When reached by phone, the first words out of 2Mex’s mouth are, “I’m gonna come back from this.” Then he quickly adds, “This shit is crazy.”
The underground hip-hop cult hero and KDAY radio host speaks from a hospital bed in San Bernardino, where he’s spent the last two weeks recovering from a near-fatal bout with diabetes. The medical staff says it’s a minor miracle that he’s alive, let alone without brain damage. Unfortunately, doctors couldn’t save his leg, amputating it just below the knee.
“I’ve got a crazy headache and leg pain, but I’ve already been doing light physical therapy,” says 2Mex, born Alejandro “Alex” Ocana Jr. “I’ll survive it. It’s gotten much better.”
Over the last two decades, few local artists have earned more love and respect than 2Mex. The Project Blowed veteran and co-founder of The Visionaries has collaborated with Busdriver, Murs and Nobody, released an album on Sage Francis’ Strange Famous imprint, and even been shouted out by Snoop Dogg on the song “My Peoples.”
So when the news broke about his condition, outpourings of support flooded social media. Within days, a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $30,000. Friends and family are hoping for $120,000 to cover Ocana’s medical costs for the next few years — including hospital care, physical therapy and a prosthetic limb, which can run from $7,000 to $40,000.
At the time he checked into St. Bernardine Hospital, Ocana numbered among the estimated 1.5 million L.A. County residents without health insurance. “I hadn’t had any health problems prior, but that’s no excuse. I should’ve been more conscious,” he says.
“We need to hit the youth on some scared-straight shit. It’s no joke.” -Alex “2Mex” Ocana on diabetes
One morning late last month, the latent affliction became critical. The 43-year-old woke up with crippling pain and a foot swollen to the size of a football. He took anti-inflammatory pills until the condition became dire. His sister rushed him to the hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery and saved his life.
“Before the amputation, the pain was so crazy that it felt like my spirit was leaving me,” Ocana says. “It was something dark … like I was trapped in the 1800s before modern medicine. I got to a place where I’d close my eyes and see souls looking at me, melting away.”
It’s difficult not to imagine Ocana channeling the intensity of his visions into his music, which has always been visceral and uncompromising. A 2Mex song can be gothic or political, sarcastic or sincere. He says that the first song he writes will be called “The Real Life of Pablo” — an apology dedicated to a diabetic friend whom he used to jokingly call lazy.
“All those years, I didn’t understand the diabetic condition, but now it’s been thrust upon me,” Ocana says.
For the moment, he continues his hospital recovery, which will be followed by a stint in a rehab facility. The goal is to be up and walking with a prosthetic leg in six months. Once his health has stabilized, Ocana plans to return to his music, podcast and 2Mex Hologram radio show.
He also wants to help educate others about diabetes — a minor hip-hop plague that also has affected Ghostface Killah, Boosie and the late Phife Dawg.
“People like myself have heard about diabetes over and over, but we still ignored it,” Ocana says. “We need to hit the youth on some scared-straight shit. It’s no joke. Since this incident, I’ve heard nothing but stories from fans about them losing their dad, their mom losing a leg. If I can help a single person avoid having to go through this, I’m down.”