It was funny how I met Torrence Hatch, a.k.a Lil Boosie. I was participating in a parade in Baton Rouge, LA and I saw one of my father’s former employees, a friend of the family, and someone that I love like a mother.
“Doc, it’s T-Pam! Throw me some beads.” Ms. Pam Sterling (T-Pam) is one of the most beautiful people in the world with a heart of gold. She is also one of the few people in this world who was not/is not intimidated by my father. “I need to talk to you. I want to bring my nephew in for an appointment. He has diabetes!”
“No problem T. You know I got you,” I replied.
Within two weeks, Lil Boosie showed up my office with his mother Connie Hatch and T-Pam, and the friendship began.
As popular as he is in the Baton Rouge and all over the country now, Lil Boosie is no different than the 3.2 million African-Americans age 20 and older in this country who are living with this diabetes.
Diabetes! I hate that word, especially as it relates to African-Americans. Here are some other shocking numbers that may explain my disgust with the disease which can cause blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart disease and stroke, and irreversible nerve damage:
African Americans are two times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites
25% of African Americans ages 65 to 74 have diabetes
One in four African-American women over age 55 have this disease
Time to learn more about the disease that is take the limbs, life and love out of our country like a serial killer.
It took a while to pin Lil Boosie down for this interview. He is constantly on the grind and hardly ever sits still. My video man, photographer and good friend, Sean Griffin and I pulled up at Lil Boosie’s home around 6:30pm three days before Easter. There were two U-Haul trucks in the driveway and bicycles all over the front yard.
T-Pam met us at the door. When we walked in, large bags met us and were being filled with clothes. Boosie was speaking to a film crew and waiting on Foxx and Big Head, two of Trill Entertainments finest, to arrive so they could finish shooting the last scene in his movie Ghetto Times at his home.
“Doc, come meet Mike,” he shouted out. I walked into the kitchen looking out at his newly built swimming pool and there, sitting at the kitchen table was one of my favorite comedians, Mike Epps.
“This is my doctor Mike,” he said. I couldn’t help but laugh and think about all the crazy roles Epps has played. Epps wanted to stay for the interview, but was getting ready for his tour, so he left shortly after we met. I kissed Lil Boosie’s mom and all his beautiful aunts on the cheek, shook hands with all the boys, kicked it with Heavy D (his favorite Uncle) for a minute, and played with his beautiful daughter.
Finally, Sean and I headed upstairs past the beautiful playroom and through the home theater (off the chain!) to his home studio to discuss our serious topic.
Whitfield: Man, I really appreciate this. First of all, I come to the crib, pull in the drive way, and you have about 1500 bicycles out there and clothes all over the house… What’s going on with that?
Lil Boosie: We have an Easter Egg Hunt and give away. I’ve been doing this every year in honor of my boy Ivy who was killed. He used to do this community event and I’m going to keep it going in his honor. We give away like $20,000 dollars worth of bikes, $15,000 dollars worth of clothes, $15,000 dollars worth of food like BBQ and crawfish; the finders of the silver, gold, and platinum egg get $250, $500, and $1000.
We just giving back to the community. [Last I heard, he spent well over $55,000] The kids have to bring their grades out on Sunday morning. If they are good, they get a bike. If they are not so good, they probably still get a bike. If they are terrible, they get a toy. T-Pam and momma ain’t that nice. [laughs] Really, I’m just doing this for blessings and to make other people smile. I’m blessed and I’m happy. I got the money to do this and it needs to be done.
Whitfield: The word is that they will have children with disabilities at the event and some kids that never had a bike. Man, that’s a beautiful thing. Now you said “it needs to be done”. What needs to be done? You mean uplift the community?
Lil Boosie: Yeah, I’m really doing this for the community showing my supporters I have a heart and love for all those who support me.
Whitfield: Real talk! When I talk to the young students and the older folks in the community, many of them don’t know “the real” Lil Boosie; they don’t know about all of the good things you do; too much emphasis on the negative.
Lil Boosie: Yep! I’m going to do me though Doc. Can’t worry about the haters.
Whitfield: So let us get to what we really came to talk about - diabetes! It’s killing African-Americans! Not only is it killing us, but also it is a major cause of disability. You have been diabetic for how long?
Lil Boosie: I been diagnosed with type one diabetes four and a half years now; I got diagnosed when I was 20, and you know it’s been a struggle for me. As the years go on though, I learn more about the disease and I get better with it, you know.
Whitfield: You take pills and you are “on the needle?”
Lil Boosie: Yeah, I’m taking a pill called Actos and I’m on that 70/30 also.
Whitfield: So you are talking about insulin when you say 70/30?
Lil Boosie: Yeah, the needle Doc. Have to give myself shots at least twice a day and check my sugar as well.
Whitfield: You have to check your sugar and give yourself shots every day? So how do you deal with needles on a daily basis?
Lil Boosie: It gets old, but I know the importance of taking care of myself. You know really I just keep fresh alcohol pads and I have to alternate spots on my body where I give myself insulin injections. I use to get knots under my skin that were painful, so now I go to my arm one day, stomach the next…
Whitfield: What’s the difference in type one diabetes and type two diabetes?
Lil Boosie: Well basically I have type one, which happens, in general in younger patients. [Type one diabetics] don’t make insulin, which helps bring down your blood sugar. Older people in general get type two diabetes; they make insulin but the body can’t use it properly. That’s the way I understand it. If I’m wrong, then blame yourself ‘cause you told me. [laughs]
Whitfield: I’m a damn good teacher. [laughs] So, do you ever have days where you say, I’m tired of this, I’m not dealing with this, I’m not going to eat right or exercise?
Lil Boosie: [smiles] Yeah man, I have days when it’s like all falling down on me. If I like go two to three weeks of taking care of myself, that one day I slip, I might get sick. You know I have to really be on it and the lifestyle I have - this lifestyle I’m surrounded by, you know, I feel like I need more people around to help me with this. It’s hard Doc. You know those couple of nights I had to call you when I’m on the road feeling bad; sh*t man, I was down. But it’s all good when I take care of myself.
Whitfield: How does it feel to be young, Black, living with diabetes and being able to speak out about it to young people?
Lil Boosie: At first it was like, how am I going to accept it? But now I talk about the disease and motivate other diabetics to take care of themselves and prolong their lives. It’s like a blessing; at first it felt like a curse, but now, to me it’s like a blessing. It’s millions of people with this disease and I’m a big influence to a lot of people. So, if I can help people to live longer by talking about it, then I’m going to keep doing it.
Whitfield: Do you think it is important that artist speak out about health issues?
Lil Boosie: I think it’s very important! Especially when it comes to Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop influences children and adults. I feel like if you have the position or the power to make people listen to you, you should do it in a positive way with your music and your voice.
Whitfield: What’s next for Lil Boosie?
Lil Boosie: I got my album coming out called Return of Boosie Badd Azz; I got my movie coming out Ghetto Stories; I’m shopping clothing line deals, I just ain’t got the check yet [smiles and laughs]; waiting on somebody to cut the check; and I’m just working harder than every body.
I got my own in-house studio, putting out mix tapes. I’m doing my own publishing and producing my own music. Right now I’m just ahead of the game ‘cause I’m on demand for shows. I get a lot of show money.
Whitfield: That’s what’s up! Who is your favorite artist in the game?
Lil Boosie: Ice Cube! See how I’m doing movies? Look what Cube did. Yeah, he was doing gangsta rap, but he was also using his mind. He didn’t just rap his way through it he used his mind.
Whitfield: Yeah, Cube did and is still doing his thing. He has a new album coming out. I’m still tripping on Mike Epps in your kitchen, that’s a funny dude. [laughs] Well homie, anything else you want to say to those with diabetes and to those who are trying to come up in this music game?
Lil Boosie: I know this, diabetes is not HIV; it’s not AIDS. Take care of yourself, keep your sugar under control, and you can live better and longer. Keep your head up and take pride in your self. Don’t feel like you are alone with diabetes. God has blessed you, so take pride in your self.
As far as music, you got to be dedicated. You got to want it more than anybody. You have to be talented and use your talent; learn how to put music together, learn how to carry yourself around people, and learn and live like you are a superstar. Believe that sh*t! Plus there is stuff you can’t do when you get to this level. Listen to those around you who have been in the game.
Check our Dr. Whitfield with Lil' Boosie at www.h2doc.com/main/inside/php?section=multimedia&page.video.