Phife Dawg, RIP Phife Dawg, Black Men, Diabetes, A Tribe Called Quest, ATCQ
RIP Phife Dawg: A Conversation On Black Men And Diabetes

Late last night, we all see the trending hash tag of RIP Phife Dawg. It was confirmed by his family that the founding member of the infamous A Tribe Called Quest passed away from diabetes. The five foot assassin was first diagnosed with diabetes in May 1990. He would later confirm it in the single “Oh My God” from ATCQ’s third studio album Midnight Marauders. In 2008, Phife Dawg would received a kidney transplant from his wife. However, it would prove unsuccessful. In 2012, he would require another transplant. Phife definitely overcame a lot of complications in his life, but he was so talented that his music often overshadowed it.

The multi-platinum group, ATCQ birthed five albums in the 1990’s and cemented the sound we recognize today as 90’s hip hop. After the group would disband, partially due to label complications, Phife Dawg would continue on his solo career. In the year 2000, he would debut his solo project, Ventilation: Da LP. This 10-year span definitely sparked one like none other in hip hop. His manager/best friend would share very heartfelt words on his passing.  “While I mourn the loss of my best friend and brother, I also will celebrate his incredible life and contribution to many people’s ears across the world,” he says. “Even with all his success, I have never met a person as humble as he.  He taught me that maintaining a positive attitude and outlook can conquer anything. Now my brother is resting in greatness. I’m honored to have crossed paths with him. Riddim Kidz 4eva.” Phife Dawg would definitely be missed for his most notable contribution in the 90’s that would live on forever.

But over the next decade, hip hop enthusiasts and African Americans would miss out on a much needed conversation. One that’s still needed today. A conversation about the impact of diabetes in the African American community. Similar to depression, diabetes is a tragedy that continues to plague the AA community and really hits Black men hard. And with RIP Phife Dawg currently trending, this might be the most appropriate time to talk about these issues as we all bump ‘Can I Kick It’ in the background.

African Americans have a 50% chance of developing diabetes, but most black men pay little heed to the warnings — and pay the price. 

There are a few alarming statistics according to WebMD that we all should know.

  • Approximately 2.7 million or 11.4% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes — but at least one-third of them don’t know it.
  • The average African American born today has a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes in his or her lifetime.
  • African Americans are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to have a limb amputated than are others with diabetes.

In addition, some studies may also allude to the idea that Black men tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and exercise significantly less. It’s important for my brothers to know how to prevent type 2 diabetes, and how to control it if they already have it. Here are very simple steps to decreasing your chances of diabetes and/or avoiding them all together. Step 1) Drink more water.  Step 2) Add exercise into your routine. A simple 10 minutes/day is a great start. Step 3) Cut back on desserts and replace more often with healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables. Step 4) Know your ABC’s, as listed below.

  • A is your hemoglobin A1c level, which tells you how well you’re managing your blood sugar. Keeping A1c levels at 7 or below reduces the risk of eyekidney, and nerve damage.
  • B is your blood pressure. The goal is to maintain a reading of 130/80 or below to protect your kidneys and eyes and prevent stroke.
  • C is your cholesterol. Have your doctor check your cholesterol level and keep it within a safe range. LDL or “bad” cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL.

It’s important that you check your local community for centers nearby that are designed to help those who have it, or want to avoid. On the  Southshide of Chicago for example, there is a center designed to improve diabetes care and outcomes. It won’t be the same without Phife, one of the best MC’s to ever do it. But let’s start to look at our habits and change them. RIP Phife Dawg.