“Sickle cell is like an enemy that never left.” – Tae Money’s “SickleCell Strong.”
Seventeen-year-old Ja’Vionte “Tae Money” Allen draws inspiration from his personal battle with sickle cell disease in his lyrics, but much of his drive to pursue a career as a rap artist comes from encouragement from his nurses at Akron Children’s Hospital. (read about the sickle cell program)
Allen, of Warren, has been rapping to them during visits to the hospital since he’s been 6 years old.
“The nurses help me realize the talent I have,” he said. “Even in times when I might doubt myself, they encourage me to continue.”
Allen was born with sickle cell disease, a condition that prevents red blood cells from carrying adequate amounts of oxygen throughout the body. What typically results are episodes of pain in the joints and bones, swelling, infections, and vision problems. There is no cure for sickle cell disease.
“My mom was just a teenager when I was born, and she dedicated all her time to read up on my disease,” he said. “She’s always been cautious of the things I do to avoid triggering a crisis.”
For Allen, he commonly experiences swollen hands and legs, and his joint pain is greatest in extreme cold or extreme warm temperatures. He manages his symptoms as best he can with medication, but when it gets too intense he seeks IV treatment at Akron Children’s.
“They’re always there when I call,” he said of his nurses. “Even though it’s their job, they make it something special. They treat me as if they were my parents. There’s even a nurse there who I call my second mom.”
A childhood friend of his, Aaliyah, also had sickle cell disease and died from complications of the illness. Allen raps about her in his single “SickleCell Strong.”
“Aaliyah was very special. She always cared about others…I’m glad her legacy lives on through great people,” said her mom Alicia Jackson.
Allen’s family, specifically his mother and an uncle, helped him realize his talent early on, and he says both have encouraged his music interests. In the industry he hopes to break into someday, he aspires to the heights of Tupac, Lil Wayne and Kevin Gates.
“It takes persistence,” Allen said of his music career. “My family tells me I just have to grind for it. Anything you want in life you have to grind for. It’s going to come.”
Hear other samples of Ja’Vionte’s music on his YouTube channel.