The Tragic Loss of Mobb Deep's Prodigy Reminds Us of the Importance of Sickle Cell Awareness


Hip Hop fans across the nation and around the world are mourning the loss of Prodigy, one half of the New York rap duo Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep, recognized as an essential East Coast Hip Hop group, is most popularly known for such hits as Quiet Storm, Survival of the Fittest and Shook Ones, Part II.

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“It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep,” said Mobb Deep’s publicist in a statement released today. “Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.”

Prodigy often referenced his experiences of living with a sickle cell anemia in his music. He said in the song You Can Never Feel My Pain, “Nineteen seventy four…I was born with pain, my moms and my pops pass it down to me so don’t talk to me about can I feel yours. Cause I ain’t feelin’ you at all, your pain isn’t pure. My pain’s in the flesh and through the years that pain became my friend; sedated with morphine as a little kid I built a tolerance for drugs, addicted to the medicine now hospital emergency treat me like a fiend. I’d rather die sometimes.”

Sickle cell disease is not easy to cope with. The disease is inherited by a child when both of that child’s parents carry the recessive sickle cell trait. In sickle cell anemia, red blood cells which are normally round and flexible to facilitate the carriage of oxygen throughout the body are instead shaped like sickles or crescent moons. The irregular shape of these cells can slow or block blood flow and oxygen and result in terrible, debilitating pain known as “sickle cell crisis.”

The severity of the symptoms of the disease differs with each individual. Sickle cell crises and/or the production of sickle cells in those with the disease are most commonly triggered by dehydration, infection (like an illness or virus), high stress or increased acidity in the blood. However, most often the triggers are unknown. Many with sickle cell anemia control their condition by avoiding liquor, cigarettes, eating a high protein diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking folic acid. These folks also tend to manage their pain with pain meds. Hospitalizations and blood transfusions are often a regular occurrence with sufferers. Though some breakthroughs have been made with treating the disease in children with bone marrow transplants, there is still no cure for the disease.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, as of 2015 about 4.4 million people have sickle cell disease with an additional 43 million being carriers of the sickle cell trait. The disease is most common among people of African, Arabic and Indian descent. The life expectancy of those living with the disease can range from 40 to 60 years depending on the person’s environment and access to care. Prodigy was just 42 years old when he passed today.

Ironically, World Sickle Cell Awareness Day is observed annually on June 19 and thus was observed just yesterday. The day was designated to increase public knowledge and understanding of sickle cell disease while educating those who are largely unaware of the challenges and struggles experienced by those with sickle cell disease and their families and/or caregivers. Many simply don’t understand the level of pain that someone with sickle disease experience every day.

The only way to keep this disease from spreading is by knowing whether or not you and your partner are carriers of the trait. If you plan to have children and you are a carrier of the trait, it is important that your partner does not also have the trait. While it is a common practice for people in African nations to know their sickle cell trait status, many Americans remain ignorant about their status. To learn more about sickle cell disease, click here. To find out more about getting screened to know your sickle cell status, click here.

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Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70's era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.

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