DJ André "Doctor Dré" Brown, who helped popularize hip-hop in the 1980s and '90s as co-host of "Yo! MTV Raps" and radio's "The Hot 97 Morning Show with Ed, Lisa & Dre," is struggling financially due to medical expenses for his diabetes, which has cost him his eyesight and recently part of his right leg.
Brown is a North Hempstead native who grew up in the town's Westbury-New Cassel area and, with wife Nykiah "Nikki" Morgan, continues to live there. Friends of the DJ have organized a GoFundMe campaign to help pay his medical bills and to help the couple transition from their current house to one with disability accommodations.
"No one can expect the unexpected, and sometimes you think you have enough money put away and it's not enough. Health care costs are exorbitant," says his former WQHT/97.1 FM morning-show co-host Lisa Glasberg aka Lisa G., now a news anchor and reporter for WOR/710 AM and iHeartRadio. "It's been difficult for him working, losing his eyesight." Now with bills for his partial leg amputation and subsequent physical and occupational therapy, "He needs some help. He's got a big group of friends, but the word needs to get out."
"Dré has been struggling with the effects of advanced Type II diabetes for a long time," states the GoFundMe page. The disease took his eyesight in 2013, and later a toe. "Now, sadly, Dre's condition has taken a turn for the worse. On Memorial Day of this year, he slipped and fell down a flight of stairs at his home and badly damaged his right ankle," requiring "hospitalization and surgery." In June, his right leg was amputated to below the calf. He has since been fitted with a prosthetic, and can walk with the use of a cane.
"My outlook is great," Doctor Dré tells Newsday. "I'm walking on a prosthetic, breathing well. I'm not as depressed as everybody's making it seem like," he says lightheartedly. "The diagnosis was to amputate below the calf, the ankle and my foot. So the choice was, 'This is creeping up your leg. It'll kill you. Or we take your foot.' I said, 'Well, let me think about that. Live or die? I'll go with live.' "
After his hospital discharge, he was in a physical-rehabilitation facility from July 1 through Wednesday. "Dre's insurance stopped paying for his stay in the rehab center on July 20," says the crowdfunding page. He now requires both a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, neither of whose fees will be fully covered by insurance.
Along with the GoFundMe page, members of the iconic hip-hop group Public Enemy are among those organizing a benefit for him that they plan to mount next month, Doctor Dré says. "I'm just very happy and pleased the people in my hour of need are coming forward."
"He's part of the blueprint and fabric of hip-hop," says Lisa G., a Woodmere native and Hewlett High School graduate. "Before 'Yo! MTV Raps,' I don't think the urban and young audience of America got to see hip-hop" regularly in the media. Doctor Dré and co-host James "Ed Lover" Roberts "made it for everybody. They helped break groups that people didn't know about."
The two moved on, with her, to "the first full-time, hip-hop morning radio show in New York City," she says. "So he was a big part of opening up the world of hip-hop."
The GoFundMe campaign had raised $22,366 toward its $500,000 goal as of Wednesday evening. Doctor Dré remains positive and spiritually oriented about it all.
"I heal pretty good. I'm OK," he assures. "This wasn't done by chance. There's a plan and there's a master planner who's going to put it all together and I'm just following. … The master planner has put me on this path, and He says, 'Now I need you to do some walking with that leg.' "