RISCO: You know a lot of people think black people should be defense attorneys. Why are you a prosecutor?! Oh, you're a sellout.
MARY: This is this woman I met named Risco Mention-Louis. She spent years as a prosecutor out on Long Island. She's black.
RISCO: I actually had a black woman in a jury old black woman I was smiling at her saying hello. And she whispered in my ear you you sell out you traitor. I always thought that was funny. She don’t know me! So, I don’t care what she thinks.
MARY: She's tough. When you shake her hands, it's a real handshake. And she decided to become a prosecutor specifically because she wanted to be the person in power.
RISCO: Would you rather be the person begging for power or be the person who can make the decision about power? I want to be the person who gets to weigh in.
CHRISTOPHER: Risco met Prodigy when he was just 22 years old. She was prosecuting him for violating probation.
MARY: A few years earlier, he had been arrested with a pistol in his pocket. Like you heard in our last episode, guns were starting to become a big part of Prodigy's life. He was involved in a shooting at a record label. He was sneaking guns into nightclubs.
CHRISTOPHER: For this first arrest, he was sentenced as a youthful offender. All he had to do was make time to check in once a month with his probation officer. And he did that, for a while. But then he got famous and then he stopped showing up. His probation officer put a warrant out for his arrest. And eventually, Prodigy landed in a courtroom, sitting across from Risco.
RISCO: He’s just an up and coming musician to me who could be big. OK. I mean, but that didn't mean anything to me.
MARY: This is one of her first cases in county court. While we were talking, at some point, she stared off in the middle distance.
RISCO: It’s crazy this case came back. It’s two cases...
MARY: And she kind of talked to herself… off mic.
RISCO: I was just saying that two cases in my life that I recall this one and another trial I had that were kind of pivotal in my life.
MARY: What makes you recall them both to this? Do they share anything?
RISCO: I think seeing the humanity of the defendants.
CHRISTOPHER: What Risco saw was Prodigy’s medical records: physicians notes, blood tests, the number of hospital visits. His lawyer had filed all of that with the court because he wanted to show that Prodigy had been too sick to meet with his probation officer. And when Risco got a look at these documents, it totally changed the way she saw Prodigy.
RISCO: I think as a pro - you know what it is as a prosecutor you never get to see a person's life. I read about his illness. I read about him being in pain in the hospital. I read about him writhing in pain in the bed. You know, I read about him.
MARY: In a courthouse in downtown Brooklyn, you can actually find 90 pages of Prodigy’s medical records; the same ones Risco had to sift through. They give a whole different story about what P was going through right around the time he was making some of his most iconic music.
CHRISTOPHER: Looking at these files, we got a firsthand look at the kind of care sickle cell patients get in this country. That’s not just in the criminal justice system, but in the entire healthcare system, too.
MARY: So in this episode we're going to go deep into this simple probation violation and how it ended up changing the course of Prodigy's disease. Because this case and what came after, end up revealing a lot about Prodigy and his health — how he coped and how he didn't. I’m Mary Harris.
CHRISTOPHER: And I’m Christopher Johnson. This is the Realness.
PRODIGY: You know going on tour, I didn't realize I was killin’ myself. We was touring overseas immediately with Shook Ones and all that. We would get off the plane and I'm sick. I gotta go right to the hospital, can’t even do — gotta cancel the show or Hav gotta perform by himself. I had got sick in Paris. Had to go to the hospital in Paris. I had to go you know different places overseas, and you know, I just thought it was normal.
CHRISTOPHER: September 13th 1996 —
MTV: ...rapper and actor Tupac Shakur is dead at the age of 25.
CHRISTOPHER: Tupac Shakur dies in Las Vegas after a drive by shooting.
MTV: Shakur spent the weekend in the hospital on a respirator in critical condition...
MARY: In their obituary, The New York Times called Pac a rapper who quote unquote personified violence. Tupac spent years trading insults with East Coast MCs. Biggie and Puffy mostly, but Mobb Deep too — he even made fun of P’s sickle cell with this song “Hit em up.”
CHRISTOPHER: When Tupac died Mobb Deep had just released their own track that aimed straight for Tupac’s head. This is basically a thinly veiled diss track, that’s aimed right at Tupac. They never actually say his name, but everybody knows who Mobb Deep is talking about.
MARY: When Tupac died, Mobb Deep pulled the song off the radio out of respect for Tupac’s family. And within a few days of all this, Prodigy shows up in a traffic court in Hempstead, Long Island. It's a kind of place you're usually in and out of in a day but instead, he got arrested. This is the moment that that probation violation finally caught up with him.
IRV: So I got hired to deal with the violation of probation. That was the first case I had with him.
CHRISTOPHER: Irv Cohen is a lawyer who represented Prodigy in almost all of his adult criminal cases. Starting with this one.
IRV: So we had these hearings and it keeps getting postponed.
CHRISTOPHER: Postponed because Prodigy kept getting sick.
IRV: And occasionally when he's — when we go to court my client's not. He's not there. Prodigy's not there because now he's back in the hospital again. Even during the violation proceedings, right. Well apparently this pissed off the judge.
CHRISTOPHER: And that’s where these medical records come in. The ones we found years later in that Brooklyn courthouse. Irv filed them because he wanted to prove that Prodigy was too sick to show up to his probation visits and too sick to show up for court.
MARY: Prodigy misses hearing after hearing. And if you look at those court documents, you can see just how skeptical the judge is about this whole case.
CHRISTOPHER: Actually let me just read to you from the transcript. The judge says - “You know, there has to be an end to this thing. When is that going to happen. Is it going to happen in my lifetime or your lifetime or the district attorney's lifetime?”
IRV: I actually — actually remember the assistant district attorney helping me because she was not happy with what the judge was doing.
MARY: This district attorney — the one who helped Irv? It was Risco.
RISCO: I didn't learn till after you're supposed to kind of — I don't know. Go along I guess — on probation cases? ‘Cause you know it's really probation is saying this person did wrong, and you’re supposed to do what probation asks. But um — for whatever reason, it’s just not my nature.
MARY: Now Risco was supposed to be prosecuting Prodigy. But she saw those medical records, all those hospital visits, and she felt for him. The judge didn’t.
RISCO: And the judge was saying I mean I think the thing that stuck out most to me was when he said I read the medical records. And — and so I remember reading it said um, patient’s resting comfortably. And the judge said "oh that meant he was faking before". And I said, no, it meant he was suffering before and now he's resting comfortably. He wanted me to use that as evidence that he was not in pain.
CHRISTOPHER: Prodigy’s lawyer Irv tried one more tactic. He got a doctor up on the stand to testify about sickle cell. And he asked the physician if getting locked up could actually be dangerous for someone like Prodigy.
MARY: Now the judge seems angry. He basically asks Risco to object. She remembers thinking to herself —
RISCO: If you want to object you can come down and take a pay cut — and take my job and object. Otherwise, I'm going to do my job and you do yours. But I'm hoping I didn't say it out loud.
MARY: At this point, the judge seems to be the only person involved in this case who’s actually arguing against Prodigy. Again, this is in the court transcript. The judge says quote: if the district attorney is not going to object, then I'm objecting and I'm sustaining my objection. Eventually, he ruled against Prodigy. Sentenced him to one to three years in a state prison.
RISCO: It just didn't make any sense to me except for the fact it was bias.
MARY: Later, Prodigy would call this judge the most racist judge in Nassau County.
CHRISTOPHER: Actually he calls him Archie Bunker.
MARY: But you know I asked Risco if racism is what she saw when she was in that courtroom and she shook her head.
RISCO: Maybe he just thought the kid was full crap. And let's face it he was no angel, so I can't say why the judge acted that way. I can't say it was racism. It could have just been ageism right. You know I'm old. You’re a rapper and I don't like rap.
MARY: Risco says — just think about when this trial was taking place. It got started just as Tupac was killed in Vegas. And by the time it finished, Biggie was dead too.
RISCO: Rap wasn’t exactly positive back then. You might has well have said rap-criminal, so it might not so much been about race. And more about he was a rapper — and he was young.
MARY: When the judge looked at Prodigy's medical records, he saw something really different than what Risco saw or what Prodigy's lawyer saw — any of those lawyers arguing in front of him. So I asked someone else totally to translate these documents.
DR. SMITH: ….increase pain morphine report.
MARY: So you can read them. I was like I don't think (Yeah, I can read it, mhm) you can read it (It’s scratch, but I can read it)!
MARY: His name is Dr. Wally Smith.
MARY: How long have you been treating sickle cell?
DR. SMITH: I've been taking care of sickle cell since 1984.
MARY: Dr. Smith researches sickle cell and he takes care of about 400 patients at Virginia Commonwealth University.
HARRIS: The earlier ones seem to just say walk out.
DR. SMITH: That's what that meant. Walk out couldn't read that word. Left AMA. Yeah that means he left against medical advice.
MARY: So in these records you really can see inside P’s body. He keeps getting these bone scans. scans of his clavicle, his left leg, his right arm. All of these bones are severely damaged. He has what's called Fish Mouth vertebra which is when your backbone is literally wearing away.
MARY: One doctor told me like, it’s kind of like there they're rotting.
DR. SMITH: Yes, that's a good word rotting is a very good word. Truly it is occurring in every long bone all over the body.
MARY: I asked Wally to explain just what was going on here. And he said you can think about what's going on in P’s body sort of like a heart attack, but in your bones.
DR. SMITH: It means no oxygen is getting to the bone. It's a deep ache. Myocardial ischemia is what leads to a heart attack. This could be thought of as a bone attack. It's just no pain like you've ever had before it's gnawing it's deep doesn't go away until the scheme itself goes away. That can take days up to weeks.
MARY: P was also getting something called acute chest syndrome. This is one of the worst side effects of sickle cell. It's actually one of the leading causes of death in sickle cell patients who are his age.
DR. SMITH: Acute chest is basically a crisis that occurs in the lung itself. The blood vessels of the lung essentially get sickled blood in them.
MARY: Tell me about that. If he had four instances of acute chest what does that mean?
DR. SMITH: That's a — that's a harbinger of bad things to come. Each one of those could have killed him.
CHRISTOPHER: When you listen to Prodigy's music. One of the things that P is known for is being a storyteller. And then you look at these medical records and you see his body breaking down. It's a whole other story about Prodigy that most of us don't know.
MARY: Can we talk a little bit about you know at this time ‘95, ‘96 he's early 20s —
DR. SMITH: 22, yup.
MARY: What is that time period like for someone with sickle cell?
DR. SMITH: It's hell.
MARY: You know the first time I talked to Dr. Smith he told me that one of the biggest problems with being a young adult with sickle cell, someone like Prodigy at this age, is that you’re just not cute anymore, the way you were when you were diagnosed — when you were just a baby.
DR. SMITH: They lose their insurance. They move out of the house. They're into it with their parents about their behaviors. Boy you better stop all that drinking and smoking and don't use those drugs. They stop going to the doctor. They think they're invincible. Take Sickle Cell away for a minute. This is just normal adolescence. Throw sickle cell on top of that, and it unfortunately is not uncommon for them to die.
MARY: It's not uncommon for them to die?
DR. SMITH: I'm making a statement based on facts ma'am. I've got the records and the studies to back me up.
MARY: I asked Dr. Smith to look at one last record with me.
MARY: It is A268 at the top of the page. It’s a little chicken scratchie but —
DR. SMITH: It is.
MARY: This is from right before Christmas — 1996.
DR. SMITH: Social history x smoker. Denies intravenous drug abuse. Doubt that very much. Patient is non-compliant and has no regular primary medical doctor. Comes to hospital frequently for — morphine sulfate for pain. States only morphine sulfate helps.
MARY: So when you see these kind of comments (Uhuh!) what do you think about that -
DR. SMITH: Prejudice! (That’s a strong —) It’s prejudice. It’s prejudice. Let's analyze that that term "non-compliant". That's a pejorative term. We don't use that term anymore. It implies that you made a rule, and that they broke the rule. Another pejorative statement insisted only morphine sulfate helps. Well most patients have been experienced enough with their pain to know what works for them and maybe even what dose works for them. It doesn't help that he's a young black man. It doesn't help that he doesn't have a doctor who knows him and can vouch for him. And it probably is true that he is defiant and oppositional when he comes to the hospital because he's expected that he's going to be treated badly. And so it's just you know nobody's trusting anybody. That's what I read into all of this. If I'm wrong I'm sorry, but that's what I read into it.
MARY: Do you remember how the case ended?
RISCO: Yes, I do ‘cause it was quite hilarious ...
MARY: After the judge found Prodigy guilty. Risco has this picture in her mind of Prodigy’s lawyer rushing out, like he’s in a courtroom drama.
RISCO: And it might not have happened this quickly — but it seemed to me that when the judge ruled against him — then the defense attorney was going to appeal — and it seemed like he went into the hallway and made a phone call. And he asked me if I would get on the phone and tell the truth — and of course I try to always do that. I thought that he won the appeal, but I’m not sure. He certainly should have.
MARY: Prodigy did win his appeal. His sentence was overturned. He only spent about a week in jail. But this short case changed the way Risco saw her job. Eventually, she stopped working as a prosecutor. She’s still in law enforcement. She works as a deputy police commissioner. But she focuses most of her time on mentoring men who’ve just been released from prison, not arresting people.
MARY: Do you feel like you’ve seen the system change as you’ve worked in it?
RISCO: I’m not sure — you know, I’m not really sure. I think that it’s — I think we’re trying to change it.
MARY: Even though she didn’t want to call this judge a racist, she did think his ruling was tied up in race. She told me “we’re just 45 years” out from what she called “apartheid in this country.” She thinks we’ve come a long way. Just not far enough.
MARY: Do you think that case could just as easily happen today?
RISCO: It does. It does — every day someplace. It’s just the way it is. Unless you have people who are willing to do justice — no matter the consequence to themselves
MARY: For Prodigy, this case was like a blip. It doesn’t even take up a single page in his autobiography. But in one way, it did change his life. Because that doctor who testified about his sickle cell — ended up becoming his personal physician. And Prodigy started going to one of the world’s best sickle cell centers — up in the Bronx.
CHRISTOPHER: And two decades later, the people who took care of Prodigy, still remember him.
CHRISTOPHER: On Prodigy’s first solo album, HNIC, he’s got what is — as far as I know anyway — the only song that he ever wrote that’s explicitly about his life with sickle cell anemia.
MARY: A lot of Prodigy’s tracks talk about violence, but this track, it’s called “You Can Never Feel my Pain”. It’s intense in a different way.
MARY: Prodigy seems angry at just about everyone. Including the doctors and nurses all around him.
CHRISTOPHER: He’s talking about showing up at the hospital, needing medication for his pain, and having to prove how sick he is.
PRODIGY: (And doctors called the cops on me 'cause I be throwing IV poles, and they ignore me…)
MARY: And it was one of his last lines… “ doctors called the cops on me / Cause I be throwing IV poles and they ignore me”.... That really got me thinking about Prodigy’s life as a patient.
GREG : I mean and there was one time, cops came in and cuffed him I think — I can’t remember — because he was erratic! And he was going berserk, and he was throwing things, because he needed morphine.
CHRISTOPHER: Prodigy's brother, Greg Collins, took him on some of those hospital visits, so a lot of what Prodigy rhymes about in this song, Greg actually got to see it firsthand and it was painful for him to watch.
GREG: That was, man, you talk about tough. And we sat and we’ve laughed about things, how he scared the bejesus out of people, scared the nurses, scared — oh my gosh, man — just scaring people. And — and, you know they didn’t want to get near him. They didn’t want to help him. It was ugly. It was like dealing with a monster.
CHRISTOPHER: But there was a place where Greg said — that doctors and nurses saw his brother differently. They knew him. It was at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.
CASSANDRA: So I did know of him, but I didn't know who he was. Like I'm not a rap star admirer.
CHRISTOPHER: Cassandra Dobson is a nurse who treated Prodigy.
CASSANDRA: He even gave me a CD to give to my daughter, and so when I gave it to my daughter she’s like you know Prodigy?! I said, who is Prodigy? She’s like what is wrong with him? Why is he in the hospital? And I never told her, you know, confidentiality. She says does he have sickle cell? And I said, I don’t know. I cannot discuss that with you.
CHRISTOPHER: Prodigy was sent to Montefiore in the middle of that probation violation trial. This was one of just ten comprehensive care centers for sickle cell anemia in the country. And all of them, were funded by the National Institutes of Health.
MARY: These centers were established when Nixon signed the Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act back in 1972. And Cassandra, she worked at this hospital for years. She ended up really liking Prodigy. Just, not the first time they met.
CASSANDRA: He was so angry. I will never forget that. He literally took a table. You know the nightstand the patient nightstand and just threw it at the door towards the physician and myself. And I went “Oh no you're not going to do that. I said What is the problem. He was carrying on, “You don’t know what it’s like, I have sickle cell disease, and everyone wants to f me up! And I said,” I realize you maybe in some pain, but this — this is not how you show pain.”
MARY: Did it help that you also have sickle cell disease?
CASSANDRA: That's one thing I told him.
CHRISTOPHER: Cassandra herself was diagnosed with sickle cell disease when she was 9 years old.
CASSANDRA: And I said, ‘Do you know I have sickle cell disease’. He says, “No. What type do you have”. I said, ‘Well I have the worst kind”. I said, “I think I'm the same as you, you know, but you don't see me carrying on like that’.
MARY: This story, about Prodigy throwing a table across the room, Cassandra seems to have almost expected this kind of behavior from her sickle cell patients.
CASSANDRA: Some patients because they don't get the attention that they need from the healthcare workers, will carry on in a manner that is not conducive for a normal person. So they will have this temper tantrum like a two year old. They'll have a temper tantrum because I want what I want when I want it. And you're not giving it to me. And this is what I want, and that's what he was going through.
MARY: Cassandra said to understand what it was like when Prodigy came to this center I should talk to one more person. Dr. Larry Cytryn. He treated Prodigy, too.
MARY: Can we talk about Prodigy a little bit? What was your relationship with him?
DR. CYTRYN: Well there's two things about this. First of all I guess if he's not alive there's no issue of confidentiality that I don't really know that. So I should probably check that before I talk much about him. I will tell you that you know our kids knew who he was. I mean apart from me, they knew as music and yeah. You know one thought I had although I'm going to do something which is probably not prudent, which is continue to talk. You know I don't even know how how do I know you are who you say you are and the purposes of the conversation so I'm trying to make sure that whatever I say —
MARY: Oh sure I can —
DR. CYTRYN: — where I can can go anywhere under any circumstance -
MARY: Google Mary Harris WNYC. If you're in front of a computer.
DR. CYTRYN: I did.
MARY: And you see me right?
DR. CYTRYN: Well I see you on the computer, but I can also Google you know Santa Clause.
MARY: Dr. Cytryn didn’t really want to talk about Prodigy. But this sickle cell center — that he would talk about. He spoke about it almost wistfully.
DR. CYTRYN: It was like a little day hospital there would be six beds there would be nurses and nurse practitioners and they would be at least one physician available on call or physically available usually.
MARY: What Dr. Cytryn is calling a day hospital day was what’s known as an infusion room — a place sickle cell patients could get intravenous medication.
DR. CYTRYN: It was from about 8:00 in the morning or 9:00 in the morning until about 4:00 in the afternoon or 5:00 in the afternoon.
MARY: If a sickle cell patient was in pain they could just call up the center —
DR. CYTRYN: — and leave a voicemail message. And the first six people who called would have a bed. They would be called back first thing when the center opened. And they would be told your bed is ready. Come on in. And it would be a first call first serve basis.
CHRISTOPHER: This clinic solved a problem that all sickle cell patients have: what do you do when you’re in terrible pain? You’ve taken your pain pills, but you still aren’t getting any relief.
MARY: Prodigy had gotten used to going to the ER, but doctors and nurses in the emergency room weren’t necessarily sure what to do with a sickle cell patient. You could see it in those medical records that were filed in court. He saw a new doctor every time they struggled to know how to treat him. The people here knew just what to do.
DR. CYTRYN: And so at the end of the shift, which is about eight hours, they could leave without having had to go to the emergency room where pain control is much more difficult to accomplish.
MARY: And the patients like this. But here’s the thing: going to the ER all the time, it’s also really expensive. The lifetime cost of treating the average sickle cell patient is nearly half a million dollars. Mostly because of all that time in the hospital. And at the sickle cell clinic, patients could avoid all that.
DR. CYTRYN: The patients and the staff all of us had very direct personal relationships with the people we were taking care of. They knew us; we knew them. It was pretty personal.
MARY: I mean the one story I heard was that there was a moment where you talked to Prodigy about his opioid use.
DR. CYTRYN: I talked to most of my patients about it. Yeah he was tough. He — well, yeah I did what I said I wouldn’t do which was to talk about him, but okay sure. He was true to himself. Whatever he said he believed. Whatever he said that he would or wouldn’t do. Whatever I might have suggested that he should do or shouldn't do that he didn't agree with, — he was willing to take the consequences and he would do it. I don't know with a smile on his face exactly, but he would do it with a clean conscience has a strong heart.
MARY: Dr. Cytryn’s got a lot of patients. But clearly Prodigy had an impact on him.
DR. CYTRYN: I should probably stop that. Yeah yeah. It's just that I think that's the simplest way to put it is he walked the walk. He’s a very smart person too.
MARY: Yeah that's what everyone says everyone’s like, “He was like deep.”
DR. CYTRYN: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER: Despite all the good this place did for sickle cell patients, in 2008, the NIH withdrew funding for this center — and all of its centers around the country. Dr. Cytryn was there when the funding got cut.
DR. CYTRYN: I tend to be willfully naive or out of the loop. So I didn't know it was coming to an end although I think that knowledge probably was available. And I think when it became sort of public to our patients, it was a couple of months before it actually closed.
MARY: There was still a clinic. But a lot of the time it was just one doctor seeing patients — no social workers. No nurse practitioners. No infusion room.
DR. CYTRYN: And it was moved to a location that was kind of like hiding a book in a library. It moved to a location where numerous other outpatient services were seeing patients at the same time.
MARY: When I called up sickle cell specialists all over the country to talk to them about these centers and why they closed, they spoke about this decision in a way I just wasn’t used to hearing doctors talk. They were frustrated. One doctor at Johns Hopkins said, “holy cow, what a dumb idea.”
MARY: When you came here how many people were working on sickle cell.
DR. MINNITI: I was the director of myself .
MARY: Dr. Caterina Minniti is in charge of the sickle cell program at Montefiore now. She’s been trying to build the clinic back up over the last few years.
DR. MINNITI: And I have to tell you that my patients here the one that remember they still beg me and they say Dr. Minniti why don't we have the infusion room?
MARY: So you still have patients who talk about —
DR. MINNITI: Oh I do! I do! I really do, yes, I do have patients that I still remember vividly the infusion room.
MARY: What was it about that place that makes them like keep asking for it to come back?
DR. MINNITI: First of all it was immediate access to care. Secondly was the sense of home. They would not be judged or mistreated or considered addict.
MARY: Dr. Minniti says the NIH defunded these centers because it wanted to research better treatments for sickle cell — even a cure.
DR. MINNITI: But, you cannot do research without care. That's what is fundamental to understand.
MARY: A decade after these centers closed, here's where things stand: according to the most recent data we have, the median age of death for adults with sickle cell hasn’t changed for four decades. Men die around age 41. Women die a couple of years later. Doctors can’t be sure, but they think it’s because comprehensive care is so hard to find.
CHRISTOPHER: Cassandra Dobson, that nurse who once treated Prodigy, she remembers seeing him one last time. She says he just collapsed onstage during a show.
CASSANDRA: — And I even remember saying to him why don't you develop an organization where you are the manager and you get other people that don't have sickle cell to sing? You don't have to sing because you're going to get dehydrated; you're going to be sweating like a horse. You're going to be trying to run around those stage singing and you're going to collapse. I remember saying that to him because you're going to become so dehydrated.
MARY: So you were worried about his health when he was touring.
CASSANDRA: Oh definitely! Definitely!
MARY: ‘Cause I know that he was on tour like hundreds of days a year recently.
CASSANDRA: Yes. And that's one thing you cannot do when you have sickle cell. He said that he loved what he was doing. He did say that he loved music he loved rapping and sending a message to the world. — I think the message could have been send on a different platform you know without you trying to kill yourself.
MARY: So you worried about him dying young.
CASSANDRA: It really — I was so hurt when I heard that he died. I literally had to stop just pray and cried because he was in his 40s.
MARY: Is that young?
CASSANDRA: It's for now for sickle cell patients. It should not have happened.
MARY: When Prodigy died, all of Cassandra’s concerns came true, but that’s not where our story ends. Not yet, because in 2008 just as all the centers were closing, changing the lives of countless sickle cell patients, that same year Prodigy's life was also turned upside down.
CHRISTOPHER: Next time on The Realness: Prodigy's up north trip.
CHRISTOPHER: The Realness is a production of WNYC Studios - hosted by me, Christopher Johnson, and Mary Harris.
MARY: Our editor is Christopher Werth. We had help from Consulting Producer Kathy Iandoli and Associate Producer Eryn Mathewson. Celia Muller makes sure we’re legally in the right. And Michelle Harris is our fact checker.
CHRISTOPHER: Jared Paul is our engineer, Cayce Means is our technical director. Our team includes Merritt Jacob, Amanda Aronczyk, and Audrey Quinn along with Steven Reneau, Kaitlin Sullivan, Arianna Jones, and Nikki Galteland.
CHRISTOPHER: WNYC’s VP of News is Jim Schachter.
MARY: Trumpeter Christian Scott wrote our beautiful theme song, and composed a lot of the music in this series.
CHRISTOPHER: Additional music by Melanie Hsu.
MARY: Thanks to Pandora for sharing audio of Questlove Supreme. A heads up from them: you can stream their “Sounds Like You” concert online; that performance included a rendition of Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Part 2” by Nas. It was recorded just a few weeks after Prodigy died.
CHRISTOPHER: We also want to show love to Prodigy’s friends and family who gave us their time, welcomed us into their homes, and shared their memories of a man they treasure.
WNYC’s health coverage and The Realness is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Jane and Gerald Katcher and the Katcher Family Foundation, Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.