Jay Z and Beyonce: Vegan Power or Celebrity Hype?

With all the poppin' Molly references, sippin' syrup advocacy, swimming in pools of alcohol advertising, and chronic weed abuse promotion that hip hop has become the modern day vehicle for, it's refreshing to see health addressed positively from icons of Jay Z and Beyonce's status.
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It was squat day today at the gym and my strength trainer, Scott Shetler, always provides me with various types of motivation to help me push through our intense workouts. Just as I was getting warmed up to step into the cage and turn up for ten sets of squats, he shows me this article about Jay Z and Beyonce partaking in a three week vegan challenge.

As I read through, we discussed what a good thing this was, but Scott pointed out how there were so many haters and vegan purists chiming in on the comments, as well as the negativity that they were spewing about the article. People were questioning the authenticity of Jay and B's choice to go plant-based like it was some big Illuminati ploy to undermine the true vegan agenda.

We both felt that those notions were ridiculous, of course, but also symptoms of much deeper issues. Haters just can't recognize a good thing.

As a fellow hip hop artist, who is currently vegan, I can totally relate and resonate to his choice to try it out and see how it works for him and his family. With all the poppin' Molly references, sippin' syrup advocacy, swimming in pools of alcohol advertising, and chronic weed abuse promotion that hip hop has become the modern day vehicle for, it's refreshing to see health addressed positively from icons of Jay Z and Beyonce's status in the game. Jay is an uber relevant hip hop artist and yet also a maturing man in his forties who even his critics can't deny has made successful decisions that have catapulted him to a position of great influence in popular culture -- not just in hip hop, but in many sectors of entertainment, business, and lifestyle. Jay has been a trendsetter, a leader, and a pioneering force in pushing the presentation, perception, prestige, and power of hip hop to unprecedented levels of achievement; and Beyonce just as much so in her phenomenal career.

With all of the hip hop artists and entertainers who have died from health related illnesses you would think that there would be a greater show of appreciation -- if for nothing else that two members of our community are striving for healthier lifestyles and that in itself is good because it's good for them. It's also good to get a break from the same old negative news that we hear about so much these days from the effects of the lifestyles of the rich and famous and unhealthy. But also, it is even that much more meaningful because they chose to share their journey via social media, which in this day and age has the potential to encourage millions and millions of people to perhaps dig into this notion of how beneficial plant-based eating is and maybe encourage many to research and see if it could be of benefit to them.

When Jay Z said "change clothes," sports jerseys went out out of style and button downs came in. When Beyonce sang her lyric "let me upgrade ya," it cleverly coined the concept of being an asset and contributor to your partner's development and success in a relationship. I know the power of the partner upgrade from my own experience. My wife is a nutritionist and holistic health counselor and was instrumental in my healing and shift to healthier living. It's so important and powerful to have that unified spousal support for positive lifestyle changes and to help one another sustain those changes. I think their support for the vegan lifestyle is highly commendable and necessary. And it matters.

It should be no secret that I'm a huge fan of both Beyonce and Jay. We have worked together on the Dead Prez song "Hell Yeah" and have shared the same circles in many regards for years but I, like I'm sure millions of other people, admire Jay even more today for his leadership as a man of family, marriage, and fatherhood; and how he has literally laid a blueprint for the success of a maturing hip hop artist.

Now, I'm certainly no advocate for Jay's alcohol promoting ventures, to keep it all the way 100, nor am I trying to overlook anything that critics may find contradictory. No one is perfect in the eyes of another. There are enough people standing in line to point out others' faults and contradictions. I got my own to keep track of. But I just feel that when a person takes a step in a positive direction to improve their health, that it is worthy of supporting and celebrating; later for the haters.

Hip hop is a global phenomenon with the power to literally move the masses of people. So many of the negative aspects of the culture get put on blast and so, in instances like these, it is an opportunity to appreciate the positivity that hip hop is capable of in the right hands with the right messages. This is why I created what I call the first ever "fit-hop" album, The Workout, which fuses veganism and hardcore fitness training with authentic hip hop lyricism and hard core beats into one seamless lifestyle. I think that the notion of hip hop equating to degenerative lifestyles of poor health, drug abuse, and early deaths has gone way too far. My album The Workout is just another example of how hip hop can respond positively to the health crisis in the U.S., as well as around the world, and help influence a healthy shift towards practical, proactive solutions in the lives of everyday people.

According to holistic nutritionist and vegan Afya Ibomu (who just happens to be my wife), "Eating a well balanced plant based diet decreases the risks of cancer, obesity and heart disease, saves animals from unnecessary mistreatment and slaughter and decreases the harmful effects that the meat industry's air and water pollution has on the environment."

I recently shared my story of transformation from being a young hip hop artist with a poor diet and self destructive lifestyle suffering from gout in my leg to a plant-based martial artist, runner, and fitness enthusiast; and how the healthy shift re-inspired my commitment to hip hop, in my trainer Scott's book Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness.

Scott is a vegan himself, a former kettlebell sport and powerlifting competitor, a student of qigong and Taijiquan, and a trainer to many elite athletes; and he offered these comments on why veganism is gaining more and more popularity.

"I think one of the reasons we are seeing such a 'boom' in the popularity of plant-based diets is due to the fact that many of the myths associated with them, such as: you cannot be strong, build muscle, perform well athletically, be healthy, etc. have been completely debunked. The stories featured in my recent book, "Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness" are firsthand accounts of the benefits of plant-based nutrition from 78-year old Ironman competitor and cancer survivor Dr. Ruth Heidrich (who was also featured in the book "Born to Run" and on the documentary Forks Over Knives); top UFC MMA fighter and Season 6 Ultimate Fighter Champion Mac Danzig; "the Plant-Based Dietitian" Julieanna Hever; vegan strength coaches Sabina Skala and Mike Mahler; and many others. 100% of book sales go to benefit Mercy For Animals, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies."

It goes without saying that Jay Z and Beyonce are two powerhouses of pop culture. Their embrace of the vegan lifestyle, whether for a trial period or a lifetime, is a positive step not only for their own lives but for all those who their actions impact and influence. In the article about the power couple's vegan shift, Jay asked for assistance from any pro-vegans, so I'm putting together a care package with a copy of plant-based performance, The Workout, and my wife's book The Vegan Soulfood Guide to the Galaxy.

My homies have teased me with the nickname 'Jehovah's Fitness' because of how much I knock on metaphorical doors about the good news of health! But Hova himself, getting down with vegan power; with the celebrity hype to spread the wealth of health? Now that's the New Gangsta!

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