Words + photos by Antonio.
Adam E. has had to learn how to walk twice: once as a chid, and again as an adult. In his senior year of high school, the Egyptian-American singer was stricken with a debilitating disease, effectively crushing his soccer dreams, and leaving him in a coma. Two months later, he woke up a quadriplegic, suddenly preparing for a life sans sports.
During the recovery process, music became his primary outlet and form of self-therapy. Without the use of his legs, arms, he strengthen his voice, honing a talent he had developed as a child. Over the course of six months, his projections became less grim: the initial prognosis that would have left him bedridden and at the mercy of a caregiver, diminished almost entirely. With the aid of a walker, he walked out of the hospital, and across the stage at his high school graduation unattended. Songs and melodies that he had written in his head, became inspiration for songs he would later record in a studio and perform for his live bad.
Though Adam’s road to recovery is not yet complete, he has learned to amplify his strengths. He continues to walk with a slight limp, choosing every movement and transition carefully. Stationary positions standing with a mic or sitting on the edge stage, demand that his voice and his body language hold the audience’s attention.
Currently, Adam is in the midst of recording songs for his forthcoming album. He has perfected his live show, having performed in D.C., Baltimore and New York, often backed by The Adam E. Project: guitarist Charles Amuzie and drummer Jeff Boyd. His most recent single, “Beg For It,” is a promising departure from the EDM-influenced pop which dominates his catalogue.
Adam E. discusses beginnings in the music industry, recovering from a grave illness, and why music is at the forefront of his life.
Q: When did music become a central focus in your life?
ADAM E: I was a big soccer player as a kid, but I liked music, I enjoyed music. I started singing in fourth grade, for a television show in Saudi Arabia, randomly, called “Children’s Choice,” that was a British television show. I kind of found my voice there. I still prioritized soccer at the time and I wanted to be a soccer player. I was 18 just playing soccer in high and school and I got very sick, was in a coma for two months, in the hospital for six. I had acute viral meningoencephalitis.
I woke up a quadriplegic and had to learn how to do everything again, and I didn’t see sports the same way anymore. Something triggered in my head and I was just over it and I didn’t really care. I only cared about music. It got me through the times where I didn’t think I’d walk again, and I would just sing to myself. The only way I would just get over anything was through music. It made me realize how much I love it, how much I want it. I just have been kind of pursuing my passion ever since.
“I woke up a quadriplegic and had to learn how to do everything again”
I learned how to do everything again. I got my life back, but then I never obviously forget that. The good thing is that I keep that in the back of my mind, with regards to not taking anything for granted and being grateful for everything. I knew I wanted to do music, so I thought if I’m going to go to college, I’ll go to a place where I can try to do music. So I went to Fordham in New York. I played shows in New York while I was there… I was doing a lot of sporadic things and I wasn’t taking it as serious as I should’ve or had wanted to.
I needed to leave New York and re-focus, so that’s what I did. I came back here and we focused on building something. Part of that was building the foundation, so we got looking to get some type of band together. I met Charles who we play with now, the guitarist, on Craigslist. He hit me back and said “I think I’m the guy you’re looking for.”
“I met Charles who we play with now, the guitarist, on Craigslist. He hit me back and said ‘I think I’m the guy you’re looking for.'”
We played a couple shows with No Kings Collective. They did a show in Chinatown at the Know Fashion Show, and Jeff was there for that – he was playing a show and he was drumming for another artist. He was messing around with a studio called the Hour Haus in Baltimore, and I went to check it out. I brought Charles, we started rehearsing over there and that was it. He showed me one song he had been working on for a while, and I literally made one suggestion and we built a song that night. So we knew we clicked.
“Doctors told me I wouldn’t walk for a year. Seven weeks later, I walked out with my walker”
Q: How was long was your recovery process from the illness?
ADAM E: I was in a rehab hospital – NRH, across from Washington Hospital center – for seven weeks. Doctors told me I wouldn’t walk for a year. Seven weeks later, I walked out with my walker. I had the walker for another week, went to two canes and then went to one cane. For high school graduation I was using one cane, but then I just didn’t use it.
I said I’m going to walk – I’m going to walk unassisted. So I walked without my cane, and we have video of my mom going nuts, and she’s like “Where is his cane?! What’s going on?!” Everyone was going crazy because they knew how sick I was and everything. I left the cane in the gymnasium when we walked for the procession, and I never went back and got it.
That was it, I never used the cane after that. I forgot about it, to be honest with you. We left, we were already home. I haven’t walked with it since then. I was going to outpatient therapy also.
I’m still not where I should be with it. It was more the, emotional side of it, about losing everything, facing realities about where I’m going to walk again. Stupid shit, that you don’t even think about, like taking a piss. I couldn’t take a piss for a long time, and that’s something you don’t even think about. I couldn’t even drink water and swallow. To come back and do this and play shows like this, is what makes life worth living. I wouldn’t be living otherwise.
“To come back and do this and play shows like this, is what makes life worth living. I wouldn’t be living otherwise”
Q: During the process, did you write songs in your head or think of things like that?
ADAM E: The way I write songs, is that I have voice memos. It’s kind of annoying to people who are hanging out with me all the time, but I’m literally singing to myself all the time. If I sing something I like, I’ll record it, then if I like it, then I’ll go and work on the keyboard and make something happen, and then I’ll hit them up and say we should make something happen.
Part of it was that, it’s just like a faucet for me; I don’t turn it off. I can’t turn it off, and it’s just always there. Its whether I choose to acknowledge it or not. I’m always thinking about stuff. I was in the shower and I couldn’t walk yet, and I was just paralyzed from the waist down at this point, and I was singing to myself and I knew I had gotten to a point where I was kind of able to [think about music].
“I was miserable. They were training me to be a paraplegic. I had to watch videos about things, it was more preparation for a new lifestyle.”
I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, when I started singing to myself. My mother said I wasn’t singing in the shower and then once I started singing again, she was like alright you’ll be okay. I wasn’t for a while and I was miserable. They were training me to be a paraplegic. I had to watch videos about things, it was more preparation for a new lifestyle. That’s what I was focused on; I couldn’t believe my life was going to be like this now, you know? It’s just totally different. Once I started singing again it kind of got me back.
Q: Once you started feeling better and thought about music more, did it change your views on relationships?
ADAM E: I have sucked with relationships. Sucked! Because I’m selfish and music comes first to me over everything else. I’ve been with girls and it doesn’t work out, one reason or another, because I would rather focus on that than them. That’s fine with me, I’m ok with it. I like it, it’s what I want.
“If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay, I just haven’t found her. And then I’ll just keep going with what I’m doing and I’ll eventually find her”
Nights like this are better to me than anything else, it’s what I live for. I push to prioritize that or anything else. So the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, you know this book? It talks about love and relationships as the person you’re going to find is when you’re going on your path doing what you want, and they’re going on their path and your paths collide.
The way I see it, the person that I would eventually be with is somebody that is doing something similar and understands my grind and my hustle and that I’m prioritizing it. And that would be okay with being number two. Anyone I’m with will always be number two to this. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay, I just haven’t found her. And then I’ll just keep going with what I’m doing and I’ll eventually find her.
“Relationships take a backseat to this… At the same time, the way I get it out is by writing”
Relationships take a backseat to this. It constantly affects me. At the same time, the way I get it out is by writing about stuff. A lot of it is relationship-based. I try to step out of that, but I feel like the way I get it out and explain my side of the story of sorts – and the way I can connect to people – or where people see something or get something from a song is when it’s relationship-based. It comes natural to me.
Q: How did “Beg For It” come together?
ADAM E: I was in the studio with Ben (Kid Cannibal), and he played this song for me, this beat. He said that five rappers had passed it up. I was listening to this and it’s freaking dope. How is anyone passing this up?
The funny is that, sometimes I’ll write songs as I imagine someone else would write them. I wrote that song as I imagined somebody would write them. So I wrote that song as I imagine if Michael Jackson would do this song. I’m not going to sound like Michael Jackson because I’m not him, so I know it’s still going to be my identity when i do it. If Michael Jackson were to sit down and hear this, how would he do it?
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
ADAM E: I five days, I’ll be working on some more music. In five months, I’ll still be moving forward with things. In five months I’ll be playing shows outside of D.C., as well as in D.C., building up more; playing more shows, aggressively booking and playing to the point that I’m making my living off of it. I’d prefer to be playing shows that I can tour and play in as often as possible.
“I don’t care about the money – I don’t give a shit. I’ve seen my deathbed already and I couldn’t take my money with me”
Five years – the world. I love playing live shows, so I want to be able to play as often as possible. The reason I’m not good managing my own music and everything is because I care about the opportunity. The money will come from the opportunity. Nobody plays Verizon Center and doesn’t get paid for it. I just want to do it, I want to do it and get there and play that show.
What I grind for is that fifteen minutes before the show when I’m at the green room at Verizon center, or Madison Square Garden. I don’t care about the money – I don’t give a shit. I’ve seen my deathbed already and I couldn’t take my money with me. I don’t give a fuck about it. (Pointing to Rafee, his manager) He’s good, because he’s focused on money. We need somebody that’s focused on money so we can focus on what we do. I would like to go into Europe and play. I see us touring the world, having a platinum record, having a Grammy, I see us top on the world.