Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hey Ladies!

I need to speak to the women for a minute. I love and admire African-American sisters to death, as I am the product of one of the strongest and most beautiful African-American woman in this world. Without my mother, there would be no Hip Hop Doc. She is the living example of what I think women should mature to be and thank goodness she is healthy at the young age of 73. Black History Month is a perfect time to recognize and support the ladies as they continue to carry the torch and make positive strides in all facets of life. But sisters, there is a serious problem! To be quite honest, this is a state of emergency for all women. Something is lurking in the bellows waiting to steal you away from the husbands, children, employers, friends, and families that love, need and cherish you and his name…Heart Disease! Heart disease is not only the number one killer of all Americans no matter what race, creed, or nationality, but also the number one killer of women. African-American women are disproportionately affected by heart disease, which is more prevalent among them in the US than other ethnic or racial groups. The face of heart disease has changed from men to that of men and women and something must be done to stop this dreaded disease.

Heart disease is number of abnormal conditions affecting the heart. This article will focus on coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease (CAD), which are the most common type of heart disease and the number one cause of heart attacks. Individuals with CAD have hardened and narrow arteries, which are the pipes that supply blood to the muscles of the heart. In order for the heart to beat efficiently, it must receive nutrients and oxygen via blood. The average adult heart beats 100,000 times a day. If the blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, the heart must work harder to get blood to itself. Overtime, this increased strain on the heart can lead to a heart attack, where some of the muscles of the heart actually die, or heart failure, where the heart beats less efficiently and blood is not pumped to other areas of the body. Both a massive heart attack and heart failure can severely debilitate and/or kill a woman, however, the key is knowing what causes these disorders and how to prevent them.

Risk factors for heart disease that we cannot change include age, gender, race, family history, and previous history of heart attack or other forms of heart disease. As we get older, the risk of heart disease increases. This is not to say that younger people don’t have heart attacks, but the chance does increase with increasing age. Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women and they have heart attacks earlier in life. But as stated earlier, the face of heart disease is changing and CAD is the leading cause of death in American women. African American’s are disproportionately represented when it comes to heart disease and therefore must take active measures to protect themselves. One way to do this is by knowing their family history. If your first-degree relatives (mother, father, sister, or brother) have heart disease, this increases your chances of having the same problems. The discussion at the dinner table and family reunion when we are healthy and happy should include “the talk” about the state of the family’s health. African American’s as a result of mistrust in the medical community, being under-insured or un-insured, or lack access to care are often diagnosed later in the stage of disease and hence have poorer outcomes. Finally, if you have had a heart attack in the past, your risk is significantly increased. Taking medications as prescribed, eating properly, exercising, and seeing your doctor on a regular basis can reduce your chance of having a second heart attack.

By stopping smoking, the single most preventable cause of death in the United States, controlling you cholesterol, taking your blood pressure and diabetes medications, exercising, and losing and maintaining a healthy weight African-American women can live happy, healthier, and long lives. The American Heart Association and the Go Red For Women campaign is raising our awareness about this disease and provides tools to protect us from heart disease. Log on to to learn more about heart disease, do your own heart disease risk assessment, get great recipes, and come with an action plan to protect you and your loved ones.

Sisters, we love you. Don’t let heart disease take you away from us.

(c) 2008 Rani Whitfield. This article was published February 2008 at

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Interview with Prodigy on Sickle Cell

Each year 2000 babies are born in the United States with a life long condition called sickle cell disease. This disease of the blood affects between 50-75,000 people in the US and millions throughout the world. Approximately 2 million Americans carry the sickle cell trait, which increases the chance that the disorder is passed on to their children. Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States affecting those of African descent and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry, but the trait has also been found in those with Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin American, Native American, and Mediterranean heritage. One in every 500 African-American births is affected with sickle cell disease.

The two most common forms of sickle cell disease are sickle cell trait and sickle cell anemia. They are characterized by defective hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body. This defective hemoglobin interferes with the red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen. Those who inherited the sickle cell trait have one defective gene and no symptoms to moderate symptoms of the disease in most cases. If a person has sickle cell anemia, the most common and most severe form of the disease, they are at risk for many problems: anemia (very low blood counts), pain crisis or sickle cell crisis which causes almost every joint in your body to hurt usually requiring hospitalization, strong pain medicines, and IV fluids, acute chest syndrome which is similar to pneumonia, but much more painful, strokes, and a decreased life expectancy. If children are screened at birth and/or parents who are unsure of their status are screened, sickle cell disease can be significantly reduced by education alone.

A full description of all things sickle cell is way beyond the scope of this article, however I wanted my friends who read my column for All Hip Hop to really understand this preventable disease, so I called on Prodigy of Mobb Deep to help me out.

H2D (at the office in Baton Rouge, LA): P, what’s good? How are you feeling?

Prodigy (driving through Manhattan): I’m good; what’s good with you, Doc?
H2D: The same thing; trying to bring more awareness to the hip-hop community on health issues. Man I would like for you to enlighten us about something you’ve dealt with all your life. Tell me about sickle cell disease and how it has affected you?

Prodigy: I mean basically, I was diagnosed with sickle cell when I was 3 months old. I have the worse type of sickle cell… the “SS” type. If I don’t take care of myself and do the right things, I will experience a severely painful sickle cell crisis; all my joints hurt; it’s a bad scene. Before I really knew how to take care of myself I was in and out of the hospital…they had me on morphine for pain; IV’s in my arm; couldn’t get comfortable for days at a time…it was really hard on my body.

H2D: Are you taking any medicines right now?

Prodigy: Nahhhh! I don’t take none of these medicines that they try to say is good to take for sickle cell. All I do is try to have a healthy diet as much as possible; I drink water like a fish, eat healthy, and I notice that since I’ve been doing that for the past seven to eight years, I don’t get sick as much as I use too. If I do get sick, it’s really because of something I’m doing wrong. I really know my body and how to control it, know what I mean?
H2D: Yeah, that’s what’s up. Now, in 2000, you wrote the song “You Can Never Feel My Pain” on your first solo album, HNIC. This song really dealt with the harsh realities of sickle cell and how it affected you. Almost like sickle cell 101. What motivated you to write that piece?

Prodigy: Basically because at every Mobb Deep show, I would see somebody in the crowd, and they would yell to me like “Yo P, I got sickle cell too.” And they would ask how I was able to perform and do all that I do.” I always encourage my fans that they should reach for their goals and reach high when doing it; and to further this point I decided to drop something on my album to tell people about the pain that I and others with sickle cell suffer with, which is a handicap no different than living in poverty, but that its something you can escape.

H2D: I’m sure you know T-Boz has sickle cell. She was a national spokes person for the disease back in the day.

Prodigy: Yeah, I wanted T-Boz to get on that song with me. So I actually reached out to her, went down to Atlanta and played the song for her. She came to the studio, liked the song, but we both decided that it was best for me to roll with that approach. We had a long conversation about sickle cell and this drug called hydroxyurea. We talked about this drug and some the side effects. She had decided at the time to not take the medicine. I kinda felt like we were being used as guinea pigs when they try to come up with these new drugs. That’s why I really don’t take or promote some of the medicines.

H2D: I can respect that. Well, other than “You Can Never Feel My Pain”, do you have any new songs dedicated to creating awareness about sickle cell?

Prodigy: I already did the song and I don’t want to keep doing the same old thing. I’m gonna start being more vocal about it, like with this piece. When I get out (of prison) and get home, I want to hook up with you and do the community thing you got going on; talk to some kids and tell them what it’s like to live with sickle cell and how they can still be successful. You can just set something up and I’ll roll with you. That’s good shit what you doing Doc.

H2D: Yeah, that’s real talk. It has been a challenge, but one I welcome. You know lately, there’s been a lot of things going on in regards to health and hip-hop: Kayne West and his mothers death; Foxy Brown and her battle with hearing loss; Pimp C leaving us way too early; Nate Dogg having a stroke…do you think the hip-hop culture is taking health issues seriously?

Prodigy: A lot of young peoples attitude is they feel invincible. It’s like someone who has sickle cell and someone who doesn’t? The person who doesn’t have sickle cell thinks they can drink, smoke, eat anything and everything, just go hard and say, “Hey, I’m okay.” If I do that, it affects me immediately. They may not feel the effects until 30, 40, 50 years later when they got heart problems, lung problems, and they are dying from things they could have prevented. To me sickle cell is like an alarm system because it lets me know when I’m doing something wrong, you know what I’m saying?

H2D: Definitely! What advice would you give to the young people growing up and living with sickle cell?

Prodigy: The number rule for people with sickle cell, as far as I’m concerned, is their diet has to be strict. You damn near have to be a vegetarian to avoid getting sick and having a painful sickle cell crisis. You have got to take care of your health. Eat a healthy diet, drink lots of water, and eat lots a vegetables. I guarantee that if you do that and get all the impurities out of your system, you will see a hundred percent turnaround.

H2D: What kind of stuff do you eat?

Prodigy: Like today, I might have baked salmon, brown rice, and green vegetables. I try to stay away from the poisonous food additives. I don’t drink sodas or eat a lot of junk. This is the plan you have to follow to keep the impurities out of your body. You gotta really eat healthy; break it down to a science and start learning how to read labels and know what ingredients are good and bad for you. And I know I keep saying this, but you gotta drink mad water. It helps wash away all impurities and poison in the body.

H2D: P, thanks for your time. Anything else you would like to say to All Hip Hop?

Prodigy: Just support the real shit that we putting out there, man cause there’s a lot of people who are not being real. They are chasing some outrageous dream. I’m staying grounded, know what I mean? I’m focusing on real shit. So, just support real artist like Mobb Deep and myself. Check out my website at A lot of good information and I will have my address up so that they can write me letters while I’m locked up.

H2D: Cool. Peace, P.

Prodigy: One.

(c) 2008. Rani Whitfield. This interview was publishsed February 2008 at

Friday, February 1, 2008

African-American physicians who paved the way

I like to give credit where credit is do and there is no better time to do this than Black History Month (we even got an extra day this year). Hip-hop would not exist if it were not for the pioneers of the culture: DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambatta, The Rock Steady Crew, Grand Wizard Theodore, and Coke La Rock just to name a few. That being said, there would be no blood banks or open-heart surgery if not for the contributions of African American physicians and scientist. Here’s a small list of the brothers and sisters who made it possible for me and many others to go to medical school, cure disease, and bring good health information to the community of AHH and the world.

Name: Imhotep- The Father of Medicine
Life: 2635-2595 BC (differs depending on source)
Medical School: Did not have a medical school during his time, so he created his own.

Contribution: A man of multiple talents (architect, scribe), his best-known writings was medical text. He is believed to be the author of the Edwin Smith Papyrus in which more than 90 anatomical terms and 48 injuries are described. He founded a medical school in Memphis long before Hippocrates was born. All who understand its origins crowns Imhotep the father of medicine.

Compared to: DJ Kool Herc who inspired the Merry-Go-Round- using two turntables at one time and creator of the break beat. Herc is considered the Father of Hip-Hop.

Name: Dr. James Durham, born into slavery
Life: 1762- time of death unknown.

Medical School: None; he was owned and taught by a number of white physicians to read, write, mix medicines, and treat patients. He bought his freedom and began his own medical practice in New Orleans, however the city restricted his practice, as he had no formal medical training.

Contribution: He treated more patients successfully for yellow fever than any other physician in the country. He was so impressive that his publication on diphtheria was read before the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Compared to: Afrika Bambaattaa, Master of Records- had over 20,000 pieces of vinyl. Organized the very first international hip-hop tour.

Name: Dr. James McCune Smith
Life: 1813-1865
Medical School: University of Glasgow in Scotland

Contribution: First African American to earn a medical degree.

Compared to: The Twins, Keith and Kevin Smith. Inspired the B-Boy Style or break dancing, which included matching outfits with trench coats and hats. They would jump on the floor and create dance moves to DJ Kool Herc’s beats.

Name: Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Life: 1858-1931
Medical School: Chicago Medical College

Contribution: Performed the first successful operation on a human heart. The patient, a victim of a stab wound to the chest, lived 20 years after his open-heart surgery. Williams also established the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which was the first African-American owned and first interracial hospital in the United States.

Compared to: Grand Wizard Theodore- creator of the needle drop and the scratch, two of the most fundamental techniques any DJ using vinyl should posses.

Name: Dr. Charles Drew
Life: 1904-1950
Medical School: Howard University

Contribution: Dr. Drew researched blood plasma and blood transfusions for several years while in New York. He discovered that blood could be stored and used at a later date. He developed the system for storing blood, called a blood bank. He also established the American Red Cross blood bank. As a result, he has saved and continues to save the lives of many who need blood transfusions.

Compared to: Melle Mel, Godfather of the Rhyme. Grandmaster Melle Mel has been given the title as the greatest lyricist ever. As a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, he was the principle scribe for The Message and White Lines. The group’s songs dominated the airways between 1979 and 1984.

Name: Vivien Thomas
Life: 1910-1985

Medical School: Vanderbilt University Medical School. He was also a surgical research technician at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Medicine, research associate and supervisor of surgical research laboratories. He was appointed to the medical school faculty at JHU in 1977; he never attended medical school.

Contribution: Thomas was a scientific genius with superb surgical skills. Thirty years before Johns Hopkins admitted its first Back surgical resident, Thomas served as a black research technician without a degree and was teaching operative techniques to white staff surgeons at the university's hospital.

Compared to: Mos Def… who else? Mos Def portrayed Mr. Viven Thomas on the HBO special Something the Lord Made. Mos Def is multitalented and can be seen in movies, hosting Def Comedy Jam, and recently appeared on Bill Maher’s talk show Real Time with Cornell West.

Name: Dr. Mae C. Jemison
Life: 1956-
Medical School: Cornell University Medical School

Contribution: First African-American woman astronaut and the first African-American woman to enter space (September 1992)

Compared to: MC Sha Rock, the first female MC. Sha Rock was not afraid to battle with anyone and is often referred to as the Mother of Hip-Hop.

Name: Dr. LaSalle D. Lefall
Life: 1930-
Medical School: Howard University College of Medicine

Contribution: Dr. Lefall, a surgical oncologist, is the first African American president of the American Cancer Society.

Compared to: Coke La Rock is considered the first true MC ever in the history of hip-hop. He would lay down rhymes over the music of DJ Kool Herc at the legendary Cedar Park in New York.

Name: Dr. Jocelyn Elders
Life: 1933-
Medical School: University of Arkansas Medical School

Contribution: Dr. Elders is the first African-American to be appointed as U.S. Surgeon General

Compared to: MC Lyte who is the first rapper to ever to perform at Carnegie Hall and the first female rapper to ever receive a gold single.

Name: Dr. Benjamin Carson
Life: 1951-
Medical School: University of Michigan

Contribution: In 1987, this pediatric neurosurgeon made medical history with an operation that separated Siamese twins from the back of their heads. He had to orchestrate a 70-man team that worked for 22 hours to successfully separate the twins who survived the surgery and did well. Check out his two books Think Big and Gifted Hands.

Compared to: Grandmaster Flash is surgical on the 1’s and 2’s creating the vocabulary for the turntables that DJ’s continue to use today. He is the innovator of back spinning, phasing, and cutting- terms only a DJ would understand. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

(c) 2008 Rani Whitfield. This article was published February 2008 at