Month: March 2018

The Health of Black Men & Hip Hop…for the culture

With recent events, this topic has been on my heart…….

I recently checked off a box on my bucket list—I made it on a hip hop album!

I was asked by Phonte’ Coleman, one of my all-time fave hip hop MCs (solo artist and of the legendary group, Little Brother) and singers (yes, he has a wonderful voice when singing lead for The Foreign Exchange), to lend my speaking voice for his new album, No News is Good News. I jumped up from my Sunday nap, ran downstairs, screamed with joy to my tech-brilliant hubby, gathered myself back together, and with a make-shift mic and recording booth in the basement, we recorded about 30 seconds of health advice for black America. I’m sandwiched between two very poignant and honest songs on the album; Pastor Tigallo and Expensive Genes, both dealing with very serious commentary on the health of black men right now. It sparked the idea of this article immediately.

The release of this album couldn’t have come at a more important time. In the midst of the hip hop culture recently, many health concerns and realities have surfaced. The recent death of hip hop legend Craig Mack (of Bad Boy fame, “Flava in Ya Ear,” the hospitalization of rap mogul Rick Ross, and many other instances, very important questions have been raised about health in the black community–for black men, in particular. The climate caused me to reach out to my physician colleague, Doc Bintu (Dr. Khaalisha Bintu Ajala), Internal Medicine doctor and founder of Heartbeats and HipHop, to discuss what we as physicians can do to better educate the culture about health.

DocSwiner: Music, specifically hip hop, has and has had a major influence on black culture. Recently, the Triangle’s own hip hop artist, Phonte, released an album telling a story about life’s balances and imbalances. Yet, it seems most mainstream hip hop music (at times) praises lack of sleep, unhealthy habits, the use of drugs and overuse of alcohol. Do you think that musical artists could do more in terms of promoting health?

Doc Bintu: Yes, they could. However, rap is not a monolith by any means. I think everyone tells their own story. You have certain corporations who have a vested interest in popularity preceding content when it comes to selling rap. So they promote a rapper who celebrates drug use more than others. There are some “positive” rappers who don’t speak on health as much because it’s just not their focus but they aren’t celebrating drug use either. I think some of the hip-hop artists who speak on physical and mental health are not as heavily promoted as others. On the flip side, some like Kendrick Lamar are heavily promoted.



DocSwiner: In a recent interview article with Phonte’ speaking about the album, he speaks of his father’s death. He goes to say “….but my dad’s [death] was totally from health complications. It was diabetes, congestive heart failure, kidneys…And so, he died and was 54.” In what ways can we, as physicians, actively engage the community to speak about the burden of death due to health concerns? (

Doc Bintu: First, let me give respect and say Rest in Peace to Brother Craig Mack who was a phenomenal MC and the first artist to get Bad Boy off of the ground. He left us too soon at the age of 46 from congestive heart failure. We don’t know the circumstances surrounding his death but we do know that heart failure is when the heart cant pump blood into the body and organs as strongly as it should and that puts a person at risk for sudden cardiac death and other problems. It can be caused by several problems but two that stand out are high blood pressure and a heart attack. Queen Latifah and her mother, Rita Owens, have partnered with American Heart Association for the “Rise Above Heart Failure” campaign. They seek to educate everyone about the risks and signs of heart failure. As physicians, we can reach into our own family history and relate to our patients and the general public beyond our clinic and hospital walls. I recently lost my dad 2 months ago. It’s hard to speak about but I do look at the loss of his life at 65 and his health complications and as I always have, tried to use my experiences to relate to my patients. When he realized that he had end stage renal disease and started hemodialysis in 2013, I realized that he was facing his own mortality. So many black men fight so hard to survive, that having to face their mortality in light of something as intangible as a health condition that they don’t understand, is very hard. That particular health condition can change how they eat, where they can go, if they can travel and remind them that they might not see their kids become adults. We as practitioners have to help them broach that subject and not just in a short visit or on discharge from the hospital. We also need to offer counseling because a lot of our patients are actually depressed about their diagnosis.

DocSwiner: A recent artist, Rick Ross, was recently hospitalized for a few days from an unknown reason. Media was flushed with news about his hospitalization, but as we have seen before, the noise dies down and the hospitalization will be just a past story. How can health care providers and the media possibly work together to keep health concerns present and relevant in everyday life?

Doc Bintu: I think using our own platforms to reach others beyond hospital and clinic walls is the start. We also need to meet people where they are such as social media outlets. We need to use our platforms such as my organization,, Doc Swiner’s platform and Dr. Kevin Pho who has helped to bring health into the information age. Many people look to us for advice and to be more accessible but many health care providers are usually at work! We work a lot! However, we are community leaders and we need to claim it and run with it right into the schools, churches, festivals and anywhere beyond hospital walls.

DocSwiner: Beyond giving information of diabetes and hypertension in the black community, what possible solution(s) do you see for diminishing the health care disparities seen in under-represented populations?

Giving information for funny sounding words like “ Hemoglobin A1C” on a pamphlet in a font size that is hard to read to some patients who have various levels of education is missing the entire point of health education. You have to make it plain. You have to make it real. You have to make it relatable. Tell your story or the story of an entertainer who has publicly discussed their own health issues. Ask more questions rather than assume your patient’s understanding of their condition and by all means please start with nutrition! Ask about what they actually eat and how they feel about what they eat. There are a lot of cultural ties to what people eat. There is a lot of convenience within a busy lifestyle tied to what we all consume. We can help change lives if we realize that we can only help them to change their lives with what they put in their mouths. The medication we prescribe can save lives and it can allow them to live better ones but it all starts with what they eat and what they understand about what they eat.



DocSwiner Headshot


–curated and created with the help of Janie Outlaw

Find more info about Doc Bintu and her work at

No News is Good News by Phonte’ is available on ITunes, Spotify among other online sites.

Happy International Women’s Day: Introducing the Female Condom!

I figured I’d celebrate this day by highlighting a trending and important way to protect women from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDs–the female condom.

Below is a post from my physician friend, Dr. Renee Matthews, who appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Radio Show this morning and helps to spread the good word about proper use and importance of prevention.



Did You Know There Is A Female Condom That Is FDA Approved On The Market?

There are lots of different ways to practice “Safe Sex”. The term safe sex primarily refers to protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Most people believe that this is the responsibility of the man. Well, back in 2005 the first version of the female condom was on the market. This was the first time a barrier method of contraception was for women. FC2 came out in 2009 and it is made with nitrile. This material is natural feeling and warms to body temperature.

3 Reasons to use FC2

  1. One of the reasons to use FC2 is because we as women should take control of our sexual health. The female condom also protects better against Human Papilloma Virus and Herpes Simplex Virus because of the way it protects the outside of the vagina, including the labia minora and labia majora compared to the male condom.
  2. There is a trend that is probably not so new, but now has a term called stealthing. Stealthing is the non-consensual condom removal or “stealthing” is the practice of one sex partner covertly removing a condom, when consent has only been given by the other sex partner for condom-protected safer sex.
  3. Most men do not like using male condoms but don’t mind the female condom because it doesn’t feel different. One size fits all with FC2 so it doesn’t matter what size the man’s penis. FC2 can be placed 2 hours prior to sexual intercourse so it does not interfere with intimacy. It is latex free and can be used with oil and water based lubricants.



Many women still do not know about the FDA approved female condom known as FC2. There are several ways to acquire these condoms. The women of South Africa have been using the female condom with great results. After one year of the female condom program in South Africa protected sex acts went up 92% and 74% of men felt that female condom was either better or much better than the male condom. Please visit their website for information on where and how you can purchase FC2.

If you have health insurance there is a good chance that you will be able to receive FC2 for FREE! Please download Hey Doctor App and use Promo Code: FC2 and you can have the condoms mailed to you or sent to your local pharmacy. Currently these are the states where Hey Doctor is available, AK, AZ, CA, CT, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MO, MT, NE, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WI and WY (more states coming soon).



Dr. Renee Matthews is the social media doctor, prescribing remedies to help you to live the life you deserve. She has appeared on television shows such as, The Oprah Winfrey Show and TVOne’s NewsOne Now with Roland Martin where she discussed different health topics. She started her media career with her own radio show on SiriusXM/ReachMD, a programming source for health professionals. In addition, Dr. Renee has been a featured medical correspondent on SiriusXM’s Sway in the Morning and Café Mocha Radio with Loni Love and YoYo (syndicated radio show).

Dr. Renee hosts The Ask Dr. Renee Show, a weekly YouTube show to motivate and inspire viewers to “Live the life they deserve”. Dr. Renee is also the host of Out of Office with Dr. Renee which is apart of Outcome Health and seen in 45,0000+ doctors offices across the US. She is a regular correspondent for and a regular writer for Good Enough Mother, and DiaryofaFirstTimeMom. Dr. Renee has been a contributing health writer for,,, and She is also a sought after speaker for various health organizations and schools. In addition to writing about health, Dr. Renee is a social media coach, conducts speaking engagements on social media, branding, motivation, and becoming an entrepreneur. Visit her at Ask Dr. Renee