Words by: Khari Nixon
From The Source Magazine Issue #270 | 2016
Living a healthier lifestyle has been a central focus in Hip Hop culture for the last few years. A few major artists have very personal experiences with what can happen if you don’t.
Health of the mind and body has been a touchy subject for many years in Hip Hop. When complications stemming from obesity claimed the life of one of the best emcees to touch the mic, Big Pun, in 2000, health issues became a major focal point in conversations about Hip Hop culture. Corporations mass marketing unhealthy products, fast food joints and carbonated drinks to lower class, inner-city neighborhoods wasn’t blindly accepted as the status quo anymore. Investigative reports—including some from The Source’s offices—began questioning the validity of these marketing schemes, and major Hip Hop figures began imploring their fan bases to be mindful of what they put into their bodies.
In 2007, the Hip Hop world was rocked again with the death of Chad Butler a.k.a. one-half of UGK, Pimp C. Pimp’s death was unexpected and due to an unexpected cough medicine overdose; Butler rapped about his recreational consumption of “syrup” or “lean” in his music often. That facet of rap became increasingly taboo when more stars like Rick Ross and Lil Wayne began suffering from seizures believed to be byproducts of their lean intake. In the years since, several rappers have taken a stand in their music, including Kendrick Lamar, who dedicated the music video for his hit “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” to the death of Molly, a recreational drug that gained massive popularity in the 2010s.
From the federal government to major franchises that have been promoting their use of healthier ingredients, there’s a general consensus that no matter where you’re from or where you live, you should have access to healthier options, and nutritional information should be marketed to you.
That includes Hip Hop, where in recent years rappers have taken it upon themselves to lead by example, helping to convey important information about the betterment of bodily, mental and spiritual health. The following three guys have been a huge part of that, and in their own words, here are some of the inspirations behind the 180-degree change in their health and dieting habits.
His name is pretty self-explanatory and for many years, like his friend Big Pun, Joe was known for being a smooth, fat guy from the Bronx that could get busy on the microphone. His ceiling appeared to be non-existent as he vacillated between slow jams and hardcore rap bangers seamlessly on platinum-selling albums. His health became a concern in the years following Pun’s death, when several of his heavy-set friends passed away. “I realized at a certain point, all my big people were dying,” says Joe, who began seeing visions of himself laying in a casket. The Bronx emcee, once clocking in at 460 lbs, shed 100 lbs in the early 2010s and continues to monitor his health and habits with exercise and a balanced diet.
The Yonkers-born rapper and prominent member of the LOX trio realized several years ago his energy level, physicality and spiritual balance were all linked to the things he was putting inside of his body. After gradually cutting meat out of his diet during his years as a major label act, Styles permanently set himself on a plant-based diet in 2013 after being unable to revert to his normal eating habits at the end of an intense end-of-the-holidays diet. “I did the three-week cleanse from December 31 into the end of the third week in January, and the end of the third week came and I couldn’t go back.” The end result? “I felt a calmness and a peacefulness and a change come over me.” Need a place to start with bettering your health? Styles has a three-step process for you. “First I’d ask you what your last meal was,” after which he says he’d press you about the food’s origin, in an effort to prove to you that you could be eating sickly animals and not know it. Styles’ Juices 4 Life bars actively try to push the all-natural agenda. “We have three open locations and the fourth one is about to be open. It’s way bigger than a dollar, it’s about mankind.” The final step in P’s process? “Ask yourself if you’re into having the best things. Most of us buy the best cars, jewelry and clothes we can afford. Why not buy the best stuff for your body?”
The moment Drake remixed his hit single “Tuesday,” the spotlight was on iLoveMakonnen. Shortly after signing a deal to OVO Sound, the Atlanta rapper was all over the world performing his hit singles, but he wasn’t making the most out of his new platform due to his weight. At a New Year’s Eve show at New York’s Madison Square Garden alongside Diplo and Skrillex, Makonnen failed to match the crowd’s energy during a performance of “Tuesday.” “I tried to jump off a speaker and I almost fell and died, Diplo had to come save me, and pull me up on the stage.” Makonnen, who makes one of the most high-octane brands of rap music around, knew something had to give. He urges people to, like he did, pay attention to the patterns their bodies follow when they consume certain foods. “Learn which foods make you feel good. If you know you haven’t gotten sick since you started eating kiwis, but you know you get sick after f*cking up some chili cheese nachos, maybe the dairy doesn’t sit with you well. You gotta start learning about your body.” Part of that learning process includes spending less time with distractions. “Unplug from these phones and all this entertainment, and go pick up some human anatomy books.”