Timothy “Gift of Gab” Parker hasn’t had it easy while recording Imani Vol. 1, the new album by his acclaimed indie-rap duo Blackalicious (self-released Sept. 18 after a successful PledgeMusic campaign). Early in the recording process, the 43-year-old suffered kidney failure due to type 1 diabetes, but that hasn’t slowed him down. Gab explains how, along with producer-DJ Chief Xcel, he is coping with his illness while promoting the LP, the Sacramento, Calif., duo’s first in 10 years.
The diagnosis: “In the beginning, there was a lot of fear. It’s the unknown. Diabetes and high blood pressure run in my family, but you don’t know: ‘What am I going to have to go through?’ ”
The treatment: “It was nerve-racking — I didn’t know if we would be able to tour. But I’ve figured out a system: I take turmeric every day, drink a lot of kale smoothies, eat oatmeal on the road every morning and take my meds. I go to dialysis clinics on the road, and they have them in every city all over the world. It is somewhat draining, right after I get off the machine. But as long as I get the proper sleep and eat the right food, I’m good.”
The escape: “I write during dialysis. I’m in there for four hours and have to make sure I get my blood clean, but I’m in a zone. Music is a way to shut the world down and create your own world within it. It’s how I get free.”
The future: “I will be at the top of the kidney list at the end of next year. I’ve come close a couple of times. Until then, we are going to be putting out records. I haven’t let my disease take over. If anything, it made me a better person.”