Akwasi Asaase

Obesity and Rap Music | What’s the Correlation?

Fat Joe
Fat Joe

Obesity is a term most people are familiar with whether on television, in school or anywhere. Most of us know the adverse effects of obesity so my intention is not to draw your attention to the risks involved. I am writing about obesity and hip hop or rap music. What is the correlation?

I believe among all the genres in the world, hip hop has been the most accommodating in terms of obesity since its inception in the early 70’s. Hip hop has always been that genre that promotes subtly an undisciplined lifestyle; once you have the women, the swag, the money or at least rap about the money you don’t have or you seem to promote vice, people will love you. I am a huge fan of rap music regardless, an ardent follower at that.

Since the early to mid-nineties, there has been an attempt (whether intentional or not) to make room for an obese rapper in the industry in every generation. It started with the introduction of Christopher Wallace popularly known as Notorious BIG aka Biggie Smalls.

Biggie left an indelible mark on rap music which cannot be wiped off easily but Biggie’s legacy couldn’t be stretched because in 1997, he died after being shot in California. His death was blamed on the legendary feud between the east and west coasts even though the killer was never apprehended. He died weighing about 395 pounds and the autopsy report showed his death had nothing to do with his weight.

Coincidentally a certain Christopher Rios (Big Pun), a latino rapper was preparing himself to breakthrough, however, the challenges and pressures which came with beginning a family and career at the same time led to Big Pun taking solace in food . Big Pun got more successful all the way into the new millennium but still struggled with weight problems till he finally died of heart failure on February 7, 2000 weighing close to 700 pounds.

Big Pun’s friend and colleague, Fat Joe (Joseph Antonio Cartagena) who produced some of his first songs, took up the mantle, credited with the famous hit Lean Back, Fat Joe became the new hot thing. It is quite difficult to determine which he was making money for, his rap or whether he was filling a gap left in the industry after Pig Pun passed on.

In his defence, Fat Joe was a decent rapper who was a force to reckon with while he lasted. However Fat Joe as his name implies had major problems with his weight also as a result of his fame and success, he wanted to do it all and eat it all and to a large extent became proud of his weight which was about 470 pounds at its peak.

Fat Joe saw the need for change in 2000 after Pig Pun’s demise (he died at 28 years old). He is quoted as saying on CNN in an interview in 2010 that “I realized at a certain point, all my big people were dying, I couldn’t see a clearer picture, what’s the difference between me and him, of me being in a casket”. He changed his lifestyle completely and became healthier and more interested in preserving his life, which led him to losing some 100 pounds at a point. The change over the years has been drastic but has been positive.

The down side to this story is that subsequently we lost Fat Joe not to death but to irrelevance. He lost his appeal completely. So this brings back the question, did people like Fat Joe for his rap talent or because he was an obese rapper? You will have to answer for yourself.

Now in this generation, we have our favourite not so slender Rick Ross aka Rozay aka Maybach aka Larry Hooper aka Teflon Da Don whew! I mean his ‘aka’ repertoire is as wide as he is. Born as William Leonard Roberts II, Rozay hasn’t really been a slim kid but the obesity we see now is as a result of lifestyle choices which he is cutting back on like reducing his soda intake, drinking less alcohol, avoiding late and early morning studio eating and exercising as well. His actions seemed to have paid off because he has lost over 100 pounds in the process. Congratulations to him as well but some of us think for these guys losing weight is becoming synonymous with a reduction in talent, someway, somehow as the fat goes away, so do the rhymes. Good health is definitely better than having millions of dollars.

Having said that, there is an opening for the next obese rapper, so if you desperately want to break into the American and western markets and you think you have some rap talent, please start piling the kilos because you might just be the next big thing! Literally.

Disclaimer: You take advice from me in this area of your life at your own peril.


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