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Stic of dead prez Talks Donald Trump, Eating Healthy and the Power to ‘Awaken’

Bryan Bedder, Getty Images
Bryan Bedder, Getty Images

When dead prez released their 2000 debut, Let’s Get Free, it was obvious that hip-hop, fully immersed in the “bling era,” was witnessing something special. At the dawn of the millennium, the duo of M-1 and Stic were not only taking the establishment to task by demanding freedom in an oppressive country, but they were making a declaration for black humanity, long before the conversation was being articulated so prominently in pop culture and mainstream media. Part of the declaration of the humanity of black folks was an emphasis of self-awareness and specifically, health, as evidenced on what Stic would later call the group’s most revolutionary song: “Be Healthy.”

In the nearly 20 years that have passed since dead prez’s emergence, Stic has released several albums, further illustrating his stance on socio-political matters and life, in general. One aspect of his lifestyle that he’s been especially vocal about is healthy eating and health awareness. He mediates. He practices hot yaga. He’s a dedicated martial arts student. He’s vegan.

The Atlanta Veg Fest, which took place on Nov. 12, was an event in which Stic was heavily involved. Specifically, he will be on hand with his wife, nutritionist Afya—who the rapper credits as changing and ultimately saving his life after he suffered with gout— to debut their episode on The VegEffect, the first ever docu-series from MorningStar Farms. The series features five unique, personal stories of folks changing their eating habits to a plant-based lifestyle for a better today and tomorrow, a concept that Stic and Afya will explore in their episode.

The Boombox interviewed Stic about his quest for spiritual, physical and emotional health awareness, his thoughts on the preservation of black people in a country that historically sought to oppress and disenfranchise and of course, the recent election of Donald J. Trump as president, and what that looks like for a struggling America.

For years now, you’ve been on the forefront of pushing for a healthy lifestyle– spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. Talk specifically about how your vegetarian lifestyle is incorporated into that push for health wellness and awareness.

Starting a plant-based diet was like my “gateway drug” to the wide world of holistic living. To avoid being on prescription meds, my wife helped me heal from gout in my early twenties, through a balanced vegan diet, and ended up quitting smoking and drinking and became a dedicated martial arts student. After over ten years of a vegan diet and martial arts training, I got super into meditation, long distance running and hot yoga. My music, writings, talks, workshops and overall emphasis of all the activism I’m involved in today is greatly influenced by and centered in healthy living.

How much more significant is it to be in on this push for health awareness, specifically through diet, with your life partner? Does embarking on this journey hold more meaning since you’re doing it with your family?

Yes, it is such a blessing. We’ve been a team for 23 years and I know that my life would have been drastically different without Afya, as my partner. She has a degree in Nutrition and she is a natural at educating people in a practical and clear way to eat and live healthier. Most recently, we were featured together in the MorningStar Farms docu-series, entitled “The Veg Effect” for our health and veggie lifestyle. That was really a full circle experience, because MorningStar Farms products were some of the very first vegan meat alternatives that Afya introduced me to years ago.

You were on a panel discussion at Atlanta’s Center for Human and Civil Rights. in the spring with Killer Mike and talked about self-love and self-care, emphasizing that you can’t give to others if we’ve not taken care of ourselves. Can you elaborate on that thought?

People often think that self-care is selfish. But nothing could be further from the truth. By taking the time to care for ourselves, eat healthy, exercise, relax, meditate, do fun things, do things that are meaningful to us, we cultivate the best in ourselves and in turn we are able to offer the best of ourselves to others. When we sacrifice our own self-care, we are short changing the ones we love and the causes we care about because we are not bringing our best, most nourished selves to the equation. Taking care of self is not selfish it’s how we give being out the best in ourselves and the world benefits more when we do so. It’s like being on the airplane and they tell you to put you mask on first. That’s not being selfish, that’s taking care of first things first so you can be around to help others.

At that same panel, you spoke about how “Be Healthy” was in your mind, the most revolutionary song dead prez has released to date. Can you speak on that a bit more?

By that I mean that understanding revolution essentially is about overthrowing oppression taking off the shackles and limits and empowering people–I believe holistic health is the front lines of that fight. To change the power relationship with health from victim to victorious requires a revolutionary shift in perspective priorities and practice. Healthy living reveals insights in sustainable principles that can inform and be applied to our greater social justice efforts. The powers that be don’t fear the angry, sick and lethargic masses–that just feeds into the system’s statistics. What is most powerful are well informed, practical minded, motivated emotionally intelligent, solution based people who take responsibility for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing in society and practice what they believe and advocate by example and organization. That’s the kind of revolution that I think is fundamentally needed most and the one that will lead to full liberation and the lasting inner and outer changes we want and deserve.

Obviously, we’re leaving in revolutionary times, both socially and politically. Your overall message seems to be on self-awareness/health, which is then projected outward. In your mind, what is the next step in propelling change in this country? In other words—post-Trump’s election, what do we do now?

I think now is the time to synthesize and move towards integrating our movements. I think it’s time to focus on our common points of unity and strategize around unifying around common agendas. I think people into health have something in common with people fighting to end mass incarceration and police brutality. I think people who meditate and are into yoga and fitness have something in common with people who [are] teachers and professors and have a world of useful tools that would benefit the students and teachers alike. I think the mindfulness community needs to be more connected to the hoods. I think people who have a keen sense of hustle and business have something to teach those of us who are artists and want to make the world better through creativity. I think the lawyers who care and fight to end the epidemic of incarcerated human beings have something in common with the advocates who are working to end the way factory farmed animals are being brutally housed and slaughtered in the millions every year. I think the First Nations people who are protesting corporate pipelines that threaten to poison our sources of drinking water have something in common with politicians who are aligned with green political policies. I think green leaning corporations that have an interest in being profitable but also socially, ethically and environmentally conscientious have something in common with the many people who are out of work and need and want to participate in the growing green economy. I think we have to think outside our own boxes and look for ways to create bridges and synergy cause it’s going to take a village working together to create effective, lasting solutions.

You recently said something that was incredibly profound: “I think the first human right is the right to awaken.” Can you talk specifically about what that means, particularly in the context of what’s happening in America right now?

Awakening is the natural process of being alive. Becoming who and what we are to its full potential is what Life is all about. Awakening is realization of truth. Not a fixed dogmatic truth but a living experience of what is real. To have clarity. The right to grow and learn and live an authentic life. The right to not be lied to by our power structures and bamboozled by unethical religious agendas or blinded by our ethnic prejudices but to have the opportunity to fully experience life in an authentic integrated holistic way that nourishes our being as we are and helps us to evolve and grow to our fullest capacities. Awakening today is about taking charge of our own process of holistic growth. Like Bob Marley said so well, we have to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.

Killer Mike and Stic Talk Gun Control, Black Lives Matter and Hip-Hop at Panel Discussion

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