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Mobb Deep's Prodigy Left Us a Lesson in Mortality

We listened to Phife rap about his diabetes just like we heard Prodigy rap about sickle cell but we never expected these diseases to kill them.
Image: Prodigy of duo Mobb Deep
Albert Johnson alias Prodigy of Mobb Deep of the US performs during the Openair Frauenfeld music festival, in Frauenfeld, Switzerland on July 9, 2016.Gian Ehrenzeller / EPA file

"There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from.”

The year was 1995, but Mobb Deep front man Prodigy’s words still ring true for young black men across the country living in the inner city. The fear of intra-community violence, harassment by the boys in blue and self-medicating to escape it all — these were some of the themes in Mobb Deep’s music that dominated the airwaves throughout much of the 90’s.

Born Albert Johnson, Prodigy, one-half of the Queensbridge hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, passed away Tuesday. His family released the following statement: “Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth.”

Prodigy rapped extensively about his bout with sickle cell anemia and talked candidly about the lifelong anguish the disease has caused him in his memoir, My Infamous Life, giving hip-hop fans an inside look a debilitating disease many know by name but have no personal experience with.

It’s painful for the hip-hop community to lose another legend so soon after the loss of fellow Queens alum, Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest. We listened to Phife rap about his diabetes just like we heard P rap about sickle cell but we never expected these diseases to kill them.

Rapper Prodigy performs during the 2012 Rock the Bells Festival press conference and Fan Appreciation Party on at Santos Party House on June 13, 2012 in New York City.Mike Lawrie / Getty Images file

It’s an issue that young black men are having to face, our own mortality. Many of our peers are dying because of diseases oft associated with people of color. Hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell, prostate cancer – the list goes on and on but moments like this beg the question, what are we doing to make sure we’re living our healthiest life?

Hip-Hop music is our cape; rappers step inside the booth and are reborn into these mythical figures. Listeners absorb that bravado and use it in their daily life with the hopes of crushing any hurdle presented to them the way their favorite rappers crush the mic.

Related: Mobb Deep Member Prodigy Dead at 42

Coming of age in New York in the 90’s, Mobb Deep was the soundtrack of our youth. Jay-Z was rapping about scoring big drug deals and betting big money in Vegas. But Prodigy was talking about petty beefs, his pride, and what was on every teenage boys mind: girls.

P felt more relatable — even if I wasn’t shooting guns off the roof, I knew people who were — so I understood him.

Hip-Hop can be a dangerous place so the lifestyle Prodigy rapped about eventually caught up with him. In 2007 he was convicted of weapons charges and sentenced to 3.5 years in a medium correctional facility in upstate New York. But Prodigy, forever the hustler returned from jail with an autobiography, a cookbook and a few screenplays in tow.

Related: ‘All Eyez on Me’: The Immortal Life of Tupac on Screen

Fans were anticipating what he could do on the big screen, as his raps had been so visual in the past, why wouldn’t his mind create larger than life movies for the world to enjoy?

The hip-hop community mourns this tragic loss of another legend gone too soon; rappers such as Nas and Killer Mike took to Instagram and twitter to express their deepest condolences.

Prodigy leaves to mourn his wife and two children. May he rest in peace.

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