Prodigy: The Truth About Sickle Cell


year, 2000 babies are born in the United States with a life long condition

called sickle cell disease.  This disease

of the blood affects between 50-75,000 people in the U.S. and millions

throughout the world. 



two million Americans carry the sickle cell trait, which increases the chance

that the disorder is passed on to their children.



cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States

affecting those of African descent and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry, but the

trait has also been found in those with Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin American,

Native American, and Mediterranean heritage. One in every 500 African-American

births is affected with sickle cell disease.



two most common forms of sickle cell disease are sickle cell trait and sickle

cell anemia. They are characterized by defective hemoglobin, a protein in

red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body. This defective

hemoglobin interferes with the red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen.



who inherited the sickle cell trait have one defective gene, and no symptoms to

moderate symptoms of the disease in most cases. If a person has sickle cell

anemia, the most common and most severe form of the disease, they are at risk

for many problems: 



(very low blood counts)


crisis or sickle cell crisis – which causes almost every joint in your body to

hurt, usually requiring hospitalization, strong pain medicines, and IV fluids


chest syndrome which is similar to pneumonia, but much more painful



life expectancy 



children are screened at birth and/or parents who are unsure of their status

are screened, sickle cell disease can be significantly reduced by education



A full

description of all things sickle cell is way beyond the scope of this article,

however I wanted my friends who read my column for to really

understand this preventable disease, so I called on Prodigy of Mobb Deep to

help me out.



[at the office in Baton Rouge, LA]:  P,

what’s good?  How are you feeling?



[driving through Manhattan]:  I’m good;

what’s good with you Doc?


H2D:  The same thing; trying to bring more awareness

to the Hip-Hop community on health issues. Man, I would like for you to

enlighten us about something you’ve dealt with all your life. Tell me about

sickle cell disease and how it has affected you.


Prodigy:  I mean basically, I was diagnosed with sickle

cell when I was three months old. I have the worse type of sickle cell…  the “SS” type.  If I don’t take care of myself and do the

right things, I will experience a severely painful sickle cell crisis; all my

joints hurt; it’s a bad scene. Before I really knew how to take care of myself

I was in and out of the hospital… they had me on morphine for pain; IV’s in my

arm; couldn’t get comfortable for days at a time… it was really hard on my body.


H2D:  Are you taking any medicines right now?


Prodigy:  Nahhhh! 

I don’t take none of these medicines that they try to say is good to

take for sickle cell. All I do is try to have a healthy diet as much as

possible; I drink water like a fish, eat healthy, and I notice that since I’ve

been doing that for the past seven to eight years, I don’t get sick as much as

I use too. If I do get sick, it’s really because of something I’m doing wrong.

I really know my body and how to control it.


H2D:  Yeah, that’s what’s up. Now, in 2000, you

wrote the song “You Can Never Feel My Pain” on your first solo album, HNIC. This song really dealt with the

harsh realities of sickle cell and how it affected you. Almost like sickle cell

101. What motivated you to write that piece?


Prodigy:  Basically because at every Mobb Deep show, I

would see somebody in the crowd, and they would yell to me like “Yo P, I got

sickle cell too.”  And they would ask how

I was able to perform and do all that I do. I always encourage my fans that

they should reach for their goals and reach high when doing it; and to further

this point I decided to drop something on my album to tell people about the

pain that I and others with sickle cell suffer with, which is a handicap no

different than living in poverty, but that its something you can escape. 



I’m sure you know T-Boz has sickle cell. 

She was a national spokes person for the disease back in the day.



Yeah, I wanted T-Boz to get on that song with me. So I actually reached out to her, went down

to Atlanta and played the song for her. She came to the studio, liked the song, but we both decided that it was

best for me to roll with that approach.


We had

a long conversation about sickle cell and this drug called hydroxyurea. We

talked about this drug and some the side effects. She had decided at the time

to not take the medicine. I kinda felt like we were being used as guinea pigs

when they try to come up with these new drugs. That’s why I really don’t take

or promote some of the medicines.


H2D:  I can respect that. Well, other than “You Can

Never Feel My Pain”, do you have any new songs dedicated to creating awareness

about sickle cell?


Prodigy:  I already did the song and I don’t want to

keep doing the same old thing. I’m gonna

start being more vocal about it, like with this [interview]. When I get out [of prison] and get home, I

want to hook up with you and do the community thing you got going on; talk to

some kids and tell them what it’s like to live with sickle cell and how they

can still be successful.  You can just

set something up and I’ll roll with you. That’s good sh** what you doing Doc.


H2D:  Yeah, that’s real talk. It has been a challenge, but one I

welcome. You know lately, there’s been a

lot of things going on in regards to health and Hip-Hop:  Kayne West and his mother’s death; Foxy Brown

and her battle with hearing loss; Pimp C leaving us way too early; Nate Dogg

having a stroke… do you think the Hip-Hop culture is taking health issues



Prodigy:  A lot of young peoples attitude is they feel

invincible. It’s like someone who has

sickle cell and someone who doesn’t? The person who doesn’t have sickle cell

thinks they can drink, smoke, eat anything and everything, just go hard and

say, “Hey, I’m okay.”  If I do that, it

affects me immediately. 



may not feel the effects until 30, 40, 50 years later when they got heart

problems, lung problems, and they are dying from things they could have

prevented. To me, sickle cell is like an alarm system, because it lets me know

when I’m doing something wrong.


H2D:  Definitely! 

What advice would you give to the young people growing up and living

with sickle cell?


Prodigy:  The number one rule for people with sickle cell,

as far as I’m concerned, is their diet has to be strict. You damn near have to

be a vegetarian to avoid getting sick and having a painful sickle cell crisis. You

have got to take care of your health. Eat a healthy diet, drink lots of water,

and eat lots of vegetables. I guarantee that if you do that and get all the

impurities out of your system, you will see a hundred percent turnaround.


H2D:  What kind of stuff do you eat?


Prodigy:  Like today, I might have baked salmon, brown

rice, and green vegetables. I try to

stay away from the poisonous food additives. I don’t drink sodas or eat a lot

of junk. This is the plan you have to follow to keep the impurities out of your

body. You gotta really eat healthy; break it down to a science and start

learning how to read labels and know what ingredients are good and bad for you.


And I

know I keep saying this, but you gotta drink mad water. It helps wash away all

impurities and poison in the body.


H2D:  P, thanks for your time.  Anything else you would like to say to AllHipHop?


Prodigy:  Just support the real sh** that we putting

out there man, ’cause there’s a lot of people who are not being real. They are

chasing some outrageous dream. I’m staying grounded. I’m focusing on real sh**.

So, just support real artist like Mobb Deep and myself. Check out my website at A lot of good information, and I will have my address up so that

they can write me letters while I’m locked up.


H2D:  Cool. 

Peace, P.


Prodigy:  One.



Tha Hip Hop Doc at for the latest news on how to stay healthy!

Related Stories