Face of Defense: Doctor Fills Prescription for Medicine, Music
By Army Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., June 1, 2009 It’s not hard to find a full-time soldier who goes right back to work doing something else after the uniform comes off. From entrepreneurial endeavors through self-owned businesses to hobbies-turned-careers, some soldiers moonlight in their passions no matter how involved their military careers might be.
Army Maj. (Dr.) Nickolas Karajohn, a physician on active duty at Camp Atterbury, Ind., is better known off duty as “M.C. M.D.,” a rhyme-dropping rapper from Las Vegas. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Maj. (Dr.) Nickolas Karajohn is no exception. As a practicing physician at the troop medical clinic, the 42-year-old Las Vegas native can be found providing medical care to thousands of servicemembers training and working here. But it’s not his warm bedside manner or friendly demeanor that makes him unique.
In his office, he’s referred to as “sir” or “Dr. Karajohn,” but once on stage, he transforms into “M.C. M.D.,” a rhyme-dropping rapper who’s not afraid of the big stage or the bright lights.
“I’m the real doc on the mike,” he said, echoing his duel persona’s motto. “It’s part of who I am and how I’ve grown up. There never should be boundaries in any genre of music -- racial, ethical or otherwise.”
Karajohn’s passion for performing began at an early age while he was growing up in a trailer park in North Las Vegas. His first talent was dancing, which led to his forming of a short-lived dance group. It wasn’t until later in life that his love for rhyming began to blossom.
“I’ve been listening to rap since it began, probably about 1980,” he said. “That was when the Sugar Hill Gang came out, along with all the original rappers. I followed the progression of rap music and became interested in 1996 in writing it.
“I was inspired by [rapper Notorious B.I.G.] when his double album came out,” he continued. “That was my inspiration to start writing songs and get in the studio and start recording.”
Despite his love for rap music, Karajohn remained committed to serving his country. “Rap was something I strictly had a passion for, but my main goal was to become a doctor,” he said. “I joined initially as a combat medic in 1996, and then went to medical school at the Ross University School of Medicine.”
Prior to mobilizing here through his unit, the National Army Augmentation Detachment at Fort McPherson, Ga., Karajohn had written 20 songs and released a 13-track album, even opening for rap group Tha Dogg Pound’s Daz Dillinger and Kurupt in 2006. His songs, a combination of East and West Coast rapping styles, he said, reflect on a number of topics.
“I rap about a lot of things,” he said. “I’ve got songs about my life and career, stories, etc. I’m not a ‘gangsta rapper,’ but I’ve got some songs about bragging. I also have some songs that try to relay some message about life.”
Karajohn said his appreciation for rap music stems from its artistic qualities. “I’m very into the lyrics, so when I listen to rap, I listen to the words first. It's like coordinating poetry to music.”
The doctor’s strong lyrical abilities hidden under a military officer’s exterior have been known to catch others off guard. Army Capt. Victoria Davis, a registered nurse at the clinic here, said she didn’t know what to expect when she overheard him rapping a few lyrics to his patients one day.
“Did I expect that from a physician? No,” she said. “I was impressed. His lyrics talk about things like being a doctor, but the younger generations can relate. He sends a good, positive message.”
Karajohn laughed about the fact that most people are surprised when they hear about his other career. “They’re pretty much taken aback, especially at the fact that I’m a doctor,” he said. “But my rap name kind of explains it.”
Karajohn said he has about six weeks left here before returning to Las Vegas, where he plans to perform again. He said that no matter where his job or the Army takes him, it won’t hinder what he loves doing behind a microphone.
“Regardless of your rank or title, … anything you love to do, anything that you’d call a dream, you should always give yourself a chance to try and do it,” he said. “The artistic side of anyone needs to be sought out and displayed, even if it’s for themselves.”
(Army Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III serves in the Camp Atterbury public affairs office.)