Dee-1 dug into his own family history when he was approached by Tha Hip Hop Doc Rani Whitfield, M.D., to collaborate on a song and music video supporting the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's World Stroke Day campaign. Dee-1 agreed to help because he knew stroke was prevalent in the community and among African Americans in particular, but didn't know it would hit so close to home.
"Once I learned my aunt passed away from stroke, I thought of this project in a whole different light," said the former teacher from New Orleans who is one of hip hop's rising stars. "I'm one of the people who needs to be aware of the stroke warning signs. It's already happened to someone in my family and you just never know."
In addition to supporting World Stroke Day, recognized on Oct. 29, the "F.A.S.T. Song" is part of the American Stroke Association's ongoing stroke warning signs campaign promoting the acronym F.A.S.T. If someone spots (F)ace drooping, (A)rm weakness, or (S)peech difficulty, it's (T)ime to call 911.
Stroke is the No. 5 leading cause of death in the U.S. – No. 2 in the world – but one in three Americans can't name any stroke signs, according to American Stroke Association studies.
"People generally know that stroke is serious and that strokes kill, but they don't know how to address the warning signs when they occur," said Whitfield, a family practitioner in Baton Rouge, La., and American Stroke Association volunteer. "I have patients who took a nap when their stroke symptoms came on, hoping that whatever was happening would go away. That's the wrong thing to do."
Doctors have effective therapies to treat stroke, but there is a short window for the patient to be evaluated at a hospital and receive treatment like a clot-busting drug or clot-removal device. Recognizing the signs and calling 911 immediately is the key, say experts.
"This campaign is a great way to teach not only the warning signs, but potentially save someone's life," Whitfield said. "People will listen to this song because Dee-1 is involved and because it's a good song."
Collaborating with Whitfield for the American Stroke Association was an easy choice for Dee-1, who is committed to sharing important and respectful messages through hip-hop.
"If people hear a message, positive or negative, presented to them in musical form, they are far more likely to have it stick in their heads and incorporate it into their lifestyles," he said. "Hip-hop is a platform where my words and my energy affect people's lives. I have to make my music and my message positive because I want to make a positive impact while I'm down here on earth."
The American Stroke Association's World Stroke Day campaign is part of its Together to End Stroke initiative nationally sponsored by Medtronic. Together to End Stroke teaches Americans that stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable.
The hip hop F.A.S.T. Song was produced by Reggie Nic. The music video was produced by tommysTV. Visit StrokeAssociation.org/WorldStrokeDay to see the video and learn more.
Jayme Sandberg, (214) 706-2169, Jayme.Sandberg@heart.org