Posts tagged cancer
The absurdity of accusing Roman Reigns of fabricating his illness

When you hear the word “cancer” come out of a loved one’s mouth, it almost freezes you. In a nanosecond, your entire life with that person flashes before your eyes, consumed with the thought that those memories could soon be all you’re left with. I’ll never forget that September 2016 call from my mom. I can remember every single important moment I ever had with my mother playing on loop in my head, from birthday parties and Bulls games, to house fires, hotels and temporary housing. The news flipped my entire world upside down.

I felt something similar last October 22nd when Joe Anoa’i - shoot name: Roman Reigns - opened Monday Night Raw and announced he was in his second battle with leukemia, having conquered the illness eleven years prior. Now, obviously I don’t have a personal relationship with Roman Reigns; he’s a character on a television show I’ve watched long before he was apart of it. However, in playing his role throughout the past six years, Joe Anoa’i has given me plenty of memories - whether I was cheering him in Chicago or telling him he sucks in Brooklyn - and at 33 years old, the thought of missing out on the many more memories to come made me sick.

On Monday night, Joe Anoa’i is expected to walk down the ramp at Raw and deliver the speech Atlanta - and the wrestling world - have been waiting months to hear: that his cancer is in remission, and that Roman Reigns will soon return to WWE competition. Given the response from fans and performers across the community, tonight is sure to be one of the most emotional nights ever in professional wrestling. It wasn’t a year ago when Bryan Danielson announced he came out victorious in his fight to be Daniel Bryan in the ring once again. From an emotional standpoint, tonight’s announcement should top that with ease.

Throughout Roman’s sabbatical from wrestling, he’s taken potshots from several fans, and even more disgustingly, former wrestlers, who believe that his illness has been a work. The latest, apparently, is Calgary [dramatic pause] Alberta Canada’s own Lance Storm. Twitter user VCR Wrestling tuned into Figure Four Daily on Wrestling Observer Radio, which Storm hosts with Bryan Alvarez. The audio is behind a paywall, and frankly I’m not giving the Observer my money because fuck no. VCR was kind enough to tweet some of their conversation between Storm and Alvarez on Reigns’ announcement, and… well… check the tweets.

Photo credit: WWE

Photo credit: WWE

It goes without saying that Lance Storm is the Donkey of the Day if he thinks Roman wasn’t that sick because he could film Hobbes and Shaw with his cousin, The Rock. If your own brother-in-law was stricken by leukemia, the first thing you should be able to understand is NOT EVERYBODY’S ILLNESS IS THE SAME. Roman Reigns not being on his deathbed doesn’t lessen the debilitating nature of his disease, the need for urgency to address his leukemia or the importance of his fight. Any belief otherwise is absurd.

Do I understand some people’s belief that everything in wrestling is a work? Sure. We’re conditioned to believe it by now. But working the public on a deadly illness, especially one that personally afflicts us all in the way cancer does, is as repulsive as it can get in wrestling (and I’ve seen Mae Young’s naked). There is absolutely no good that would come from faking cancer. Roman Reigns would not commit career suicide to get himself “over” with fans. Vince McMahon would not give his top guy a “mysterious cancer diagnosis” to promote the company’s working relationships with Susan G. Komen and Connor’s Cure, two organizations devoted to breast and pediatric cancer research, respectively.

Let’s stop there. Do you know how ridiculous that would look for Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, the founders of Connor’s Cure and the two company faces at the forefront of social progress in WWE, to be anywhere near attached to a storyline where a survivor fakes having cancer again for a few months just to get cheers from funky, obnoxious, misogynistic wrestling fans who chant “Roman Sucks!” and send hate tweets to women who aren’t “real fans” because they like Roman?

Does that make any sense?

It’s shameful we have to be saying this, but here we are. Stupidity never fails to dominate the headlines.

Alas, tonight’s news should hit every wrestling fan in the feels. Whether or not you like Roman Reigns the wrestler, Joe Anoa’i the man is a remarkable human. He’s won championships around the globe and main-evented four straight WrestleMania’s, but his biggest triumph, or at least the one that needs to be celebrated the most, is being a two-time cancer survivor.

Remembering Stu... Revisited
When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.
— Stuart Scott

My world was rocked November 19th, 2017. A phone call I nearly passed on by my sister, I decided to take anyway...

"Mama passed."

I sat in my room, a three-hour drive from home, frozen. My mother died of breast cancer 53 years young.

During the grieving process, you cry, you spend time with family, you find ways to keep their memory alive. So when we announced this little venture a month back, I told myself this is my last year bein broke.

I left home to chase a dream, and a month later my mother learned she had breast cancer. 12 months later she transitioned. I took it hard that I wasn't there when she died, and while I learned not to blame myself or anyone for the way things happened, I remembered the inspiration that helped me get this far.

Stuart Scott is as responsible as any role model, teacher or mentor for my chosen career path. I never met him. I didn't need to. He felt like family every time he entered my home, with a boo-yah and his cool pillow in tow.

I watched his ESPY speech the night after her funeral and it hit me. Having gone through a weekend of testimony from family, some of my mother's oldest friends, or just people who knew my mom, I realized she hadn't lost to cancer... She beat its ass with all the love she gave to the world, until she got so tired God said it was time to throw in the towel.

Thanks Stu, for reminding me that my mother didn't lose. And thanks for the best advice you ever gave me...

So in honor of the three-year anniversary of Stu's passing, I'm re-posting a blog from two years ago remembering him. You can read it in its original form here.

I was 4 years old the first time I can remember watching Sportscenter. My dad leaving the television on in the dead of night because it was the only way I could sleep, I typically found a soporific feeling in shows like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno or The George Michael Sports Machine. But on Sunday nights I was an insomniac. Try as I might I couldn’t feel drowsy nor weary, because every Sunday night I tuned into ESPN, and the vitality permeating from the ebullient brother with the limitless catchphrases and an intimacy for sports always seemed to flow through me.

I love Stuart Scott. As far back as I could think, he was the first black man I idolized. Chicago’s Very Own, Stu entered my life at a very impressionable age. As a child televised news was nothing but uncharismatic men who looked nothing like me, and spoke nothing like me. It was a bland, monotonous product. And then, BOO-YAH, there he came..

He was a burst of energy to a product that demanded it. There was never a moment or a highlight that Stu could not breathe life into. With his youthful exuberance and outward blackness, he brought the barbershop to the mainstream. Conformists hated it. An exec even threatened to remove Scott from Sportscenter because he was using language that “most of the audience didn’t understand.” Always the writer, Stu took to his online column and graciously thanked ESPN for allowing him to be….himself. He traced back the cultural history of his many phrases and explained why it was paramount not only to him, but to his people, most of them ESPN viewers, that his vernacular was utilized on the Worldwide Leader. With a couple strokes of a keyboard, Stuart Scott stood up for himself, refusing to change who he was as a man, as a black man, and won.

As I grew older, so did my fondness for sports, and there was Stuart, like Cupid, shooting his arrow into my heart every night. His mixture of athletics and hip hop flair coalesced perfectly, reaching a younger demographic like myself who otherwise wouldn’t have understood the obscure references from a Chris Berman or the like. He was counter-culture, and not for lack of a better term, as cool as the other side of the pillow. He made being black on television au courant. Sportscenter was my church, and Stuart led the congregation better than any pastor could.

When I heard Stuart Scott was first afflicted with cancer back in 2007, my heart dropped. A sports world without Stuart was something I couldn’t imagine. But seeing him on television, fighting through a highlight with seemingly relative ease, you would never notice he was sick. Once the red light flashed, it was game time. He was MJ in the Finals, Game 5, and as usual, he was automatic.

His cancer returned in 2011, and again in 2013, but through it all Stuart fought back to do what he loved: telling eloquent stories on the day in sports. But what Stuart loved the most, what kept him fighting, was his two daughters, Sydni and Taelor. They were his reason for living, his motivation to keep kicking cancer’s ass. And until the end, when he couldn’t fight any longer, they fought for him. The love of a father and his children.

It’s been a year since Stuart Scott has passed away, and not a day has gone by where I haven’t missed that man’s revolutionary ardor on my TV screen. Although he is gone in the physical, his spirit still lives on in the young athletes who wanted him to holla at a playa when he saw them in the street, and the aspiring black journalists that emulated him. Including myself.

I’m not big on Twitter responses from celebrities, except this one. Normally I’m firing off b.s. in the mentions of celebs, but this was my chance to openly ask for advice from the man I’ve admired since I was 4 years old.

and I will. To keep your legacy, and ours, alive.

INTERNETS, it don't ever stop: an ode to Combat Jack

Death is an inevitable transition in this unrelenting saga called life. No matter how prepared one can be for an impending cloud of darkness to reach their shores, the impact of receiving that final, distraught call about a loved one is a heavy burden to bear. Grief, whether expressed internally with repressed emotions or externally with palpable breakdowns, affects us all in different ways. There's no proper way to go about it, nor is there a one-size-fits-all manual that'll explain how to process every emotion flooding your brain after a tragic event.

We all have dealt with the passing of a dear friend, close relative, or even a mentor from the past. Upon receiving the news, for some, the reaction is almost immediate. For others, it may take some time for the feelings to set in after a period of reflection and reminiscing. A freshly carved hollowness emerges that grimly reminds us of our future mortality. With this agape space in our psyche, we can choose to fill it with depressive and self-deprecated thoughts that will debilitate our progress...or we can COMBAT these internalized detriments in the honor of the fallen.

Callously, some might say "people die every day, don't get so bent out of shape about celebrities and other people you don't know personally." While the former may be factually true, that sentiment couldn't be more off-base.

The Culture surrounding the hip-hop community at-large feels like a kinship of sorts. Relationships within The Culture aren't always tangible ones, but for those that get it - like a head nod from a stranger acknowledging the similarity in melanin - get it. There is a connectedness and a bond that manifests from shared cultural or regional experiences, that leads an organic and familial sense of community.

The hip-hop community, while laden with strife and bullshit at times, is a tight-knit community that will laud the authentic and decant the fake. If there is a slight whiff of ingenuity, the truth will come out into the light, eventually. As it happens in many societies, pioneers in the game with established footing (preservationists) may clash with leaders of the new school (trailblazers) when it comes to progressing and advancing as a society. Combat Jack, born Reginald Joseph Ossé, was both a preservationist and trailblazer in the purest sense of both words. He was an icon in the hip-hop community for 20+ years until his untimely death on December 20th, 2017.

Jack's unwavering dedication to an art form that, at the time, was widely considered as just a "phase," garnered the respect of his peers throughout his storied career.  The ORIGINAL hip-hop podcaster is widely credited as one the first media personalities to conduct interviews through the new medium when he launched his live, then archived, The Combat Jack Radio Show in 2010. Along with his co-hosts and longtime friends Dallas Penn, Premium Pete, and Just Blaze (as a DJ and commentator in the early days), the Brooklyn-born legend created a laid-back, barbershop-like environment with an open forum for the regular patrons and incoming guests to interject into conversations and launch passionate and friendly debates.

The way in which he conducted his interviews were unrivaled. Some entertainers may be cantankerous, snobbish, and dismissive towards certain interviewers. Not in Combat's studio. It spoke volumes to the amount of respect everyone had for Jack. Ironic, because of his pseudonym, his interviews were rarely contentious, but Jack always challenged his guests to be candid. His follow up commentary accentuated his questions, making for natural transitions into the rest of the conversation. The show shaped an environment where his guests could feel relaxed instead of feeling like they were in the interrogation room.

The show didn't lack the biggest names in hip-hop, culture, and entertainment: Raekwon, Bun B, DeRay Davis, J. Cole, Common, Pete Rock, Wyclef Jean, Fat Joe, Angela Rye, Jordan Peele, and many many many others were welcomed on the show. Reggie Ossé wasn't just an integral part of hip-hop history, he was at the nexus of modern Black Culture.

While I never personally met the man, Combat Jack has been a part of my life for the past several years. His death, not even 2 months after announcing he was diagnosed with colon cancer, left me shook. Disbelief would be a gross understatement. Ever since I stumbled upon his short clips with Complex, I continuously checked in to his show because of the high-quality of content. Being someone that really cares about hip-hop culture, I was intrigued by the unfiltered oral history of the beginnings of the industry. Flagrantly comedic, Jack had a goofy candor; not goofy like corny, but hilarious in his own unique, authentic way.

My affinity for Jack extends beyond the hip-hop spectrum. After graduating from college in 2014, I had plans to work within the Criminal Justice field to gain experience and eventually make the transition to law school. Certain setbacks and life adversities led me to put this 5-year plan on hold almost indefinitely... until I learned more about Jack's history prior to podcasting. Through other podcast episodes where he guested on, I learned Combat graduated from Georgetown Law School, and it was his one true passion that inspired him to pursue this degree: music. When he graduated, he finessed his way into an internship with Def Jam and worked his way up the ranks. At one point, he represented hip-hop titans like Jay-Z, Dame Dash, and N.O.R.E. After he left the legal field in the early 2000s, he remained close to the game as a blogger-turned-editor for The Source.

His life story inspired the hell out of me. He pivoted and reinvented himself when he went from Reggie J. Ossé, Esq. to Combat Jack, and did not settle for stagnant mediocrity. He made a change in his life when he felt it was necessary and flourished in his future endeavors. After hearing hours upon hours of content, he felt like a part of my extended family. The Combat Jack Show kept me company during long road trips and hellish commutes to and from work. I learned so much about the history of hip-hop from Combat, but more importantly, about life in general. Keep grinding and keep pushing forward. Change the game and INTERNETS, "it don't ever stop."

Rest in Peace, Reginald J. Ossé. He may not be here in the physical, but his legacy will live on, forever.

If you've never listened to The Combat Jack Show before, below, check out some of my favorite episodes. It's a great listen if you're a fan of hip-hop and would like to learn more about the industry. His interviews are hilarious and insightful, spanning many, wide-ranging topics.

1. Dame Dash Episode 1 (ft. Just Blaze) and Episode 2 (Both episodes are must-listens);

The exuberantly expressive Damon Dash chop it up with his old colleague in one of the most memorable interviews from the show's catalog. Dame talks about his early life as a kid in New York and shares tales about his rise to success with Jay-Z and Roc-a-Fella Records. In both episodes, he shares wisdom about how the music industry really works, calls out some people that faked the funk for a paycheck, and has a hilariously tense back and forth with Just Blaze as they hash things out about their relationship in the early 2000s. Dame's sharp intellect and business acumen are on full display in these interviews.

2. Taxstone (Listen);

Brash, unapologetic, and downright disrespectful in the funniest way possible. Taxstone, with his Tax Season podcast, was emerging as one of the most prominent voices in the industry prior to unfortunate events that transpired in 2017. A burly and gruff individual that shared his unfiltered wisdom about the trials and tribulations of street life made for a one-of-a-kind interview. But Tax wasn't bragging about his tales of growing up in New York. Rather he shared his testimonies to served as a teaching tool to kids going down a similar path. Combat's true skills as an interviewer shine in this episode as he gives space to Tax and his high-octane style and compliments it by calmly reeling him back in once it's time to move on to the next topic. Many expletives fly throughout the episode, but it's highly entertaining and insightful.

3. Stretch and Bobbito (Listen);

Hip-hop pioneers collide when the legendary radio gatekeepers Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia sit down to promote their excellent documentary, Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. Their names may sound familiar because of THE 7-minute freestyle by Big L, featuring a very young Jay-Z, which broadcasted live on their radio show in 1995. This monumental interview was important because of the shared history between these three. Every hip-hop lover will enjoy nuggets of history as the duo discuss their start as a small time radio gig that turned into one of the most influential artifacts in the commencement of hip-hop on a larger scale.

4. Bomani Jones Episode 1 (ft. Kazeem Famiyude)Episode 2, and Episode 3;

One of the most intelligent minds in the public media today, Bomani Jones sat down with Jack three times over seven years. These interviews are must-listens for aspiring journalists all over the world, each one containing a plethora of deep conversations and critical thinking about race relations, politics, and a whole host of topics. Combat is sound and poignant throughout each conversation, which sparks the fluid, lucid, and free-flowing mind that Bomani is known for. The back and forths they shared were not always about the heaviest of topics, as they diverged into plenty of jokes and music debates. Highly interesting and thought-provoking insight from the moment you press play.

5. Young Guru (ft. Rapsody) (Listen);

According to The Wall Street Journal, "hip-hop's most trusted sound engineer," Young Guru (accompanied by one of the best lyricists in the game, Rapsody), sat down with Combat Jack for a whopping 3-hour session that will keep the interest of any music fan. Guru goes into detail about his upbringings in school, which eventually led to his prolific work behind the scenes in audio construction as an engineer. He shares the story about studio sessions on Jay-Z's infamous Dynasty (Intro), Kanye West's Two Words, and Cam'ron's Welcome to New York City.

Honorable Mentions: Phonte Coleman; Vashtie; Jemele Hill & Michael Smith; Angie Martinez; Pusha T;

Listen to the whole archive here: