Here's a Christmas story that's bound to warm your heart: Local hip-hop cipher Benjamin Walker (better known by his stage name Mr. Puma MC) is at the tail end of a battle with cancer, partly due to the efforts of plenty of Valley DJs.
The 39-year-old emcee, who's been working the mic since the glory days of the Bombshelter DJs in the '90s, is currently "around 95 percent recovered" from his battle with retroperitoneal seminoma.
Walker's fight against the rare form of cancer, which caused a softball-sized tumor to grow on his aorta, has undoubtedly been aided via fundraisers that have been held in his honor by old school DJs and scene veterans like Pete "Supermix" Salaz, Senbad, and DJentrification.
And now local legend Z-Trip is even lending a hand to help out Walker, as he'll headline the "Merry X-Ray" benefit on December 25 at the Crescent Ballroom.
"It's a pretty large cross-section of guys that I've known throughout the years that have reached out and given their support," Walker says. "It's a little overwhelming, I'm still in recovery from cancer and it's been rather difficult."
While backbiting and backstabbing seem to be de riguer in the Valley's music scene, it's comforting that artists and performers are still willing help out an old friend in their time of need.
"It's been tough," he says. "For the last 12 weeks I've been in some of the worst shape I've ever been in and I'm not completely free and clear yet, I still have a few more tests to take towards the end of the year. That's what inspired the title 'Merry X-Ray,' because I have a cat scan and x-ray coming up to show if the cancer's completely gone."
The side-effects from chemotherapy and other cancer-killing treatments are still lingering, Walker says, which has proved problematic during rehearsals for his latest hip-hop act Gentleman Ether, which is scheduled to perform during Merry X-Ray.
"Up until yesterday I wasn't able to even rap, and its just one of those things," he says. "Some of the drugs I've been taking have decreased my lung capacity, so it was hard to get my breath and still sing," Walker says. "We have two weeks before the show and I have a lot of relearning and practicing to do just to get my endurance back on the mic. I'm sure it will all be okay."
Walker's working on getting his vocal back to the level they were back in the '90s when he first started out as an MC in the Valley hip-hop and DJ scenes alongside Z-Trip and his Bombshelter cohort DJ Radar. He also an emcee and dancer with the Tempe Bronx Krew, an old school hip-hop/graf art collective that performed around the Valley.
Here's a video clip of Walker and Radar doing their thing back in 1999.
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"I've pretty much been around those guys the entire time. I met Z-Trip my senior year of high school at a house party [in 1991] and been friends ever since. Z-Trip kinda opened my eyes to all these different types of music and through him I met those guys, including Radar and Tricky T," Walker says. "And its been really overwhelming getting all this support from friends and other people in the scene that I used to perform alongside back in the day. I'm humbled. It's single-handedly restored my faith in makind."
Sounds like the perfect kinda revelation for Christmas.
Merry X-Ray featuring Z-Trip and DJ Radar will take place at 8 p.m. on December 25 at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue. Admission is $15. Click here for tickets.