O.D.B. DIED FROM DRUG OVERDOSE–This Feb. 25, 1998 file photo shows O.D.B, Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu Tang Clan, whose legal name is Russell Jones, performing at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Jones collapsed and died inside his studio on Nov. 13, 2004. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Lifestyle isn’t to blame for all fatal health problems in hip-hop. Smooth-voiced Midwesterner MC Breed died of kidney failure in 2008 at age 37. Soulful producer J Dilla died in 2006 at age 32 of complications from lupus. Cancer killed rappers Guru in 2010 at 48 and Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys last year at 47.
J. DILLA DIED FROM LUPUS–This undated file photo from Stones Throw Records shows hip-hop producer J Dilla, J Dilla, who died Feb. 10, 2006, of complications from lupus. He was 32. (AP Photo/Stones Throw Records, Roger Erickson)
Two of the genre’s top stars, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, have inadvertently focused attention on the issue. After he was hospitalized for multiple seizures, 30-year-old Lil Wayne told a Los Angeles radio station in March that he’s an epileptic. Rick Ross, 37, has also suffered seizures and said he’s trying to improve his health.
As some of the genre’s more well-known figures hit their late 30s and 40s, they’ve figured out ways to keep up appearances in public while also keeping their health. 50 Cent said he rarely drinks alcohol anymore. That “bottle full of bub” he’s holding in nightclubs nowadays isn’t what you think.
“I want to live a good long healthy life. So I’m health-conscious,” the 37-year-old rapper-actor said. “You never see me drink. If you did see me with a bottle, it had ginger ale in it.”
Though he’s still a heavy marijuana smoker, Snoop Dogg said he stopped drinking alcohol at clubs six years ago after suspecting that a woman put the sedative Rohypnol – widely known as a “date-rape drug” – in one of his drinks.
“I used to drink alcohol as a fashion statement. If you in the club, they bringing you bottles, bringing you drinks. And you’re just drinking because you’re drinking. I don’t do that anymore. I drink water or cranberry juice,” he said. “I’m not cheap. I just don’t want to do this to my body anymore. I want to survive.”
Snoop, 41, said his focus on health comes from his desire to remain competitive and relevant to a genre that’s largely focused on youth.
“Because when we perform, we don’t have as much energy,” he said. “So now we’ve got to get up and work out, do push-ups or jumping jacks, or whatever we’ve got to do to keep ourselves looking good and feeling good. Because one thing about an old man – he don’t ever want to feel like he old. So to me that’s my personal push is to be able to compete with the youngsters and to be able to dance with them so to speak. … Because when they welcome you into their world as far as being on a song, you’re not old. You’re accepted.”
For producer and rapper RZA, hip-hop’s emphasis on youth stems from an urban culture that since the ’80s has had trouble planning for the future.
“They said we should be dead or in jail by the age of 25. And I think we live like that,” the 43-year-old Wu-Tang Clan founder said. “But what happens when you make it past 25? What happens when you make it to 30? What happens when you make it to 40? Are you prepared for life now?”
Influenced by “Eastern philosophy” and his famous obsession with martial arts films, RZA said he’s been a vegetarian for 15 years and practices qigong movement and breathing.
“Think of the great artists like Biggie Smalls and Tupac, who made some of the greatest hip-hop music of all time. But they didn’t make it past 25,” he said. “They didn’t even become a man. ODB was just becoming a man. What I want to tell the hip-hop generation out there is that: There’s a chance you’re going to become a man. Be prepared for it.”
CHRIS KELLY--In this Feb. 23, 2013 photo, Chris Kelly of Kris Kross performs on stage at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta during the So So Def 20th Anniversary Concert. Kelly, half of the 1990s kid rap duo Kris Kross who made one of the decade’s most memorable songs with the frenetic “Jump,” died Wednesday, May 1, 2013. He was 34. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jonathan Phillips)
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