Suffering a stroke can weaken your body, distress the cognitive abilities of your mind, and end your life.
Or, in the case of Dr. Sherman Hershfield, it can be the catalyst for a creative transformation from a doctor of medicine into a fearless explorer of a different frontier: rap music.
Hershfield’s reinvention is more than one man’s astonishing journey; it’s a reminder of the mysterious powers lurking deep within the human brain, and the delightful possibilities those powers can unleash.
The Atlantic has the amazing story of “Dr. Rapp” as Hershfield became known, who became a beloved figure on Los Angeles’ underground rap scene after a stroke left him with a compulsion to speak in rhyming couplets.
Dr. Hershfield’s fantastic voyage into the world of LA’s rap scene began when he began suffering stress-induced blackouts after filing for bankruptcy in 1987. These blackouts culminated in a grand mal seizure that ended with him in the hospital and nearly ended his life.
His rehabilitation featured some expected obstacles, such as slurred speech and stuttering, but also an unexpected personality change: Hershfield suddenly was obsessed with reading and composing poetry, along with a newfound compulsion to rhyme.
That compulsion eventually led him to the Kaos Network, an underground venue in LA’s Leimert Park, known as a gathering place for artists and musicians with something to say.
Over the course of ten years he became a beloved member of the community, eventually meeting KRS-One and garnering hard-earned respect from local rappers who appreciated Hershfield’s open-minded foray into the genre.
The story—an amazing read—is, at heart, a reminder of the incredible capacities of the human brain.