Hip-Hop and Health: An Ongoing Challenge

With the hip-hop nation still reeling from the far too early passing of Heavy D, there comes more news of a famous musician facing health issues. Yesterday,  Erick Sermon had a heart attack. He is in stable condition now, and is recovering in the hospital. Sermon, who is 42,  had extremely elevated  blood pressure, and is fortunate that he has survived. Rick Ross suffered a stroke last month. While these  particular instances involve those with more resources, it speaks to the difficulty of remaining healthy for many. There is a bigger issue here that affects so many in the Black community disproportionately. There are numerous factors such as a lack of focus on the importance of being healthy, and poor food choices and options in urban areas.

How many chicken spots and other types of fast food joints are there in urban areas? In Harlem, residents are slightly better off as far as choices, but that is mostly due to gentrification. But for what seems like the vast majority of urban dwellers, their living areas are food deserts. This will be an ongoing issue as long as social factors tend to keep people in less well to do communities deprived of better sustenance choices.

Marc W. Polite



  1. The most immediate problem as far as the health of middle age rappers is concerned is the Lack Of Health Insurance for hip hop performers. Even though literally billions of dollars in sales have been generated by rap music and other hip hop artforms over the past 40 years, the artists themselves have had their needs neglected.

    Most rappers aren’t union members. Even the ones that end up in the entertainment unions due to mainstream work are very much stepchildren to the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio and TV Artists. Most of them don’t have health coverage or a pension.

    That’s why guys like Heavy D and Eric Sermon were still working punishing schedules well into their 40s and only get medical care in emergency rooms when they are too sick to work.

    Jazz musicians were treated the same way by the music industry 50 years ago, R & B artists are treated the same way and, quiet as it’s kept, even White rock, heavy metal and country music performers and Latino music artists are neglected in pretty much the same way.

    That’s the far more immediate issue here, rather than health food.

    The labels make billions while the artists starve.

  2. You make an excellent point. Lack of comprehensive health insurance coverage plays a part in the decreasing health of any individual. The fact remains the individual has the option of making healthy lifestyle choices (I.e. proper sleep, excercise, diet etc) for themselves to preserve their overall well being. Living a healthy lifestyle combined with regular visits to your health care provider are congruent.

    I wonder how much of an affect President Obama’s health care reform plan has impacted muscicians in the industry ?

  3. Entertainers on the road typically work late hours, and often only get a few hours of sleep before they have to go back to work or get in a vehicle to travel to the next venue.

    As far as eating goes, in a lot of communities, the restaurants close at 9 or 10 PM, so after work eating choices are very limited unless you’re lucky enough to be working on a production with a catering budget (that is to say, a big budget union production).

    In other words, there are often factors outside the individual’s control

    In general, focusing on “individual choice” when it comes to health is the wrong approach. People are part of families, live in communities and work for businesses or agencies all of which fit into a broader society. The amount of “choice” an isolated individual has in that social network is quite limited.

    As for Obamacare, it hasn’t gone into effect yet so it’s too early to say.

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