Hip-Hop artist Doc J — or, as he’s known to his patients, Dr. Lewis Jassey – has been balancing two successful careers for over two decades. He performs his own music for crowds of up to 50,000 and runs a pediatrics practice on Long Island. His self-titled EP will be released on April 3.
Even with his love for music, since grade school Doc J had been fascinated with the thought of becoming a doctor. He had to find a way to make both ambitions a reality.
“I try not to jam the whole doctor thing down peoples’ throats,” said Doc J. “I want them to look at me as a musician when I’m behind the mic. I’m very proud of being a doctor, but I have found a way to blend both of my loves.”
He first began to take his music ambitions seriously in college, after a spring break trip to Acapulco, Mexico. On a dare, Doc J went up on stage one night to perform and brought the house down.
A man in the music industry approached him after his performance to ask what record label he had signed with, and Doc J explained that he had never performed before. “He told me that if I [went] home and [didn’t] do anything about my talent to entertain a crowd, it would be a waste,” said Doc J.
When he returned from Acapulco, Doc J contacted his friends that were also musicians and formed a rock group, recording the type of music that bands like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park perform today. He then went on to form Philosophic Hardcore Dimension (PHD) with artist MC-AWAL. Eventually both artists would go off into solo careers.
Doc J grew up learning to play instruments, including the guitar and even the accordion. He listened to rock bands like Van Halen and Bon Jovi at first, and then began exploring hip-hop through artists like the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. All of these factors play into how he creates his music today.
“My music has a lot of substance to it. Rappers, more than any other musicians, need to exploit the power of word. We rely less on melody, and it’s important for a good MC to exploit that,” said Doc J.
He has recorded and catalogued over 250 songs, featuring various artists like Nyche, Jason BlackRose and Jae Tips, R&B singer Samantha Alexandra, and even 2011 American Idol contestant Alessandra Guereil.
“Music is all about chemistry,” he said. If you have good chemistry popping off in a room, you go with it. If it isn’t broken don’t fix it. I’ve been fortunate that with just about everyone I’ve worked with, we have had great chemistry.”
Chemistry is also important when pursuing both of your lifelong dreams at full throttle – but Doc J doesn’t believe that he has to separate his life as a doctor from his life as a musician.
He first found a way to combine his talents while treating children in inner city Brooklyn hospitals. “I would go into rooms with really angry inner city kids who didn’t want to be examined,” Doc J recalls. “I would tell them I would battle them, and if I won the rap battle I could examine them.”
The patients would agree, and Doc J played his part, pretending to have no prior experience. He would let his patient go first, and, when it was his turn, he would start off slow, letting the patient think they had won. Then, suddenly, Doc J would blow them away with an unbelievable sound. After that, the kids could relate to him and would let him examine them without hesitation.
“I’m cognizant of the fact that kids look for role models. It would be a travesty to not dig deep and move people [with my music],” said Doc J. His own music focuses on sending a positive message that is both relatable and meaningful, in his own unique style – so when you hear it, you know it’s part of the “Doc J Movement.”
It is not just for his patients’ wellbeing that Doc J performs – he loves being on stage. “It’s one of the most comfortable places that I can be in the world,” he said. “My adrenaline isn’t driven by anxiety; it’s the desire to connect with my audience.”
He has played for countless charity events, benefitting causes like Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Autism research, and headlined a benefit in Central Park for the American Cancer Society. When an earthquake devastated eastern Japan in March of 2011, he teamed up again with Alessandra Guereil to release a new track, with money going to aid those affected.
“You are always [made] most effective as an artist by things that fuel your fire. … when you bury your dad, or you have a patient who gets a diagnosis that could potentially affect their life forever from cancer, something clicks inside you, and makes you want to move people,” Doc J said.
The bottom line about Doc J is that he stays true to who he is. “There are a lot of different dimensions to me as a person,” he said. “There are a lot of things inside of me that I want to share with people.”