This week in 1996, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins of TLC announced that she has sickle cell anemia, an extremely painful and ultimately fatal inherited blood disease that primarily affects people of African descent and, to a lesser extent, those of Mediterranean origin.
From her home in Atlanta, T-Boz told MTV News she learned she had sickle cell anemia as a child, and said, "When I was born, my mother didn't know what I had. I was told I could never play outside, never dance extra hard."
One in 400 African-Americans is believed to carry the sickle cell gene, which causes red blood cells to distort into a crescent-like shape and become stuck in capillaries. This cuts off blood flow to bones, organs and other bodily tissues.
"The older I get, the worse it gets," T-Boz said. "When I'm touring I get sick a lot and have to go to the hospital. All I can do is keep praying and stay positive."
The singer said she went public about her illness to crush Internet rumors that she had AIDS, and because "I feel bad for all those mothers whose babies cry constantly and they don't know what's wrong."
T-Boz followed in the footsteps of Bill Cosby and Danny Glover and became a celebrity spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. She was the association's youngest spokesperson ever, and was the first to actually carry the disease.
In much happier news, the '80s hit machine New Edition staged a comeback reunion at the top of the Billboard chart. The group's album re-teamed Bell Biv Devoe and Ralph Tresvant with both Bobby Brown and the man who replaced him in the lineup in 1987, Johnny Gill. While Brown was sidelined with a leg injury the day MTV News dropped in to talk to the group, the rest of the guys seemed pretty happy to be back.
"We had the intentions, every intention on coming back together as New Edition," Johnny Gill said. "But we didn't know [our solo] projects were gonna do as well as they did. Once those projects wound down we got back together and said, 'It's time to get it on.' "
"We might not be getting played as much on the radio as the next artist, but we look over on the sales chart and we're number one, that's the bottom line," Ricky Bell said. "That's what it all boils down to."
And if the members of New Edition had their way, this wouldn't be the last time we'd be hearing about them.
"We wanna be mentioned along with the names like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson," Ronnie Devoe said. "Until we're mentioned in the same sentence with some of the people like that then our job is not done — we're still striving."
Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard took on a second alter ego this week in 1996. Born Russell Jones, ODB proclaimed himself "Osiris," an homage to both the Egyptian god of fertility and a character in the cult movie "The Warriors" named Cyrus who was shot while attempting to bring feuding gangs together. The Egyptian Osiris was also noted for his annual death and resurrection, a cycle similar, perhaps, to the one ODB had been experiencing with his release from Rikers Island prison about three weeks before, following a stint for probation violation.
Within a couple of weeks of his release, the many-monikered MC decided to disrupt a Roots concert in New York, where he shared his feelings on imprisonment with the audience.
"I got locked the f--- up," Dirty announced from the stage. "I went to what we call high impact. I went to high impact and the motherf---ers told me, 'Dirty, you got a year to do.' N---a told me I got a year to do, Dirt Dog do a year. If Dirt Dog do a year, then who the f--- gonna please y'all here?"
(In July 2001, Ol' Dirty Bastard was sentenced to serve two to four years in prison for possession of 20 vials of crack cocaine, discovered when police pulled the rapper over in Queens, New York, in July 1999.)
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