Kidney Disease: Rapper Young Boss Gets Real

When Young Boss steps into a room, you realize his

style and energy epitomizes the swagga of a super star. Born David Petterson,

this 25-year-old New Jersey-born rapper has been grinding his way into the

music game for nearly five years.

After attending college in Atlanta and building a buzz for himself as an MC, he chose to move back home to start from scratch. Now he's got a new deal with Miami club-favorite Pitbull, and things look good on the music front.Comfortable in his skin, Boss embraces his “fat boy

fresh” image. His style mimics an eclectic blend of Hip-Hop, pop and rock.

But behind the boisterous laugh and smile lies a

young man fighting an ongoing battle with kidney disease.

For those of you who do not know the function of your kidneys, here is a brief

overview. There are two kidneys located on both sides of the spine at the

lowest level of the rib cage. Kidneys remove waste products and excess fluid

from the body through the urine. They also remove drugs, balance the body's

fluids, release hormones that regulate blood pressure, produce an active form

of Vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones and control the production of

red blood cells.

As of April 18, 2008 there were 80,051 people on the United States waiting

list for a kidney. The median waiting time in 1999 to 2000 for a person Young

Boss’ age (18-34) was 1557 days. The last survey taken in 2003 to 2004 found

that the waiting period had risen to 1782 days. During that same time, it was

found that only 20.5% of Black people who were waiting for two years prior to

being put on the list had a kidney transplant.

I spoke to Dr. Whitfield, “Tha Hip-Hop Doc,” who advised that two common

symptoms included fatigue and protein in the urine. After my discussion with him,

I felt confident and ready to engage in a health conversation on kidney


Young Boss then sat down with me to give us an idea

of what his life is like competing with this disorder. Can you tell me about this disease

and when were you diagnosed?

Young Boss: The disease I have is Focal

Glomerulosclerosis, FSGS for short. I was diagnosed with it first believe it or

not in 10th grade of high school, I used to play football and I

remember I didn’t play that year. So I got hit with this kidney problem, but it

wasn’t as full blown as it is now. In January of ‘06 I was put into the

hospital for it, and then on March 16th of ‘07 it went into full

kidney failure. My first day of dialysis was on the 17th. What were some of your symptoms?

Young Boss: Swelling in the legs, in the hands and

in the face, from the fluid not being kicked out by the kidneys. No energy, I

would be at my sister’s house laying on the couch talking to her and then I

would just fall asleep. Bleeding from the nose, just a whole bunch of random

stuff that you would never think, you know. How exactly are you being treated? Can

you explain [what dialysis is]?

Young Boss: Well actually it’s just a machine

called the dialyzer, and there is a tube-like thing that they connect which basically

plays as my kidney. So basically it’s like getting your blood washed, getting

rid of all the impurities and just receiving cleanliness. It limits your fluid

intake, your only allowed to drink I think about 60 ounces a day. It’s worse in

the summer time because you know it’s hot and we can drink as much. Are you on any medications?

Young Boss: Yeah, I take 13 pills a day. For

example, I take pills for to limit my phosphorus, pills for energy. I’m going

to need my energy and it’s kind of hard to have a lot of energy when you rip

and run as much as we do in the industry. Is there any history of this kidney

disease in your family?

Young Boss: I’m the first one in my family, my

aunt died from a liver problem but no one ever had a kidney problem. So it’s

not like hereditary - my mother don’t have nothing, my father… everyone is

healthy. So it’s just happened to be me. Now, is there anything in your life

that you could have been doing differently that may have prevented this?

Young Boss: Been skinny probably. [laughs] Nah, size…

and when your young you just eat. You don’t really watch what you eat, you’re

just out there. I was good in high school because of football, so I was alright

and it wasn’t as bad as it is now. But of course you get older you start doing

less, you start driving instead of walking, so I just gained weight - but I

think it could happen to anyone. It just kind of happened to me. I’m still

young and I was told that I only had a year if I didn’t get dialysis or a

transplant. What was it like being told that

you could have one year to live?

Young Boss: I don’t know, man. That’s when I wrote

this song “Suicide Ride” puts it all into a nut shell. At the same time it was

like, “Aight what can I do to make this better?” I kind of want to shock the

world [and] still be who I am at the same time. And it kind of made me a better

person at the same time too, to know not to take certain things for granted. At

the end of the day it’s a positive reaction. So what are you doing different? Are

you eating different or exercising?

Young Boss: I still eat, but I do it differently,

I don’t eat as much as I used too. Before my mom would cook and I would eat two,

three, four plates, but now I just eat a plate or sometimes I don’t eat at all.

But now I eat differently, what I eat, the amount of what I eat, and I eat more

meals, [smaller] portions.

I was working out for a minute, but I had another

surgery that stopped me from using my arms because they are going to start

doing my dialysis through my arm instead of my chest. When they can take out

the tube in my chest I can get back to things that I love, like swimming and taking

a regular shower. Sitting under the shower, I haven’t done that in a year and a

half. Is it difficult living with this

disease especially when you’re bouncing from the club, to the studio, you’re

all over the place? Do you feel that you might be beating yourself up a little too


Young Boss: It’s difficult, to the point where

sometimes I get out of dialysis… I’m on there for five hours a day… Sometimes

I’ll make a schedule and try to be at the studio on my dialysis days and you

can tell the difference in my recording, I sound tired. So what do your doctors say about

this pattern?

Young Boss: They think I’m crazy; I get in trouble

a lot because I come in and I’m exhausted. Sometimes you can tell when you’re

extra exhausted because your pressure is kind of funny; it’s a lot of

complications in your blood count.

Sometimes I do push myself a little to hard

because I’ll feel it. The other night, for instance, I was supposed to be at

the club for 1:30AM. I fell asleep and I didn’t wake up until everyone was

knocking on my door at 12:45. My body shuts itself down sometimes. Are you on a waiting list for a

kidney transplant?

Young Boss: After I drop 30 to 40 more pounds,

then I can get on the waiting list because I don’t meet the numbers. Your body

has to match a certain number, so it has to do with your weight and your body

levels, your blood count. It’s so much your life is on a piece of paper when it

comes to this.

Hopefully when I get my kidney, my brother Dwayne

and I match blood types. If all his numbers are right, I can get his kidney.

When I got sick, he was ready to take it out [smiles] - that’s my homeboy for

life. Does this ultimately make you work


Young Boss: Yeah, because not to be funny - I

don’t know how much time I got. And it’s like; I go as hard as I can because

there’s a possibility that if this turns for the worst I’m not going to be able

to do this at all. So I feel like I only have this one shot to do it, I love

music to much to stop. What advice would you give to young

people, in regards to staying healthy?

Young Boss: Always check your blood pressure, eat

right, drink water, stay active do a sport and run around. I’ve been following you for quite

sometime now and you definitely have an impressive resumé especially since you

are not a signed artist. Can you let us know how that whole situation came

about with you being featured on Pitbull’s hit single "Go Girl"?

Young Boss: I did the record in Atlanta in

November of ‘06 with producer Sounds who just did the remix of Ushers “Love In This

Club” featuring Beyoncé and Lil Wayne. Shout out to my homeboy Sounds, he’s

been working hard. He was my first producer who actually made beats for me as

an artist, and we still work together. He just had this vision of this new

sound so he called me up and said, “I think that you’re the only one who could

do this, go left field and not be scared to do it.”

After I laid the track, I eventually brought it

back to Jersey and I gave it to DJ 10 Supreme who was the first DJ to spin it

at Club Abyss. And it started going from there, DJ’s started picking it up. DJ

Danny S from Washington Heights put it on a mixtape that made its way all the

way down to Miami. He happened to be cool with Pitbull, and the story was Pit

heard it and was like, “Who is this? I need to get in with this.” He contacted

Danny S, we got together and he wanted the record for his album and here we go.

Me and Pit met a couple times got real cool, then

he put up a proposal wanting to sign me to his production company. So I signed

two weeks ago, and now I’m Mr. 305 INC pushing for a major deal pretty soon. It’s

been a grind though.

"Go Girl" Pitbull f/ Trina & Young Boss So what else are you working on


Young Boss: Well were working on a deal right now,

we got a couple offers on the table from a couple companies. We are just trying

to work the record “Shooting Star” my new single produced by my man Ayb its

doing real good. Pitbull is on tour right now, I’ve been on a few tour dates

with him, so I’m just trying to get my face out there.

I’m trying to get with all the DJs. I was just

with Kast One the other night, shout out to him he did my first mixtape with me

out here. So right now it’s just pushing Xequtive Board Music Group the company

I’m managed by, “Shooting Star” the record, Young Boss as an artist and just promotion.

I’m working on recording an album which

might be named The World Music District.

It’s already copyrighted so y’all can’t steal that. So you’re living with this kidney

disease [and] you’re an aspiring artist. What is your overall motivation in

life, and what will continue to motivate you?

Young Boss: I would have to say my family - my

mother and my core friends. They constantly encourage me. My mother, she’s like

the strongest woman, she’s a big encouragement and my biggest fan. So her, my

brother and everybody always just pushing me and they are kind of amazed when I

do stuff. They want me to slow down, but at the same time they know if I do

there is something wrong with me. It’s about my family and getting them into a

better situation, the world as a whole is crazy.

I’m just trying to create music that will take your

mind away and you can just zone out, make you feel good. I’m gonna take you

every which way, touch every part. Its so much negative stuff going on that you

just want to break out of that and with music it’s the easiest way to me. I

could just talk about good stuff and make you feel better and at the same time

reach millions. The same way that another dude could press the button to go to

war, you could press the play button on my CD to go somewhere else.

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