Hip-hop duo Dead Prez’s seminal 2000 album Let’s Get Free was a chokeslam to hip-hop. The urgent lead single “Hip Hop” and its chant It’s bigger than hip-hop helped spark a rebirth of consciousness in the genre; its buzzing bassline a soundtrack for activism today. The album also featured the song “Be Healthy,” which called on listeners to do just that. “I don’t eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets. Only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat,” member Stic.Man raps.
It’s a message that artist, author and life coach Stic.Man is now wholly devoted to. In addition to music and writing, he and his dietitian wife Afya founded the RBG Fit Club to promote a street smart approach to health and wellness through hip-hop, books, workshops and more. His 2011 album The Workout birthed the “fit hop” genre with motivational anthems such as “Back on My Regimen,” “Warrior Codes” and “Runners High.” His journey to health and wellness became a subject of MorningStar Farms’ documentary series The Veg Effect in May.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, he brings his RBG Fit Club to Downtown Las Vegas, partnering with Real Results Fitness for a workout and workshop with food provided by Simply Pure. We caught up with Stic.Man to talk about his wellness journey, Bruce Lee and why healthy is the new gangsta.
Why’s it important to promote health through hip-hop?
It’s important to promote health in life, period. Hip-hop is a voice of the planet, the young folks. It’s what people are listening to, it’s what all of the corporations use to try to sell products. Hip-hop is the spirit of the people. To bring that bridge together, you’re just gonna reach more people in a way that can actually engage and get people involved instead of just [saying] “drink water.” But when you hear that 808 and you got a sample of Bruce Lee saying “Be water,” you’re gonna move more people. My life mission is to blend those two passions. Music—my culture—and health and wellness.
How did health enter your consciousness?
Basically I was living the rap life, smoking weed and drinking and partying and coming up in the hood stressed, frustrated and angry. All of that accumulated one day to a condition in my leg called gout in my early, early 20s … I learned about the uric acid buildup and all that. [The doctor] was trying to put me on medication but my wife was already experimenting with veganism at the time. She told me this quote I’ll never forget: “I believe in the body’s natural ability to heal itself if given the proper tools.” She put me on a plant-based diet and I did a lot of alternative healings, too, like colonics. I healed in two weeks. There are people who live with gout their whole lives because they don’t make those fundamental shifts.
Once I saw that, I felt so grateful just to have a leg, and I wanted to use it. I thought back to one of my earlier inspirations when I used to be more active before I started smoking weed and being drunk all the time, it was Bruce Lee. I always wanted to get into martial arts, so I did. For 10 years, I studied different forms of Kung Fu. I got to study Jeet Kune Do, which is Bruce Lee’s form of art, and many others. That philosophy of Jeet Kune Do, I saw connection to hip-hop in how he would sample from Wing Chun and fencing and boxing and all these various types of martial arts to make his own unique expression. That’s what we do in hip-hop when we sample from country western and get the drums from this thing and the riff from something else. That concept of not being in a box but being your own clay and shaping your own clay, that philosophy really changed my life … I wanted to do that with health and fitness, so I got into yoga, I got into boxing. Through boxing I got into running and then I got into long distance running and became a fanatic.
I’m just a student, still growing, still learning. Those are the pivotal things that shifted me from gout to healthy gangsta.
What is “healthy gangsta”?
It’s just that. People think “gangsta” means being a hoodlum. What it really comes from is about accountability, integrity, strength, organization. This is what gangsta was before it became something to try to be cool. It was a form of the people who were disenfranchised having order amongst each other, whether it was inside the law or outside. They had to have a code of honor to get things done. I’m from the old-school so when I say the word “gangsta,” I just mean being a man about business and being honorable. Healthy gangsta is stopping the destructive things that are associated with this culture and applying those principles of honor and integrity, and making it happen no matter what, to our health and wellness. Healthy gangsta is my ethos … It’s what I learned in the streets applied to my well-being.
How did RBG Fit Club come about?
I made a record called The Workout [in 2011]. I had this vision to blend music and holistic health. I ended up calling the genre “fit hop” … In making it, I realized this is more than an album. This is a discovery, a way of life. I wanted to explore that with my community. RBG Fit Club was a way to reach bigger goals, a way to connect with people that really believe life can be good, and to establish a conversation that can translate between the two worlds. The health and wellness community doesn’t necessarily speak the hip-hop language and the hip-hop culture doesn’t necessarily go looking for [yoga] classes and acupuncture … My life has been authentic in both of those worlds. RBG Fit Club is a fusion of holistic health and authentic health.
The Workout is a motivational record, and a lot of people have commented that it helps them in the gym. Who do you listen to when you want to get in the zone?
I like instrumentals. I like to escape ideas and thoughts while I’m training. It’s my getaway. I’m real creative, I write a lot and I’m always thinking conceptually. Training gives me a break from that and let’s me get physical. I collect a lot of film scores, whether it’s The Avatar or The Warrior. I compose for different projects musically, too, so I’m half-working when I’m listening. But I like to put on a film score and go on a long run or work on my breathing techniques or jump rope, hit the bag, whatever I’m into that day.
What should we expect from the class on Tuesday?
Branden [Collinsworth of Real Results] is gonna lead the training and I’ll add my two cents to that. And then I’m gonna give a presentation on why holistic living is the new gangsta, what that means, go through our principles and teach some of the things I’ve been learning and tools and techniques that I think people could use to experience that holistic health.
The Workout Holistic Workshop With Stic.Man of Dead Prez
Aug. 30, 6-9 p.m., Real Results Fitness, $20-25, 1201 S. Commerce St., 702-331-3172, RealResultsFitness.com.