After sharing some unfortunate news earlier today, it pleases me to share with you a story that similarly champions living and thriving in the face of loss, albeit with a happier ending. Thanks to Chaz Kangas over at Complex, we meet Kyle Pinelli, whose story is about overcoming adversity and the amazing effect that music can have on mental development. More specifically, how the music of Tech N9ne helped someone learn to speak again in the wake of a brain injury.
Kyle had just completed junior year at his Virginia-area high school when his life changed in one night. On May 31, 2014, Kyle's truck ran off the road and directly into several trees; Kyle himself went through the windshield and straight into a bundle of barbed wire. The worst of his myriad injuries was the diffuse axonal injury (or DAI) to his brain, an injury that 90% of victims never awaken from and one that left Kyle in a near-vegetative state and unable to even track with his eyes. Three weeks after the injury was sustained, it was suggested Kyle move to a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta by the name of Shepherd Center.
This is where things get interesting, and where our ever-present hip-hop tie-in becomes apparent. Kyle had been a huge fan of Tech N9ne and the Strange Music roster ever since his older brother, Alex, had introduced him to the independent Kansas City legend's music. When Kyle arrived at Shepherd Center, the therapist asked what kind of music he liked and who his favorite artist was, to which Kyle's mother responded, "rap... and Tech N9ne." Of course, the "young, hip" therapist already had some Tecca Nina loaded up on her iPad and started playing "Fragile" before heading into "Dysfunctional," a 2009 track off of Sickology 101.
"Dysfunctional" was one of the first songs that Alex had ever played for Kyle, part of his introduction to the Strange artist, and ended up marking one of the most significant developments in his recovery. The chorus to the 2009 track ended up being the first words out of Kyle's mouth following the accident. Interestingly, the record has become a fan favorite, racking up over four million plays on YouTube without ever being released as a single or having an accompanying video. Here it takes on a whole new meaning when viewed through the lens of this situation.
These days, Kyle is doing much better. He's still battling through from memory issues and lingering nerve damage in his arm, but managed to graduate from high school last month. One of his biggest supporters? Tech himself, who was told of the story and, having once snapped a photo with a younger Kyle, remembered meeting.
As Tech said, "Reading it, I got choked up... I’ve been knowing for a long time that my music helps a lot of my fans and gives them an idea of what to do in life. We hear a lot of stories about how our music saves our fans’ lives. A lot of them say ‘“Suicide Letter” kept me from suicide’ or ‘“Mama Nem” really got me through after I lost my mom or grandmother.’ And the fact that it helped Kyle come out of a vegetable state. That’s crazy. That means, before he had that accident in the truck, he really dug those songs.”
With all the media attention given to hip-hop's negative influences, it's always refreshing to stumble upon a story where the music instead leads to positive change. After such a traumatizing accident, the fact that Kyle has been able to achieve a near-full recovery is amazing news. The fact that it may have likely been spurred and assisted by music from hip-hop's long-reigning indie champ is all the more incredible.
Even Tech was amazed at the situation: "What would make the music therapist choose those songs? And how good is God that the music therapist was a Tech N9ne fan as well? It’s like God sent an angel in the room with them. And in Atlanta? We’re still building our brand in Atlanta! It’s more people every time we go, but it’s not humongous like I’m Future or T.I. It’s divine, that’s what I think.”
Considering the frequency with which stories such as Kyle's go from bad to worse, let's take this opportunity to celebrate the fact that a happy ending was not only reached, but propelled by the power of hip-hop.
[By Brendan Varan. He loves reading stories like these. Follow him on Twitter.]