Atlanta Combat Vet Connects Through Hip-Hop
George “Doc” Todd is a local combat veteran and hip-hop artist. He served as a Navy Corpsman in Afghanistan and found healing through music. He now empowers other veterans dealing with PTSD and other challenges they face during their transition after returning home.
Through his music, Todd focuses on the strength that he and other combat veterans all have. His message is one of hope, healing, and strength. It challenges the idea of brokenness, and instead focuses on the strength and capability within each veteran.
“Together, we can stand up and conquer life just like we conquered death,” said Todd.
Q&A with Doc Todd
Tell us about your time in Afghanistan.
My service was fast and furious. Most of my three-year active-duty career was spent with infantry marines. I was a Fleet Marine Force medic or hospital corpsman. We were responsible for rendering emergency lifesaving care to our Marines on the battlefield. I deployed to Afghanistan in the summer of 2009, with 2nd Battalion 8th Marines, as part of Operation Khanjari, which is Pashtun for ‘strike of the sword.’ It was the largest helo-bourne insertion of Marines since the Vietnam War. Fourteen Marines in my unit were killed in action, and countless others have since been laid to rest from suicide and substance abuse. My own story was not without difficulty either. I was medically evacuated for bi-lateral atypical pneumonia and Q-fever. This is a fancy way of saying I almost died from having severe pneumonia in both lungs.
What motivated you to become a Corpsman?
I joined to become the best version of myself. My life wasn’t on the right track, and I knew I was capable of so much more. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to develop the traits that I knew were vital to fulfill my highest potential. I thought if I could protect our nation and make some great friends in the process, why not?
What was it like for you when you returned home?
My transition was not without difficulty. In fact, I still wrestle some tough demons today. I struggled with depression, job security, substance abuse, anxiety, motivation, and many other things. However, I found that my college education and close familial support were the pillars I can point to that made a real difference in my life. Secondly, I found a career that was a good cultural fit for me at a financial planning firm which made me feel like I was part of a family. This sense of attachment and purpose in my vocational life was key. It is ultimately what led me to create the album Combat Medicine and subsequently empower the lives of other veterans experiencing similar difficulties.
How did you get into hip-hop?
Music is my life. I don’t know how I lived without it for so long. I didn’t get into music because of my transitionary struggles. In fact, the opposite is true. I shied away from my musical leanings and desires because of my lack of personal or mental stability. It was only when I found strength that I found my way back to music. Honestly, from an artistic perspective, I didn’t know who I was yet or who I was becoming. I found it very difficult to make a statement musically when I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t until I picked myself up that I understood my purpose was to help others do the same. It was one too many suicides. One too many overdoses. I had enough. It was time to share my story in an effort to empower others. Music cuts to the soul of the matter quicker than anything else in my opinion. If I were going to enter the veterans’ space, I would do it my way.
George "Doc" Todd
Combat Medicine has had quite an impact already. How did it come about, and what do you make of the recent national attention it has received?
Combat Medicine was released in June of 2017 and is exactly what it sounds like—my musical attempt to heal warfighters through artistic expression. The album has been met with national praise and personal impact stories. Never in a million years would I have thought the record would be featured in several major news stories and touch people to the extent that it does.
We poured everything we had into that record—money, time, blood, sweat, tears, our soul. Derrick “Mook Beatz” Hooks and Logan Todd, my brother, executive produced the album and provided valuable experience and expertise. They helped me put together a solid musical project that had the opportunity to connect. I just spoke from my heart and tried to give warfighters a voice.
Your new release is about to come out. How is it different from Combat Medicine?
The upcoming release is entitled Shadow Game EP. This project is not a departure from Combat Medicine, but a progression of sorts. I feel like we have laid the foundation for transition and healing. Now it is important for us to honor those lives we’ve affected by sharing what comes next.
Healing and transition is not about staying in a space filled with pain and reflection, even though hearing my story can be very empowering. It is equally, if not more, important to turn the page and show the listener what tomorrow looks like. This project is a collaboration between myself and my best friend from my unit, Zach Ludwig, stage name “Zahkari Zahara.” Zach has struggled with his own demons, and after being displaced from South Florida due to hurricane Irma, we found each other again in Atlanta. One thing led to another, and we started recording music together for the first time. The result of those recordings is this EP executive produced by Mook Beatz and Mitch Furr, a Nashville producer. We wanted to take the next step, while holding fast to our foundation and penning the next chapter. It wasn’t about following up Combat Medicine. We are serious about veterans. We are serious about music. However, we also believe this healing can be brought to a wider audience, because at the end of the day, the things we struggle with are inherently human.
Left to right, Zach Ludwig and Doc Todd
How did you and Mook Beatz get together, and what has this partnership been like?
Mook Beatz and I met through a music consultant here in Atlanta, and it has been fireworks ever since. I can’t imagine having a different right hand. In the last 12 months, we finished a mixtape, album, and EP. EP basically means half of a full-length record. In my opinion, each project has been substantially better than the one that preceded it. It is funny how we are growing together. Mook Beatz is not only a composer, but a true producer. He knows how to work with and develop artists. He has a wealth of experience working with the likes of TI, Post Malone, Young Thug, and Gucci Mane, just to name a few. I see us continuing to grow together and making impactful music for many years to come.
What impact do you hope for with Shadow Game?
Conceptually, Shadow Game is two things. First, it is a playground for a troubled mind. Zach and I thought if we could create a space for pain, delusions, doubt, depression, and suffering, that maybe those things would impact us less personally. The idea is we gave it a space to exist and that we could live outside of it. Secondly, it’s about light versus dark. We wanted to fully embody both sides of the spiritual war we believe rages inside all of us. When light and dark interact, they create shadows, and we called that interaction a game for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because it was where we would attack the subject matter, and in a sense, compartmentalize it away from our personal lives. It is a project of which we are very proud. We hope this project will help others displace their pain and recognize that light is the only element to fight darkness.
Mook Beatz, you’ve worked with some of hip-hop’s most prolific artists. What’s been the most rewarding and challenging about producing these veterans?
The most rewarding thing from working with these guys is getting a better understanding of the word “veteran.” Of course, we all hear about it, but a lot of individuals don’t know the true meaning. Working with Shadow Game was more than just making music, we save lives!
Honestly, there wasn’t a huge challenge working with them because the vibe was right, and we knew exactly what needed to be done with these records. Everything just came naturally. Doc would give me the idea, and I executed.
To download tracks from Combat Medicine and watch for new upcoming tracks, visit www.therealdoctodd.com. Doc can also be followed on Instagram at therealdoctodd.
Derrick “Mook Beatz” Hooks
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