“A Star is a believer, a black man who lives in London, and an artist who speaks about real life in his music.”

He gained the name A Star when rapping at school with his friends. In the U.K., A Star is a good grade in school, similar to an A+ in the United States. “Now I use it [to say] everything I do, I do one-hundred-and-ten-percent, so it is A Star quality.”

Growing up around hip-hop, grime, and garage music, “I always wanted to be a rapper. I remember performing in front of a mirror with my comb in my hands.” At age fifteen, he started writing and performing his own raps.

A Star was raised by his mother; when he was young, his father went to prison. In prison, his father became a Christian and encouraged him to start going to church. After his father got out, he would take him to church on occasion. Though A Star went to church, he said, “I didn’t really have a grasp on what the Gospel actually meant.”

When he was nineteen years old, his grandfather on his mom’s side died, and his mom decided to start going to church.

“The pastor came to our house and gave us the Gospel. It just clicked to me that, ‘Wow, Jesus actually died for my sins when everything I’ve done has offended him.'”

Making that realization, A Star decided to surrender his life to the Lord.

A Star was born with Sickle Cell Anemia, a chronic, hereditary disease that his mother also carries. Sickle Cell changes the shape of red blood cells within the body into a crescent rather than a sphere, causing people with the condition to have less red blood cells in their body, a serious problem. People with Sickle Cell Anemia need regular blood transfusions of healthy blood and have what is called “crises,” severe pain attacks that occur without warning.

“In moments of stress, cold weather, exhaustion, we can fall into a crisis. The sickle-shaped cells will clog against each other, and it’s difficult for them to flow through the blood vessels.” This limits the flow of oxygen throughout the body, explained A Star.

“I remember having crises from the age of five. It’s been challenging. I didn’t have a regular upbringing.”

He had to limit exercise and sports, which also limited having fun with friends. “I just wanted to be a regular kid and do regular things.” One time he went on an hour-long bike ride with a friend and experienced a crisis, having to go to the hospital as a result.

Mentally, crises have contributed to depression at certain times of his life.

“Christ gives me strength. I don’t want to be cliche in my answer. Practically, speaking to people helps. My doctors gave me a counselor that I’m able to speak to.”

Since he began speaking on social media about his battle with Sickle Cell two years ago, he has met hundreds of people who carry the disease, whom he and many others call “Sickle Cell Warriors.”

A Star has spoken about his illness throughout his career but decided to create a song called “Hidden Pain,” featuring U.K. singer Leke, to talk about his experience, encourage others, and raise awareness about Sickle Cell Anemia.

“The only way we can raise awareness and encourage each other is if we speak [about it]. Since I’ve brought out the Hidden Pain single, people from around the world have messaged me saying that the song has been an encouragement to them.”

Though the song speaks specifically about Sickle Cell Anemia, A Star wanted “Hidden Pain” to share a message that anyone can relate to. He believes that everyone experiences pain, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, which they do not like to speak about with others. “They may see a smile on your face, but [your] real hurt and pain is on the inside.”

In accord with the song, he created an emotional music video showing what occurs during a crisis. To record the video, A Star had to re-enact the traumatic experience of a crisis.

“The shoot was tough, but it was rewarding… I just wanted people to look at it and say, ‘Man, is that what they go through? What can I do to help?'”

The “Hidden Pain” music video was created in partnership with the U.K.’s National Health System (NHS). In the U.K., healthcare is paid for by the government. A Star’s partnership with NHS focused on encouraging people to donate blood. The amount of blood given in a single donation can save up to three lives.

Since November 2018, A Star has been undergoing exchange transfusions, which remove his unhealthy blood and replace it with healthy blood through injections in both arms, one to receive blood and the other to withdraw blood. Every six-to-eight weeks, he has been having these transfusions and has not had a crisis since beginning this treatment.

A Star’s transfusions require a lot of donated blood; eleven bags each time, which requires about eleven people to give blood. Exchange transfusions essentially remove and replace most of the patient’s blood, significantly reducing the proportion of sickle cells to healthy blood cells. The entire process lasts between four-to-five hours. However, it is a temporary fix; sickle cell numbers grow over time and will outnumber healthy blood cells without regular transfusions.

The responses A Star has received to the “Hidden Pain” song and video have been overwhelming. “Literally a minute before we spoke, I got a message from someone saying, ‘I’ve got Sickle Cell. I listened to your song and am being encouraged by it.'” He has gotten hundreds of messages and emails from individuals around the world, many of whom are fellow Sickle Cell Warriors or have relatives who carry the disease. Countless people have told him that after hearing the song and watching the video, they decided to give blood.

“[The responses] have been powerful and encouraging at the same time, knowing that this song wasn’t in vain. I didn’t do it because I wanted people to feel sorry for me. I didn’t want a pity party. I just wanted to express my pain and the pain of many others.”

This summer, A Star plans to release his debut album, Born and Raised, which is heavily autobiographical and seeks to encourage listeners by telling them how God is present in their suffering. “Yes, in your mess or in your state where you’re at, God is able to meet you and give you a completely new perspective, to turn your life around.”

Outside of music, A Star is an urban missionary and enjoys spending time with family and friends and watching movies.

Follow A Star on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Get “Hidden Pain” on iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play. Stream it on Spotify.