One of rap music's most highly-skilled rapper breaks his silence for the first time to talk about having Multiple Sclerosis—with obvious symptoms that date back to 1999.
Masta Ace, who is described as "a highly skilled and influential MC" and “one of the great pure New York MCs” by music journalists, has appeared in the 1988 Juice Crew posse cut "The Symphony" (a rapping classic) and is known for influencing folks like Eminem and many others.
He says in a recent interview with Matthew Soren in HipHopDX magazine (click here) that he first noticed that his left arm would neck would feel tingly as if it was going to sleep when he took hot showers. Then, he lost the vision in his left eye, as if someone took a flash photo that temporarily blinded him, but the flash never goes away.
A doctor diagnosed him with optic neuritis, and that was the first look into a neurological cause. Diagnosing MS is not an easy task (See: How do I get diagnosed?) The famed rapper never made a connection, at first, between his symptoms.
“I knew something was going on, but I didn’t know what,” Masta Ace says during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. “You start thinking the worst kind of stuff ‘cause it’s weird, like, ‘What the hell is going on?’ I didn’t know that the two things were connected, but I just knew that weird stuff was happening and I needed to find out why.”
Ace is described as “truly an underappreciated rap veteran and underground luminary”. And Rolling Stone magazine said “even the most avid fan of raw hip-hop lyricism can sometimes neglect to mention Masta Ace alongside hard-bitten champs such as Rakim, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Kool G. Rap."
For Ace, it was a spinal tap that solidified his diagnosis. It showed he had Multiple Sclerosis, and the symptoms of numbs and vision issues are very common.
He started on weekly injections of Avonex, but his episodes increased. On a drive that he takes regularly from Greenwich Village in Manhattan to Brooklyn, both his arms and legs when numb and he had to pull over until the numbness went away.
He didn't announce that he had Multiple Sclerosis, even though he stopped putting out albums, because he said he didn't want people to feel sorry for him.
"I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself," he says. "I didn’t want the pity. I didn’t want any of that. I basically took it as a setback and a sign that it was time to reenergize and just really, really go in. When I got that diagnosis, I had been kinda at a crossroads careerwise where I kinda felt like I was done. That diagnosis kind of reenergized me because it made me feel like I didn’t know what my quality of life was going to be like down the road and if I was going to really do this, then I really needed to make my last couple artistic statements.”
Right now, he is doing just fine.
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