 years of age and tend to manifest in one’s life in all regards including their health.
Recently, though, some rappers have made many strides to change. 50 Cent has always made health a priority. Fat Joe cut weight after Pun passed away. David Banner went from looking like one of the Fat Boys to looking like a UFC fighter. Even the Fat Boys Kool Rock Ski and Prince Markie Dee both lost weight after the Human Beat Box passed from a heart attack. Not long ago Diddy ran a marathon for charity. Rapper Rakaa Iriscience from Dilated Peoples has been practicing Gracie Jiu Jitsu. Rapper Tajai from Hieroglypics posts about great veggie dishes and restaurants on his Facebook page. Stic Man from Dead Prez dropped a mixtape dedicated exclusively to healthy living. From front to back it discusses the proper diet, mind state and diet tips people need to live better. He even has a Facebook page dedicated to it called “RBG Fit Club.”
Rapper T-KASH is currently preparing to participate in the Oakland Running Marathon in March for charity 2012 (he completed a half marathon last year). The political rapper who recently toured Europe with Paris lost almost 100 pounds over the last two and a half years. When asked how the weight loss has changed him he said:
You don’t anticipate any health related issues as much. You are aware that you are susceptible to getting any type of disease eventually. But to know that I’ve decelerated that, is calming. When I was big, I always worried.’ What if I get this? What if I get that?’ Alot of that has gone away.
Let us hope it goes away for all of us, one day at a time. Stay healthy y’all.
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