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Twice diagnosed with male breast cancer, Chicago rapper A.M7 spreads wellness message

He’s urging Black men to be more conscious about their health and to take steps to protect it.

A.M7 is the rap name of Chicago’s Antwone Muhammad.
Chicago rapper A.M7 — Antwone Muhammad.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

Chicago rapper Antwone Muhammad, who goes by the name A.M7, belongs to a club he wants no part of: the small group of men who’ve received the grim — even shocking — diagnosis of breast cancer.

Twice.

Doctors “broke it down to me, and I heard their words, but I didn’t hear their words: ‘Stage 3 cancer,’ ” says Muhammad, who was first diagnosed in December 2013. “I thought: How the hell is this happening to me? I couldn’t believe it. I felt like a lot of people feel in that situation — I felt cursed.”

About one out of 100 breast cancer diagnoses in the United States involves a man, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. African American men have higher rates of breast cancer than white men, according to a 2019 study by the JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

Muhammad’s second cancer diagnosis came in 2017 — Stage 4. That was particularly devastating because he was resuming his music career after a mastectomy and chemotherapy.

He says the shocking deaths of his friend Timbuck2, the Chicago DJ who died in 2015 of kidney cancer, and actor Chadwick Boseman helped make clear that Black men need to take their health seriously.

Muhammad says he’s now in “pre-remission” — the term his doctor uses for partial remission — and pushing ahead with his music career and urging Black men to take steps to protect their health, working with the American Cancer Association and his own nonprofit GOTU Hope Inc.

Muhammad says his organization aims to curate what an individual needs in terms of their personal health goals.

“I want to put the information out there and hope that some people will either change when they know enough or some people will find out about my story and decide they want to change,” says Muhammad. “I’m trying to keep everybody from being in the space of changing because you hurt enough; I hurt to the point where I had to change.

“A lot of people say: ‘Just eat vegetables because it’s healthy.’ That’s cliché knowing what I know now. If I know I’m deficient in certain vitamins and minerals in my body, I can cater to plant-based foods, meats and vegetables for what my body needs.”

For himself, Muhammad says he looked at his eating habits and began to utilize alternative medicine.

“Alternative medicine is how I’ve been able to get myself well by doing oxygen treatments and colonic hydrocodone therapy,” he says. “These things have wiped me out financially, and that was a big part of my sadness and depression.

“To see my health climbing back up to where it needs to be is inspiring and uplifting. I’ll do the best I can to maintain and keep everything going. I’m grateful and thankful that better days are coming because our work with music and other areas is starting to bear fruit.”

Chicago rapper Antwone Muhammad at his home with his daughter Myla Young.
Chicago rapper Antwone Muhammad at his home with his daughter Myla Young.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

And in the midst of his cancer diagnoses, Muhammad won’t allow his family — daughter, Myla Young, 9, and son Matayo Harland-Young, 19 — nor his friends to harbor negative thoughts regarding his situation.

“If I’m not a part of ‘Team Freak Out,’ they’re not a part of ‘Team Freak Out,’ ” said Muhammad. “[Friends and family are] being understanding and supportive saying: ‘Hey, this is his journey; we’re here to support him in that.’ ... I’m grateful to have a family that understands that this is a journey that I’m on. They’ve been very understanding with me being so open to share different things about my journey.”

Muhammad, who has collaborated with Chicago hiphop luminaries No I.D., Rhymefest and GLC, last year released “The Quarantine,” an 11-track album in which he rhymes about an anxiety attack he had while recording (“Intro”) and talks about spirituality (“Church”) and how his mother taught him life lessons via table etiquette (“Eat Up”).

“That album was very important to me because when No I.D. brought me out to California, he told me to get back to my music; it’s a form of therapy,” says Muhammad, who plans to put out something new every 45 days this year. “There was a way that I can communicate things that I wasn’t necessarily able to communicate in everyday life. My craft empowers me to be able to communicate unapologetically.

“That album represents the embarking of a much deeper spiritual journey and health journey that I had already been on. The world is being forced to sit still and start having conversations around music that could possibly return us back to the simple things in life.”