Compound: Tell me a little about yourself, your background, and what you are passionate about?
Stic: I'm an ambassador of hip hop and healthy living, as well as the co-founder and creative director of RBG FIT CLUB brand and holistic lifestyle movement. I'm a father and husband, hip hop artist and producer, certified long-distance running coach, and an author. I'm also a certified archery instructor.
I feel like I'm passionate about damn near everything!
I'm a voracious reader, with all sorts of hobby interests from boxing to psychology to architecture to jazz to nature to sketching to vintage fonts to marketing and graphic design to making t-shirts to forest bathing to collecting Buddha statues to archery to joy riding scooters. I'm passionate about Japanese cultural philosophy and ancient Egyptian spiritual concepts and Taoism and Buddhist wisdom. I've studied and practiced several martial arts over the years. I'm deeply in love with my family. I'm a mindfulness enthusiast and always enjoy being an open-minded student of Life, doing my best to practice holistic wellbeing.
C: What does radical empathy mean to you or how would you define it?
S: Radical empathy is such a powerful term. The laws that allow medical marijuana are an example of radical empathy for people suffering from chronic pain. Radical empathy is Colin Kaepernick's sacrifice of his football career to inspire urgency around police killings of innocent Black people. Radical empathy is Nipsey Hussle's commitment to elevating his hood along with his success.
In my heart and mind, it is a sense of interconnectedness that is transformative. To empathize, you identify with and relate to and feel what someone else is going through. Even more, radical empathy is being compelled to help. It's a kind of empathy that is expressed as more than just a feeling but as a call to action or even activism. My mom exemplifies radical empathy for me. She always said God is love, and love is her religion, and she was about that life for real. She was always giving and forgiving and opening up our home to strangers, supporting abused women and anyone in need. She is an uplifter, a champion of the underdog. Treating people with respect and dignity, and being there for others was how she inspired me to value radical empathy.
C: We have always admired your socially conscious hip hop art and your passion for wellness. How do you incorporate both of those worlds in your daily life?
S: For me, the natural bridge between hip hop and healthy living is Fit Hop. Fit Hop music is the soundtrack of my lifestyle. I wake up, pop in my earbuds, cue up my latest album, Workout II on TIDAL, and go for my daily morning run. Yes, I work out to my music, damn near every day; I believe that using hip hop as a vehicle to inspire holistic health is a positive form of activism. I’ve seen in my own life how wellness practices have been revolutionary in transforming my outlook and empowering my experience of life.
Just being myself, continuing to evolve and grow, and creating my art to reflect that and sharing my lifestyle has become a powerful way to contribute to others. As a youth, I used my rage and frustration to fuel my music/activism, but as I’ve matured, I am more mindful of creating art that can inspire in a more holistically empowering manner. The big “aha” pivot for me has been learning to use my creative skill-sets to focus on what I’m for, instead of channeling all that energy on what I’m against. As an artist, I don’t want my legacy to be that I was good at rap propagandizing our traumas as a community; I want to leave a legacy of inspiring transformation.
C: 2020 has definitely showed up on many levels with the pandemic, the continual murders from police brutality, political rage, and environmental catastrophes with wildfires. What is your take on all of this and how do you personally manage your peace of mind?
S: My heart goes out to everyone who has been experiencing the brunt of all this. It’s been so real for so many. My homey M1 mother passed during these recent times. It’s been a very destabilizing period for so many around the globe. But there is also much opportunity for growth in crisis.
The slower pace of life and humbling and sobering circumstances have been a blessing in many ways as well. Meditation helps anchor my perspective in peace. It’s so ironic that just sitting and breathing can have such an empowering impact on how we respond to the challenges we face.
The breath itself is such a great reminder that we are here to take it all in and then let it all go. I’m so grateful that I have had resilient wellness practices like meditation and running and Qi gong and fasting in my life to fall back on during these challenging times. I’m also blessed to have an amazing holistic nutritionist wife who is such a positive, resourceful, brave, and frugal mastermind and who has made these times not only more bearable but more pleasurable. We’ve been adapting and thriving as family and business teams. They say the shade trees we enjoy in the heat of today’s sun result from soil toiled and seeds planted and nourished years ago. Though on a world scale, there has been significant loss, in other ways, it also feels like an abundant harvest.
C: What are you currently working on in your career or in your personal life?
S: I am happy to be working on some creative, collaborative projects with the brands Lululemon, Allbirds, and Jaybird, and I’m also working on a new book about my health journey with my literary agency. Finally, I’m executive producing fellow fit hop artist Coach NYM’s next album.
I’m always striving to be more mindful of work-life balance. Finding time to spend with my wife and sons and loved ones while also being hands-on with multiple entrepreneurial and creative endeavors is an artful challenge.
I work a lot from home, but since the schools are virtual now and my youngest son is in kindergarten, it’s been a challenge to be as productive as I’d like. But it’s also great to have more time with him. I’m just grateful and navigating and flowing as best as I can. Whatever comes, responding with ease and grace is the intention.
C: I’ve been listening to dead prez’s “Let’s Get Free” since it came out 20 years ago. It’s amazing to listen to now because it foreshadows what we are all experiencing today. When you reflect on it, did you know that these conditions would be so relevant in 2020?
S: I guess inside I hoped our album wouldn’t be relevant this long, but it is. So it’s bittersweet that our significance and value as a brand to the culture is even more powerful, but it’s based in part on continued suffering and injustice as a society. If we have prophetic powers then I’m hoping soon health and wellness will be an everyday fact of our lives instead of a maverick vision shared by the few.
C: What is your daily wellness routine and how do you define wellness?
S: "Sweat Daily, Stay Humble" is the motto. I live by the RBG FIT CLUB code of the five principles, which essentially means I'm intentional about living a proactive, preventative-health lifestyle. Morning runs are my religion. I stay close to nature, meditate often, do calisthenics challenges, eat plant-based food, fast seasonally, drink water—simple things like that. I define wellness as holistic health. That means not only diet and exercise but also resting, positive thinking, nurturing relationships, financial wisdom, mindfulness, and all aspects of living. And staying suckafree of negative vibes.
C: How would you describe your level of hope for the future?
S: My optimism is on a hundred thousand million watts of we are going to make it, we are going to be alright, and we will thrive. And we are going to have setbacks, disappointments, heartaches, breaks, and challenges. It’s the stuff of life. My optimism comes from knowing that resiliency embraces the UPS and the DOWNS and finds a way forward always.
C: Do you have any stories that you can share in which you had radical empathy and compassion?
S: My life and career are expressions of the radical empathy I feel for the human condition. The music I write and produce, my entrepreneurial pursuits, and the lifestyle I live are all inspired by compassion for what we are facing as a community. I strive to make a difference and to impact people’s perspectives in a way that empowers others.
I like to celebrate my birthdays by making soup for the homeless or otherwise being a blessing to others. I pay it forward to honor the values my mom instilled in me as a youth. But I can and want to do more and be more effective. Bryan Stevenson’s work with the Equal Justice Initiative has inspired me. I’ve recently begun helping kids that have been separated from their incarcerated parents to get more visitations. There is so much work that can be done; it’s just about continuing to make space to do it.
Another example of radical empathy is intentionally healing and coming into a healthy relationship with my pops. Empathizing with him as a Black man, as a dad, as a human being, and what he has had to go through has helped me overcome the resentment, anger, and frustrations I was holding. I’ve been taking steps to create the kind of relationship I always wished we had and resented we didn’t. I stopped waiting on him to be the way I wanted him to be, and I started treating him the way I wanted our relationship to be. Our relationship has healed and grown a lot since I made that decision many years ago. So many times, we judge and hold grudges against our parents for what we perceive as their shortcomings, but radical empathy allows us to see them as human beings doing the best they can at their level of consciousness. It’s realizing that it’s not always personal, and extending the olive branch with good intentions can heal deep wounds because love is radically powerful like that.
C: We know you and your wife are passionate about conscious food. What would you recommend for people trying to get on the right track with their eating habits?
S: My wife makes healthy lifestyle choices relatable and culturally fresh. She is an excellent guide and a super down-to-earth nutritional educator. One of my favorite quotes of hers is: “I believe in the body’s ability to heal itself if given the proper tools.” For anyone who wants to eat better and feel better, cooking healthier meals at home is a great place to start. Eating well is about balance and enjoying real food, mostly plants, in sensible moderation and listening and adapting to the body’s changing needs without getting stuck in any one dietary dogma.
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