Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, also known as RZA or Bobby Digital, is not just another rapper. The actor, director, author, screenwriter, Grammy winning music producer, chess player, martial artist and co-founder of the Wu-Tang Clan wears many hats. He recently took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about his new movie, new book, and his health. The interview that I did with him had to be one of the easiest that I have ever done. RZA gave selflessly of himself and was so honest and open that it seemed as if we could have talked forever.
Hip Hop Doc: Peace RZA. I know you are busy, so let's jump right into it. Tell me about the new movie Repo Menand your role in the film?
RZA: Peace to you Doc. So yeah, if you like sci-fi, Doc, you're gonna like Repo Men. Like I said it's a sci-fi action film and I play the role of T-Bone (laughs). This movie is set in the "near future", maybe like in the year 2100. T-Bone is a music producer at the end of his career and like other characters, he has purchased a heart. The movie's setting is during the recession, times are hard, T-Bone is going broke, and is unable to make payments on his heart. He's living in a mansion with nothing left. He thinks the IRS is coming to repossess more of his personal affects, but it's actually Remi (played by Jude Law) who's coming to repossess T-Bone's heart!
Hip Hop Doc: So what happens?
RZA: Let's just say, T-Bone totally changes the outcome of the movie's suspenseful ending. It's a cool film and I enjoyed working with Forest Whitaker and Jude Law.
Hip Hop Doc: Now this is not your first time on the big screen or even working with Whitaker is it?
RZA: Nahhh, I've been doing some other things. I love Kung-Fu flicks and got a small role in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai; Whitaker was the lead in that. Ghost Dog came out in 1999 I think. Man, I got a lot going on.
Hip Hop Doc: More than a lot! So, you mentioned Kung-Fu, what's up with your own Kung-Fu flick, The Man with the Iron Fist? Rumor has it that you have the green light and funding to make this project happen.
RZA: Definitely! I'm scouting now for art directors, locations, things like that. I'm going to Hong Kong the second week of April. It's all about finding proper locations that can sustain the budget and the ideas that I want to bring to the screen. That's a five month process in itself.
Hip Hop Doc: I read that (Quentin) Tarantino told you to stay under $10 million on this project?
RZA: Yeah he did, and it was some wise advice, but it does limit me.
Hip Hop Doc: What do you mean? Ten million is a lot of money!
RZA: Well, with the recession that we are in, coming out of, the American dollar not being as strong as it used to be, as well as script that's a bit more elaborate than I thought - to bring it all to life I already had to cut out ten pages just to meet the budget requirements. Not an easy job, but I'm cutting where I can and trying to keep it in that $10 million dollar range.
Hip Hop Doc: Cutting pages, but I hope not the concept?
Hip Hop Doc: Is this your directoriall debut?
RZA: Yeah, on a major studio level. But I've directed videos for Wu-Tang and myself, of course, and also unbeknownst to some people, I've directed a few independent films such as Bobby Digital and one I'm revisiting and reinvesting in called Wu-Tang vs. Golden Phoenix. I hired actors from Hong Kong to come in; the fight choreographer from my favorite Kung-Fu film The Five Deadly Venoms, and even flew this guy in from Taiwan who helped me put together some fight sequences. I'm thinking about releasing that on DVD
Hip Hop Doc: I just read your second book, The Tao of Wu, and several years ago, I read The Wu-Tang Manual. Not what I expected. I read The Tao of Wu on a plane in one sitting. Incredible book!
RZA: Man, much respect Doc! It was good for me to write. So what was a point that stood out to you?
Hip Hop Doc: So many, but probably the story about the drug dealer in your neighborhood, Chili Wop, or the story about going to Africa to visit Ghostface while he was being treated for diabetes by the bushman, or the whole seven pillar concept.
RZA: (Laughing out loud) Doc I believe you read it homie! Yeah that was deep about Chili Wop. Pretty sure Chili Wop is not with us- you live and die by the sword in the hood, know what I mean. It was hard times growing up in the hood. As far as my trip to Africa- wow. The people who had worldly possessions had their hand out to me and wanted more. They saw me with gear on and thought I was somebody important you know- rich. [Ghostface Killa] was dressed down, his beard had grown out and they thought he was a nobody. When we got to the village, it was all love. The poorest people in the world offered me whatever they had- water, food, shelter. It was amazing!
Hip Hop Doc: Yeah, that was a moving part of the book. I also learned while reading that your mother had a stroke. I work with the American Heart Association and the Power to End Stroke campaign. Unfortunately African Americans are twice as likely to have a stroke as any other ethnic groups.
RZA: I had no idea about those numbers. Well, yes she did. She died from a stroke. That was a major turning point in my life.
Hip Hop Doc: From a health stand point?
RZA: Mental, spiritual, and a health stand point. I'm a vegetarian and I exercise at least three times a week- weight training or kicking bags. My weight has not changed in over fifteen years. My whole family is affected by high blood pressure. You know how it is in the hood (he laughs again). My grandfather died in his fifties, frying fat-back at least 3 or 4 times a week (laughing out loud).
Hip Hop Doc: Wow! Man, fat-back can be a weakness for some (we both laugh). We have to change our diets. I'm big on that and I try to influence the young people I speak with on a daily basis to eat better and love themselves. Before we go, I have to ask who your favorite rappers are.
RZA: Biggie, Pac, Jay-Z, Gza, and Ghostface. GZA and Ghostface did some crazy stuff on the mic. You can't forget about Nas. Nas is like a Kung-Fu master who achieved his goals at a much younger age than the average rapper.
Hip Hop Doc: I'm still a big fan of Rakim, but have to agree with you on Biggie, Pac, and J. Nas is tight, but I don't like him on live performances.
RZA: Respect. I understand but you can't deny his lyricism.
Hip Hop Doc: Definitely. I hate to end this interview, but I know you are busy. RZA, it's been an honor and a blessing. Thanks for your time. Peace.
RZA: Much respect Doc. Peace.
Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated actor and musician Terrence Howard is one of many who should be commended. Not only because of his talents on the big screen, but because of his efforts to raise awareness about the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the United States- colorectal cancer (CRC).
Howard lost his mother to this dreaded disease in September of 2008 and has become a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign. Preceded only by lung cancer as a major cause death in this country, cancer of the colon and rectum (CRC) knows no gender or status.
This is evident in the untimely deaths of both Eartha Kitt and Teddy Pendergrass. Additionally, former Major League Baseball players Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis have both required surgery to battle this disease. Although the focus of this disease is spearheaded by some noteworthy people, it is a cancer that has affected many. In 2005, the CDC estimated that over 140,000 people were diagnosed with CRC and approximately 53,000 died from the disease. Screening rates for CRC in the age range of 50 to 64 increased from twenty-five percent in 1997 to 55 percent in 2008; however, the rates still fall below those for cervical and breast cancer.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and the numbers of those affected highlight the importance of raising awareness and getting preventative screening for CRC. It is not a disease that hails from some exotic lands but is one that is detectable, treatable and in many cases preventable. Most notable, it targets men and women over the age of 50 approximately 90 percent of the time - that means our fathers and mothers and those close to us are the ones most vulnerable. Although the number of physicians that screen their patients for this disease has increased, there is still a great disparity in who is getting screened.
The discrepancy in the numbers was further highlighted in February at a thirteen member National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel which met in Bethesda Maryland at the State of the Science Conference. During this conference, the main topics of discussion were CRC, screening rates, and the gap that exist among Americans who were able to survive this cancer. Unfortunately, there were no surprises-screening rates for CRC while on the rise, still presented a disproportionate rate among those without health insurance and minorities. African-Americans and Hispanics still fall short and are less likely to receive CRC screening, especially if they are uninsured. More affordable access to health care will serve to save so many lives. Not just from CRC but from other opportunistic diseases that can be identified simply by regular visits with a physician.
There are several risk factors for this disease: a strong family history of colon or rectal cancer or colon polyps, a personal history of colon or rectal cancer or history of inflammatory bowel disorders like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, and being physically inactive. Diet and certain behaviors also seem to increase our risk. Red meat, other processed meats like cold cuts, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, obesity and cigarette smoking are all risk factors. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January 2005 stated that individuals who ate the most red meat were thirty to forty percent more likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate less. Although a diet with less red meat is not one commonly found in the African American community, small changes in diet could continue to enhance and lengthen ones quality of life.
We have heard since we were in high school biology that the intestines were miles long. How that length is able dwell inside of us is a mystery to many, but the symptoms for CRC should not be part of the mystery. Common symptoms of CRC include a change in bowel habits that last for more than a few days like constipation or diarrhea; gross rectal bleeding or blood in the stool; cramping abdominal pain, fatigue, night sweats, and weight loss. If you or someone you know has these signs and symptoms, they must see a doctor immediately. While these signs and symptoms could represent other disorders, it is important to seek consultation from a professional rather than ignore them. Depending on your physician, one of three screening options will be done: fecal occult blood test plus a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; colonoscopy every ten years, or a double contrast barium enema every five to ten years. If you have a strong family history of CRC or polyps, a personal history of CRC or polyps, or a history of long standing inflammatory bowel disease, your physician may recommend screening earlier.
At the conclusion of the NIH's State-of-The-Health-Science Conference, several solutions were proposed to increase screening for CRC and to reduce barriers to screening. These recommendations included: elimination of financial barriers to screening and follow up; including patient reminder systems and one on one interactions with health professionals or educators; conducting research to assess the effectiveness of tailoring programs to certain populations; implementation of systems to ensure appropriate follow-up of positive screening results; developing systems to assure high quality screening programs; and finally conducting studies to determine the effectiveness of the available screening methods in usual practice settings. All of these suggestions can be implemented and would continue to save lives, but until these suggestions become best practices via legislative endorsement in the health care reform bill and/or endorsement by the medical community, it is important that you take control of your own health.
It is imperative that you know your numbers and your personal and family history so that you are able to make sound decisions about your health. Early screening, although essential, is only one part of reducing our risk. A diet high in fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables and low in fats, red meat, and processed meat coupled with regular exercise not only reduces our risk of CRC, but of our nation's number one killer heart disease. Remember, awareness of the disorder and early detection is key to a aggressive treatment and/or a cure.