Interview With Dead Prez’s Stic.Man - Revolutionary But Gangsta
Few political hip-hop groups can say that they started out in activism and ended up in music, changed their birth names to West African names, stay closely involved in community programs and are counted as style and songwriting muses by Kanye West. Dead Prez can say all this and more, with three studio albums under their name as well as collaborations and mixtapes full of lyrics challenging capitalism, racism and explicitly going against the grain – whether that be criticizing former President Obama or organized religion all while promoting the importance of health and self-control.
Now one-half of Dead Prez, Khnum Muata Ibomu also known as Stic.man, is here to spread the message about the health benefits of drinking water and ensuring safe access to it for all with a new initiative by his wellness platform, RBG FitClub.
Evangelizing the gospel of living mindfully and critically engaging with the world around us has been Stic.man’s mission for the last 15 years plus. Born Clayton Gavin in Shadeville, Florida, Stic was writing and performing raps with conscious messages of black pride and social justice as early as his teenage years. He went on to meet his future partner M-1 at A&M University and form their duo Dead Prez, described since as an activist and revolutionary hip-hop group. Following a gout diagnosis in his early 20’s, Ibomu quit the customary drinking and smoking that had come with hip-hop culture, started following a vegan diet and hasn’t looked back since.
The natural progression from living consciously and eating clean, as is the natural state of humans, is what has spurred the artist’s lifestyle and even his music. Tracks such as ‘Yoga Mat’ and ‘Back On My Regimen’ on his solo album apart from Dead Prez, titled The Workout have become motivational gym tracks for so many while spelling out his advocacy for a healthy lifestyle. This genre, which he has called ‘fit-hop’, is breaking through to audiences that the health industry has long overlooked: the African-American community, those living in inner-cities, and people on a lower budget than the average Whole Foods shopper.
In his article ‘7 Ways to Eat Good on a Hood Budget’ for the Plant Based on a Budget blog, he writes, “Health food is simple and is the least expensive most nutrient dense food in the grocery store, basically fruits and vegetables, beans and simple whole grains”. So simple in fact that just drinking more water is a great (and vital) start.
Now comes a new initiative by his RBG Fit Club to promote drinking water. RBG (which stands for Revolutionary but Gangsta, also the name of one of Dead Prez’s albums) is a platform he started with his nutritionist wife Afya dedicated to engaging with people pursuing a life of mindfulness and spreading the message that eating healthy is not at all as expensive or inaccessible as it can be made out to be.
Be it down to arid/semi-arid climates or damage to local water sources by industry and the like, many communities around the world still have trouble accessing safe, clean drinking water. While sharing the message of drinking water and its importance in our health and wellness, RBG FitClub also has projects underway in conjunction with Nattral and Smiles4Malawi to help make clean water more accessible to communities that have limited supply of it – most recently in the village of Namitete, Malawi. Fundraising is carried out by selling ‘Drink Water’ merchandise on their website to support on-the-ground projects such as installing water pumps. The initiative has further plans to start up a vegetable garden to better the lives and the health of this community and others for years to come.
Quite a few other celebrities and philanthropists have chosen similar causes to support on the continent: for example, Beyoncé’s #Beygood4Burundi campaign in conjunction with UNICEF to build wells and make accessing clean water a little easier to people of rural Burundi, one of Africa’s most densely-populated countries. Matt Damon famously founded the H20 Africa Foundation and in combined efforts with WaterPartners launched Water.org using his fame to bring world attention to deserving clean water initiatives all over the world, including projects in Afghanistan and India.
Water truly is life and there can never be too many reminders that we all depend on it and on the ability to access it.
Read more or contribute to the #DrinkWater campaign and RBGFitClub on their website.
We reached out to Stic to share a few words about this new chapter in his life and he was kind enough to give us a moment of his time:
Your music with Dead Prez is critically acclaimed for its confrontation and criticism of issues that government has failed at addressing or is sometimes even responsible for. Do you think there is a higher hidden agenda or ulterior motive behind why plant-based living isn't nearly as promoted as processed foods are or is it all just a natural phenomenon of living in a fast-paced society?
I can only guess that the profit interests of the meat and dairy industry and the mass addiction to the miseducation and chemicals in the foods and the deeply entrenched meat eating cultural traditions all play a role in why plant-based eating has just now begun to gain its popularity. But I bet a behavioral economist could shed more light. I think the truth of the value of plants is coming to light because of the health conditions suffered in the biggest meat-eating countries like the U.S.
Did you take up any formal training in cooking after you transitioned to a vegan lifestyle or did you just naturally build up the skill for preparing different vegan meals over time?
My wife Afya Ibomu is a professional nutritionist chef and instructor, and she has taught me so much. She is the author of two award-winning cookbooks "The vegan remix" and "The vegan soul food guide to the galaxy" that are also full of tips and guidelines for people who want to eat healthier, but also want it to taste good and need some help in both areas.
Was your transition a struggle or did letting go of animal-derived products come easy?
It was easy because I needed to go plant based to heal my leg from gout. My wife guided my process and I not only stopped eating meat for ten years, she taught me how to get all the protein and vitamins and minerals balanced nutrition I need from plant sources. To be healthy, it's not just about not eating meat, you have to know what to eat and be disciplined to keep a healthy balanced plant-based diet.
Post the success of the Drink Water campaign do you have any new initiatives or campaigns in the pipeline to raise awareness for healthier living or for other beleaguered communities like Namitete?
I am working with Toyota Green Initiative as an ambassador and we are doing fun and creative events in black and brown communities that educate about sustainability. We know that going green is the new wave in the mainstream and we want our communities to benefit at every level as well.
There is currently a mass wave of Confederate statues and monuments being brought down across America right now - can you share some insights about your experience as an activist to this new generation of young protesters and marchers who are fighting for these kinds of changes to be made?
People are refusing to be intimidated by racists and are snatching down their symbols of hatred. I think its beautiful but the U.S. flag was also the flag of slavery just as the Confederate flag. So I think we will be snatching flags for a long time as we dig up the reality. It's a great time to be alive. A revolution of consciousness is upon us.
Who or what inspires your outlook on life?
Bruce Lee is one of my biggest personal inspirations. I've been a student of his martial art and philosophy for decades and it shapes how I approach not only the fight arts, but my daily life and outlook as well. There is a great podcast that is free and hosted by Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee that shares the philosophy side of Bruce and I would recommend everyone check it out. I am a volunteer for the Bruce Lee Foundation and this year we awarded select students $10,000 towards their college tuition.
Your favorite song?
Black as Night by Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People