It's hard to evaluate life-threatening illnesses if you skipped med school to kick rhymes. Still, countless members of the rap community diagnosed Boston MC Akrobatik (real name: Jared Bridgeman) on Twitter, spreading unsubstantiated reports that he had suffered a heart attack, and subsequently slipped into a coma, on May 12.
RUMORS OF HIS COMA have been greatly exaggerated. Akrobatik is still kicking.
Some gossipers meant well. Others were just feeding the frenzy. But the only slice of the story that most of them got right is that there's an all-star benefit for Akro this Saturday at the Middle East.
"I guess you could say that a lot of people took some liberties," says Akro, who is not in a coma, and fielded our call at the beach near his East Boston apartment. "I understand how that sort of thing happens, but there were really very few people who were right there with me and who knew exactly what was going on."
In his first interview since the episode, which caused major worry in the rap blogosphere, Akro shared some details about his condition. On May 12, while relaxing at home by himself, Akro had an aortic dissection, a condition often linked to high blood pressure. A valve in his heart became ruptured, leading to his having surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"It was an emergency situation," he says. "And sure, it could be simplified as a heart attack. But the way I look at it now, what's important is that I'm lucky to live so close to MGH, that I had the wherewithal to dial 911, and that I'm a really active dude who's been able to recover quickly."
An artist always on the move, Akro's scare did not come from a lack of exercise. He tours extensively with an energetic stage show worthy of his moniker. An ad hoc correspondent for NESN (and formerly for JAM'N 94.5 FM), he's frequently out and about at New England sporting events. Until last year, he even played fullback for the Randolph Oilers in the Eastern Football League.
As for personal habits, while he's not vegan like some of his enlightened rap peers, the famously athletic Akro, who is in his mid-30s, says he's no glutton. "It's not like I'm at the counter ordering burgers every day," he says. "There were no problems with my arteries or anything like that. The truth is that being African in America, I'm predisposed to having high blood pressure. I take the blame for it — I've definitely had warnings that I ignored because I'm young, and it caught up to me."
As near-tragic encounters often do, Akro's recent hospitalization added perspective to his life and career. He hasn't dropped a full-length project since 2008, when his Fat Beats release, Absolute Value, earned widespread acclaim as one of the best rap albums that year. Now he's in overdrive, polishing an upcoming LP titled Built to Last. "It was already called that," he says, "but it definitely has more meaning now."