Joseph Gabriel knows about illnesses. He also knows about being ill.
“Scrip rocks folks ‘cause they need it/ when I jot notes on the pad don’t be mad if you can’t read it/ or compete or hover close to being half as ill/ ‘cause my lines open eyes like a double dose of modafinil,” he said, sampling some of his latest material.
“I used to be a sleep researcher. Modafinil is an anti-narcolepsy drug that literally opens your eyes.” The Queen’s medical student, who rhymes under the moniker Egyptian Prescription, is an unlikely hip-hop artist. He came to our interview after a lab where he was practicing how to suture.
The first-year medical student said his rap and doctoral careers aren’t mutually exclusive.
“The nice thing about being a Canadian underground rapper is that it really, at this point, isn’t eating up a whole lot of time,” Gabriel, ArtSci ’09 said. “I’m not really getting a lot of bookings or anything like that.”
Writing multi-syllabic rhymes is how he tries to “hit hard,” Gabriel said. Intertwined with urban slang, his use of medical lingo is contagious.
In true academic fashion, Gabriel admits that freestyling is not his strength. He practices while washing dishes at home, but hasn’t had much success.
“I’ve found every word that rhymes with ‘dish,’” he said. “But I’ll listen to it and like, that was really lame.
“I have mad respect for rappers that are good freestylers.” The Cobourg native started rapping in Toronto in November 2009 at a monthly event called Hip Hop Karaoke.
“The difference is that in regular karaoke you go and it’s just people who are kind of bombed off their asses, just singing Celine Dion or something like that,” he said. “It taught me a lot about hip hop.”
Gabriel started rapping at Queen’s for friends and during past orientation weeks and continued on to perform at Medical Variety Night last semester. He’s opening for Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon
“Kingston does not have a particularly strong rap scene,” he said. “So I’ve been really, really blessed in that right now I’m in the stage where I’m trying to assimilate myself into the Kingston music scene and I’m surrounded by really strong peers.
“I’m blessed to have these people whose opinions I respect but who are also some of my best friends just coming out to support me.”
He has no plans to set down the microphone after he graduates from the School of Medicine in 2015.
“I can see myself as a rapping doctor,” he said. “If there’s a time and a place to fit hip-hop culture and hip-hop music into medicine, maybe I’ll find a way.”
Egyptian Prescription opens for Cadence Weapon at the Grad Club on Jan. 27 and 28. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m.