Tha Hip-Hop Doc Rani G. Whitfield Plans To Get Hip-Hop Healthy With His New Release “Get On Da Bus”
Since the release of 2010’s The World Is In Your Hands, Rani G. Whitfield, M.D., AKA Tha Hip Hop Doc, has continued his journey to “get hip hop healthy,” going as far as Uganda to spread his message and earning an appearance on CNN in the process.
Armed with a new partner in rhyme, Love-N-Pain, and vehicle (literally), the Baton Rouge natives seek to do more of the same with their release of Get On Tha Bus.
An album resplendent with optimism, GOTB addresses both mental and physical health issues such as reading, bullying, childhood obesity, hypertension, diabetes, HIV, personal anxiety, drugs, teenage drinking, heart disease, and fatherhood – all of which children and young adults can identify with.
Hip-Hop Enquirer caught up with Tha H2D for some real talk on healthcare in America, Hip-Hop and drugs and getting the Black community fit and healthy.
HHE: What inspired this project and what’s the meaning behind the title Get On Tha Bus? From listening to the album, it seems like you’re trying to educate kids to live a healthy lifestyle so once they become adults, eating healthy and exercising becomes so routine that they don’t even think about it.
Hip-Hop Doc: The title speaks to that… Getting On The Bus. I do a health tweet every day. It can be from Vitamin D in women to motivational tweets that say, “Healthy living doesn’t start tomorrow or today, it starts when you are ready to change.”
So I really wanted people to get on this bus ride with me and be serious about committing themselves to healthy lifestyles and healthy living. You can come in here (Dr. Office/gym) after you do your New Year’s resolution and work hard for a couple of weeks and things then tend to fall off but I figure if we can set the tone, you can start getting healthy when you are ready and this is motivational music for it.
As far as the title, I felt like it was timeless because people forever can be getting on this bus. I really want people to modify their lives and change their lifestyle and follow me into this realm of where we are going. I want people living longer and healthier and be aware about their bodies.
So we touch on different topics like breast cancer, heart disease to texting and driving which causes a lot of deaths. Things that speak to young people, things that they are doing… I’m trying to touch all gametes because as a family practitioner that’s what my job encompasses obviously. I see hypertension/ diabetes as well as anxiety, stress and depression. Nothing is one and no one comes into my office with one problem so the CD doesn’t address one problem, it tries to address them all on different planes.
HHE: You had two successful Hip-Hop projects already. What separates Life Is In Your Hands and State Of Emergency from Get On Tha Bus?
Hip-Hop Doc: First of all I’m working with a new artist. Dee-1 is doing some major things in the entertainment industry right now. He’s done some stuff with folks like Murs and Mos Def so his career is booming so he’s not local anymore so it’s hard for us to get together and work together. We’re still in touch but we’re not able to work so I’m working with a new artist named Love-N-Pain.
Love-N-Pain has a different style but he’s very talented. This time we got a little more in depth with the topics. We tried to make this thing progress like a story. It starts off with the middle school age group and goes all the way up through college and adulthood. We got songs that deal with breast cancer and life in general. I got a song called “Fatherhood” as well as topics on HIV and AIDS.
We got lighthearted pieces to something serious so I call it a mixtape of The Hip-Hop Doc. But I definitely think the music is better on this project. I wrote a little more on this. I’m not the best Hip-Hop artist in the world and I never claimed to be that but I definitely was challenged to write a little bit more by Love-N-Pain so people could really feel me.
You definitely get better with each project and It took us about a year and half to put this together and I think this one has little more heart and soul.
HHE: Get On Tha Bus is multifaceted and can be listened to by adults and kids. It brings the family together and opens up lines of discussion with kids and parents. Was that intentional?
Hip-Hop Doc: I see through my day to day interaction with patients and my volunteer work in the community plus caring for a daughter that everyone is multi-faceted in their own way so I wanted to have a CD like that and address them in different genres.
So even though you may be 35, you can still listen to “Real Men Read” because you have a young child that’s in school or you may be around some young African American men that are not reading like they should. So I think the CD speaks to everyone. Even though certain parts of the CD may be geared towards a middle school person, the parent can still receive that message as well as the younger person.
The younger person may say what it breast cancer when they hear the “Breast Cancer” song and I want to learn more about it because my mother had it. Wellness is your physical being, social being, how you interact with people, your spiritual well being so it’s everything encompassed into one.
Hip-Hop Doc: My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer several months after my mother was diagnosed with head and neck cancer so that video was definitely inspired by her. She is not typical in the sense she was very aggressive. She got treatment aggressively. She was aggressive with the physicians and she’s now doing breast cancer walks and raising money and awareness about the disease.
She’s very passionate about it and her brother being a doctor, there were some advantages she had as well. She’s a trooper and a blessing to those with breast cancer because she’s very motivating. Before she was diagnosed her and my mom would participate in an event every year in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that dealt with breast cancer survivors. And now she’s a breast cancer survivor so she’s just an inspiration to other young ladies who are dealing with the disease so she was definitely a motivation for the song.
HHE: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about some other issues outside of Get On Tha Bus. How do you feel about Obama Care and how does it affect you as a physician?
Hip-Hop Doc: I saw the impact initially because now I have 24 year-old students who are able to get health insurance and are able to maintain health insurance and come in and get treated. I don’t know what the long term implications are going to be on health care reform when everything kicks in but right now it looks like it’s definitely going to be a benefit to patients and providing health care to millions of folks who didn’t have it in the past.
There are probably some holes in the bill but if you can get everyone on the same page and work together then a lot of those things can be resolved. Unfortunately party politics plays a huge role in how things are happening. I’ve spoke on MSNBC (Watch Doc below) about the budget cuts that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was going to place like taking hospice benefits away from people with Medicaid.
That’s the end of life for someone that’s dying and they are taking hospice benefits from people who need these benefits to care for themselves so these are things (Jindal’s doing) that’s kind of going against Obama care. And these are things that the President wanted to put in these policies that could help those that are poor, those that are underserved and uninsured.
No health care bill is going to be perfect but to not have the best health care in the world and be one of the strongest countries in the world to me is embarrassing. Our healthcare is not ranked very high compared to other countries and that’s a travesty. We spend excess dollars on unnecessary costs. We have a lot of fraudulent activities that go on in healthcare and these things need to be corrected and our President is trying to attempt to do that but he’s meeting a lot of resistance.
So at the end of the day am I for Obama care…yes. Do I think it will help us in the long run… yes. Are there some things and kinks that need to be worked out…definitely. But I think Obama Care is a step in the right direction.
HHE: You’ve spoken about health on many national platforms including BET’s 106 & Park and The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Since The First Lady Michelle Obama is big on physical fitness and getting our kids healthy, are there any plans to connect with her health agenda?
Hip-Hop Doc: I would love to. We have a song on the project called “Let’s Move” that deals with childhood obesity and that would be the ideal song to connect The First Lady with and to just get the word out to young people about exercising and moving. A big part of our obesity issue is consumption or over consumption and we are eating too much and not moving enough. And basically that’s her premise about her campaign and that would be an honor and a blessing to participate with her with a song and to take a picture with sister Obama (laughs).
Her mission with childhood obesity was just perfect for our country and perfect timing. For her to have the incite from the gardening issues that she addresses to activities in schools to even addressing the soda industry some years ago, I just think she’s on the right path when it comes to health especially with our young people.
HHE: Exercise and playing outside is a distant memory to many children today. With so many obese kids in the country, as a parent and doctor, how many hours of TV/video games should children be partaking in daily?
Hip-Hop Doc: If it’s not educational, two hours or less. That’s one of the big issues in society is these kids are sitting in front of this idiot box and not educating themselves. Plus parents use it as a babysitting tool. And now it’s not just the television, it’s also handheld devices. They are playing video games and are on the computer so they don’t have to be in front of the TV to remain immobile. But doing all this and not focusing on school studies or reading is a major problem that parents have to be accountable for too. I believe in two hours maximum and in my household, my daughter doesn’t watch too much TV during the week. TV is a treat.
We get reading done, homework done and creative arts with painting and drawing. We do creative things to develop the mind. Plus the schools are taking out P.E. and a lot of the arts so I want my child to be artistic as well. I’m in a band, a rapping doctor…so I want her to be the same type of person and I don’t think there’s enough emphasis on taking the television out because parents use it as a crutch and it’s a babysitter for children and it’s a huge issue.
HHE: Let’s talk about bullying. It’s become rampant as of late and that’s one of the issues you address on the track “In The Morning.”
Hip-Hop Doc: They call bullying an epidemic but it’s really a chronic problem because bullying has been going on for years. I remember seeing folks being bullied in school. I wasn’t a direct victim of bullying but I felt intimidated by some guys in the past but fortunately I had friends with me that didn’t allow things to go down. But when we talk about bullying, one of the issues we address on the song is cyber bullying. I talk about someone having slander on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
People always think about that classical big guy in the school that comes by and pushes somebody down but it doesn’t always go down like that. You got mental abuse as well and that can come from someone saying slanderous or disruptive things to a person or tweeting or doing things on Facebook to these individuals and making them feel alienated at school.
So bullying is a tough topic that we don’t always have the answer for it and we didn’t provide or just glorify this perfect answer for it that will cure all bullying across the country because that’s not true and that’s not always the case. I don’t think a lot of people take that in mind but what we did say is there is support out there for you and that you need to reach out and ask for help because if we don’t know about it then we can’t prevent it or help you get through it.
The ideal bullying campaign is not one like “Just Say No To Drugs.” Those things are redundant and don’t really mean anything to young people and it’s kind of corny to them so you need to be real with them like,
“Hey we know there are times when you feel like there’s not much that can be done but if you don’t communicate that to an adult or someone in a position of authority then nothing will ever be done and you’ll continue to be bullied.”
So those are the messages of the song. Reach out for help and it talks about the types of bullying.
HHE: What’s next for the Hip-Hop Doc? Any plans to turn your vision into a cartoon or working with The Cartoon Network where the kids can see it visually outside the CD project?
Hip-Hop Doc: I would love to do an animation with The Cartoon Network and ultimately I would like to do a book/video documentary where I talk to individuals who are getting on the bus. For instance, Slim Thug is dealing with hypertension, “Hey Slim Thug get on the bus with the Hip-Hop Doc and tell us about your high blood pressure and how you address that because he exercises on a regular basis.”
Or Angie Stone, “Get on the bus and tell us about your diabetes and how you’re dealing with these obstacles and how you’re handling your blood sugar.”
T-Boz had a brain tumor and has sickle cell anemia, “Get on the bus with the Hip-Hop Doc and tell these young people about the trials and tribulations and things you have faced and how you’re dealing with this on a day to day basis.”
Our young people tend to gravitate and listen to these entertainers and young folks in the community so they want to know about hypertension and diabetes but they don’t want to hear it from me. They want to hear it from a celebrity it seems like, somebody that’s dealing with that issue and wants to share that with them.
When I talked about colon cancer I didn’t get a lot of response but when I talked about colon rectal cancer and Terrance Howard whose mother died from it, I got a big response from the audience.
So I know what it is, I’m not stupid. I know what the trick is and I know what’s going on. I think if I can get some big name guys to jump on that bus with me and help me explain it to these young people then I would get a better response.
HHE: AIDS and HIV are real prevalent in the Black community. You touch on teenage pregnancy and more importantly sexual diseases on the tracks “God Only Knows” and “Unexpected & Unprotected.” How important was it for you to address these topics.
Hip-Hop Doc: It’s just real and especially real to me because I live in a community where we’re ranked number 1, now number 2 in the country with newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases. I’m the Medical Director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison here and the majority of the individuals that I see are Black men and when I see them many of them are infected.
The fastest growing population of people infected in this country are African American women but African American men are the most infected and people tend to forget that and the majority of them get that through heterosexual contact. So they are spreading this virus to young women and also to young men.
A lot of people try to go quick with men are having sex with men context but many of these infections are through heterosexual contact and also IV drug abuse. So we got to get the message out about HIV and those two songs are very serious and on that song we talk about a young woman and young man who because of bad decision making get infected. And that’s the thing about HIV/AIDS, if you protect yourself, this is a disease that’s pretty much 99.9 % preventable.
And I want to leave a little bit out there because potentially through a needle stick or bite wound that’s deep or blood transfusion that’s tainted which is very rare; you probably would never see that now. And no, not a mosquito bite, HIV can’t be transmitted that way. It’s through the exchange of blood and bodily fluids in high/high amounts. You can get the swine flu from mosquito bites but you can’t get HIV from it.
People say it’s man made and they put it here to kill Black people but white people were getting it too and when they started protecting themselves and using condoms, HIV in the white community drastically went down so we have to make some better decisions. We got to do better.
HHE: As we wrap this up, what drives you to get Hip-Hop healthy and what’s the ultimate goal for you with Get On Da Bus?
Hip-Hop Doc: I’m gone be 100. I’m healthy all day. If Hip-Hop Doc died, it’s about health to me. If somebody said Doc you can’t be the Hip-Hop Doc no more but you can still do what you’re doing, I’m still gone be out there promoting health. That’s what I do. My passion in life is to see people healthy and live long healthy lives. I had asthma as a child and was told I couldn’t play sports by a Dr. who wasn’t quite sure.
Another doctor who he referred me to later on in life when I hurt my back during basketball was going to disqualify me for my senior year of basketball play because he couldn’t tell me the diagnosis. I’m passionate about letting people continue into their dreams and endeavors so I have to know my job so I can help other people and that’s why I went into medicine to help other folks. So whether it be Get On The Bus, State Of Emergency or My Life Is In Your Hands or none of that…at the end of the day you’re going to see me involved in health in some form or fashion because that’s what I’m passionate about and I think that I can change and impact lives.
When you see people get better or feel better and tell you, “Thank you man, I really appreciate it.” That to me is the biggest reward from a patient and I try to do that on a day to day basis. I want to make sure that I make somebody feel better each and every time they walk out of my office. And that’s my goals…to really assist people, to be a positive influence on my community and hopefully share that with the world. Whether it be on the stage rapping or speaking in front of 65-year-old patients that have Medicare insurance.
Rani G. Whitfield, M.D. A/K/A/ Tha Hip-Hop Doc (H2D) is a board certified family physician with a Certificate of Added Qualification in sports medicine.
429 E Airport Ave Suite 4
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
Click Here To Buy Get On Tha Bus. You won’t be disappointed and if you have kids, this is the CD ya’ll can ride to together.
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