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MAKING A MARK: Rapper overcomes physical obstacles to inspire others

It has not been an easy life for local artist Immanuel Mitchell. But now, he's using his music to make a difference.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Spinning a record. Grabbing a microphone. Pumping up a crowd. To a rapper, especially, the use of their hands is a gift.

But the story is different for the rapper named Gifted Hands.

Twenty-three-year-old Immanuel Mitchell was born with a medical condition that causes physical abnormalities. His right arm was short, and his left arm was missing. 

"Before I was born... my mom was in the hospital, you know, and the doctors were always checking on her while she was pregnant with me," Mitchell said. "They saw that I didn't have my limbs."

"[The medical staff] came up with the idea that when I was born, I wouldn't make it past the age of three," Mitchell said. "They said that I would be hairy, that I wouldn't be able to talk... that I would be blind and deaf."

Mitchell defied the odds, but his childhood was rough. "Kids jokingly talked about me," Mitchell said. "The adults would see me and just be quiet, you know, but they would stare."

Music became Mitchell's outlet by the time he reached his teenage years, but it wouldn't stop his mind from entering a very dark place. 

"I was having suicidal thoughts," Mitchell said. " I was going through depression, you know, just not knowing what my purpose was here in life."

But then, at 16, he went from a breaking point to a turning point when he was asked to perform at a party. Mitchell said afterward "A parent walked up to me with her child and she said, 'My daughter never stands up for anyone. But she stood up for you.'"

"That day, those words meant everything to me," Mitchell said.

After that performance, the physical obstacles that could have been his crutch became his platform. 

"Instead of saying, 'Why me?... 'Why do I have to be the one without arms?'" Mitchell said, "Why not use my gift and my talent that God gave me?"

Nowadays, the rapper known as Gifted Hands regularly performs around Hampton Roads. And every time he takes to the stage, he hopes the crowd is moving to the music and is moved by the musician. 

"I simply help people through speaking, through words," Mitchell said. "Just by living and overcoming my own obstacles, I can help inspire other people and say, 'Don't give up.'"

He also hopes to prove you don't need physical hands to touch someone. 

"When people hear the name 'Gifted Hands,' they're expecting to see some hands!" Mitchell said. "I'm Gifted Hands because I have hands that reach further than you can see... because my hands go straight to your heart."

Immanuel Mitchell released his first EP in September. He also has a line of shirts available for purchase that read, 'Look Ma, No Hands!' Follow Mitchell on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @ImGiftedHands

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