As we recognize Black History Month and reflect on this year’s theme of “Black Health and Wellness,” we honor the incredible legacy of Shaun Shiller Fequiere—known to fans as the Kangol Kid.

You probably know Kangol Kid from his recognizable hat and legendary contributions to the early hip hop scene. But this pioneering songwriter, producer, performer, and businessman made an impact far beyond the music world. This history-making rapper was also a leading advocate for more health screenings and preventative care in the Black community and a devoted dad to his four children: sons, T. Shaun, AJ, and Giovanni, and daughter, Amancia. Tragically, Fequiere passed away on December 18, 2021, at the age of 55, after less than a year of battling colon cancer. However, the influence that he had on his family and his community made him a true star.

Kangol Kid was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1966 to Haitian parents. In the 1980’s he rose to fame with old-school hip hop group UTFO, which became known for their hit single, “Roxanne, Roxanne,” a song that spawned hip-hop rivalries and several response songs from other famous artists.

After losing his manager’s mother to breast cancer, Fequiere became an advocate and fundraiser for breast cancer research through the Mama Luke Foundation. He organized and participated in events throughout the country to raise money for research to fight breast cancer. And in 2012, Fequiere became the first rapper to be honored by the American Cancer Society.

Ironically, less than a decade later, in early 2021, Fequiere was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. Fequiere knew that silence in the face of adversity is a deadly tradition that is oftentimes passed from one generation of Black men to the next, but he fought to change that as hard as he fought his own diagnosis. Fequiere used his fame to call for more preventative measures to be taken in his community against colon cancer, which disproportionately impacts African Americans and often appears without any symptoms.

Kangol Kid talked openly about the symptoms that led him to seek treatment, frequently sharing updates about his battle on Instagram and photos from his hospital bed in the hopes that his experience could help save others’ lives. He also told his sons to get checked regularly and urged his fans to do the same. “The new look for hip hop and cancer is to go get yourself checked out before it happens,” Fequiere told the Colorectal Cancer Alliance before his death.

All people should begin screening for colon cancer at the age of 45. If you have a family history of colon cancer or are experiencing symptoms yourself, do not be afraid to seek treatment. Fequiere told New York TV station Pix11 in March 2021 when he was recovering from surgery, “One of the things you think of immediately is family. That’s the first place your head goes. I have a 5-year-old little girl. I have three grown men, you know, boys, but my 5-year-old is the one that made me say I gotta go take care of this.”

To read about other prominent figures in the Black community who have made a difference for healthcare in America, visit our Black History Month page.