Prodigy, one half of the Queensbridge duo, the infamous Mobb Deep passed away on Tuesday morning, June 20th, at the age of 42.
His impact in music is far reaching. As a matter of fact, it’s probably hard to quantify the level of influence he, and his partner Havoc, had on shaping the sound of East Coast hip-hop in the 1990’s. He had a precise way of stringing words together, and was best known for his ability to create alluring introductory verses. He detailed the grittiness of New York Street life in a way that was unmatched by his peers and many of his predecessors.
Prodigy was a rapper’s rapper, one who labeled himself the HNIC, and vowed to always Keep It Thoro. He did. As he matured from the sound of Shook Ones that brought him to fame in his late teens, he held on to his hard edge, even as the penchant for street rap faded in popularity. Prodigy remained true to who he was, and always spoke from his own experience. In recent years, that truth in his rhymes revealed his battles with depression, anxiety, addiction, and sickle cell anemia, the autoimmune disease which, from initial reports, seems to be what led to his untimely demise.
At 42, Prodigy was a legend and elder statesman in the hip-hop game, but a young man in the grand scheme of things. He’s the latest addition to a list of emcees who died in their 40’s due to health related complications, a trend that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Phife was 45. Heavy D, 44. Prince Be, 46. King Reign, 40. Big Syke, 48. And Prodigy was 42. Wow. Health really is life and death.
— Justin Tinsley (@JustinTinsley) June 20, 2017
To add to Justin’s list… J. Dilla, Pimp C, Big Pun, Nate Dogg, ODB, Easy E, and Sean Price, all died before 50 due to problems with their health, whether they were controllable or not.
This list places an issue at center stage, the issue of our country’s health disparities, especially as it relates to the health of Black people, and particularly Black men. Across generations, doctors visits have become stigmatized, and wellness hasn’t been put at a premium. In fact, most of the culture points directly away from things that could increase our overall well being. We’ve become so enamored with “the grind” that we’ve begun to suffer the consequences in our health and lifestyle. The harsh truth is, if you’re running on empty, you’ll run yourself into the ground before you can enjoy the fruit of your labor. In essence, we value things that don’t add value or longevity to our lives, and we’ll continue to miss out on the growth of the gifted if something doesn’t give.
In order to change the trajectory of this trend, a culture shift will have to occur. Until “health is wealth” becomes a banner statement for our community, we’ll be left with a graveyard of unmet potential.
In the meantime… we remember a man who spoke his truth. A Quiet Storm of a wordsmith, a legend in his own right. With gratitude and honor, for the infamous Prodigy.
Andrea Brown is the Creative Director of I Am Andrea Brown.