I was watching Rap City the other night (shout out to Petal at MuchMusic in T-Dot) and Timbaland was the guest host. I don’t normally speak on this sort of thing—but dude is looking fine. And not just cause he’s all diesel now, but cause he has that look people get when they are taking care of themselves.
It got me thinking. There’s so much emphasis on how violence is rampant in the hip-hop community, and how many lives are lost to it. But nobody really seems to be paying attention to the less dramatic story. Nobody is talking about the force that’s killing hip-hop softly—and that’s poor health.
The lifestyle that most people in the industry have is hectic, to say the least. Lots of time on the road, late nights in the studio and at shows, not much sleep, not much time for exercise, greasy food on the run, vats of alcohol, mountains of weed, coke, and x—not to mention risky sex with strangers and/or strippers (no suckas for love round here).
Plus shouldering the retarded levels of stress that come with success in this biz: cling-on groupies (Stans and Gold Diggers), vicious haters (internet and street), finances (industry rule #4080), the high school-like rumor mill, and the media. Add beef into the mix and what you have is a big old mess. And my guess is that most rappers, unlike a lot of other celebs who deal with similar pressures, are not at their shrink’s office every Tuesday afternoon trying to sort it all out. (Though I could be wrong on that one, you never know.)
All of this is one thing when you’re twenty (shout out to the 80s babies). But what happens when these same dudes start pushing forty? And what happens if—like 45 million other Americans—they don’t have health insurance at that point?
I started mulling all this over last summer when I was in Venezuela for a global hip-hop summit and I interviewed M1. We ended up talking about health and about the Grassroots Artists MovEment—a non-profit organization he helped to launch that basically functions as a worker’s union. Among other projects, G.A.M.E. runs a healthcare centre for independent artists.
“Health is one of the major issues facing artists today,” MI explained. “I mean, we drink nonstop. We smoke nonstop. We stay up all night. We have no healthy habits at all. Sooner or later that’s going to lead to degenerative physical conditions. We are going to need health care, and we are going to need preventative programs.”
Not to rain on anyone’s fun parade (“why everything that's supposed to bad make me feel so good?”)—but it’s something to think about.