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Finding the Right C(h)ord: Thanks to a Temple Laryngologist, a Philadelphia Rapper Returns to the Mic

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For most people, losing your voice for a few hours, or even a day, might not seem like a big deal. But Timmo isn’t most people.

timmo rapping

For most people, losing your voice for a few hours, or even a day, might not seem like a big deal. But Timmo isn’t most people. He’s an up-and-coming rapper who’s opened for Snoop Dogg, Fabolous, and Ja Rule, and his voice is the key to his career. When he found himself unable to speak—and then when his voice came back, sounding hoarser and raspier—it was a major cause for concern. “My voice was completely different,” says Timmo, “and I was way out of breath. I thought, ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’” 

Timmo reached out to an otolaryngologist, who suspected he had a polyp on his vocal folds. However, because of the risk that the surgery could go wrong—and effectively end Timmo’s career—the physician declined to perform the procedure, and suggested he see a specialist. But Timmo, who had never had surgery and was afraid of going under the knife, put off reaching out to a specialist for eight months. It was only when his voice became unrecognizable, and he had to step back from performing, that he decided to make an appointment with the voice specialist the otolaryngologist had suggested: Dr. Ahmed Soliman of Temple Health. 

Dr. Soliman, who has been at Temple for twenty-five years, is a laryngologist who focuses on the treatment of voice, airway, and swallowing problems. As soon as Timmo met Dr. Soliman, he knew that this was the right person to perform his surgery. “I was scared,” he explains. “But Dr. Soliman was really comforting. He took his time.” 

To further evaluate Timmo’s problem, Dr. Soliman performed an office procedure known as a videostroboscopy. “We pulsed a light in Timmo’s throat so that we could see the vocal cords vibrate in slow motion,” Dr. Soliman explains. “That way, we could get a much more detailed view of what was going on, which turned out to be a polyp.” 

While Dr. Soliman doesn’t always recommend surgery for his patients—“We don’t intervene unless their voice is significantly affected, and our surgery has a high likelihood of improving it,” he says—he knew that, in Timmo’s case, it was necessary. Because of the polyp’s location, he was also sure he could remove it without causing vocal damage. “Timmo was very lucky in that he had a polyp that was very amenable to surgical removal. It was right on the edge of the vocal fold, which meant removing it was less likely to cause scarring,” Dr. Soliman explains. 

Still, because he knew how important Timmo’s voice was to his career, Dr. Soliman made sure to go the extra mile. He studied recordings of Timmo’s voice before he had developed the polyp, so he could see how much his vocals had changed and what Timmo wanted to return to. Then, when it was time to perform the surgery, Dr. Soliman inserted a laryngoscope through Timmo’s mouth to the voice box. Under magnification, he was able to visualize and remove the polyp. Because of the small size of the polyp, the procedure only took a little over a half an hour. “The process went so quickly,” Timmo says, “and it’s been life-changing.” 

Timmo, Dr. Soliman, and his team at Timmo's first post-surgery concert.

Dr. Soliman agrees. “Timmo has done beautifully,” he says. “When I saw him a couple weeks after surgery and looked down at his vocal folds, you could hardly tell that anything had been done. When you compare his pre-op laryngoscopy and his post-op laryngoscopy, it’s night and day. The polyp is completely gone. His vibration is perfect. His voice is back to normal.”

According to Timmo, it’s actually better than normal. “Before my surgery, I couldn’t even harmonize,” he says. “Now, I’m actually singing.” Dr. Soliman had a chance to hear his patient’s new range when he and his team attended Timmo’s first concert post-surgery. The concert was also a fundraiser for Timmo’s nonprofit, which helps formerly-incarcerated men, and he was thrilled to see the laryngologist there. “Dr. Soliman supported me,” he says.

Now that his voice is back—and indeed, better than ever—Timmo is ready to launch the next phase of his career. His upcoming single, “Top Floor,” is the first project he’s done where he sings and harmonizes in different keys, and he also has two joint venture projects with Epic Records slated for 2023. “I couldn’t record music for eight months,” he says. “Now, it’s full steam ahead.”