Tish Hyman: Soulful Jams of a Street Sage

tish9Her deep, raspy voice has the capacity to soothe souls like a medicine man, healing deeply rooted pains that can only be understood by someone who has experienced the same kind of pain. But this Bronx native isn’t bitter. In fact, you’d never guess the story behind her contagious smile and infectious laughter. The lyrics from her song “Subway Art,” however hint at just how creative, introspective, persevering and aware the singer, songwriter and rapper Tish Hyman truly is. Starting the song off, Hyman’s soulful voice sings the following like an uplifting proclamation: “There is life in New York/Underground, in the coldest house.” Likewise, her own life began in New York in what natives would agree was one of the toughest neighborhoods.

“It was a crazy neighborhood on 175th and Monroe,” Hyman told the hosts of Hot 97 radio station as she described one of her earliest childhood memories as seeing men and women smoking crack cocaine in the hallways where she lived. The neighborhood, like the lyrics of her song state, was a cold place, but nevertheless, life – Hyman’s life – as well as the lives of her three siblings, was happening. After moving further upstate with the hopes of a better life, isolation started to take place as she experienced racism firsthand at a young age. In fact, due to her stature, manner of dress, which often resembled a tomboy, and deep voice, parents cautioned their children to stay away from Hyman, leaving her to find consolation and pseudo community in hanging with gang members. Chronicling her life and reminiscing on the past, Hyman recalled that time of her life on her instagram account. “At this point in life I was a fake ass gang member. Never really was a blood just hung with them. I was living one day at a time and didn’t really value my life. I was capable of everything negative. I wanted to die. I just didn’t know it. I was doing drugs, robbing n [sic] stealing.” It is from this pain and isolation, that her authenticity shines through in her music. These kinds of life experiences are what make Hyman’s music so healing, so proactive. So, when she sings “lonely people castaway for the crimes they committed,” she sings with a depth of understanding because she’s been there. Yet, as the title suggests, those same lonely people are “subway art.”

tish8Hyman’s ability to see begging people near subways in New York as works of art and valued individuals, is once again an inextricable part of her story. At 20 years old, she was homeless. Running into a kind Jewish woman named Hope Adams changed her life. Helping her to leave the street life, Ms. Adams moved Hyman to a middle to upper class neighborhood in Manhattan. Overcoming her initial discomfort of such a vast lifestyle change, she looks back on that time in her life with gratitude, encouraging people to always accept help from others when it is offered. Inspired by Biggie, Lauryn Hill, and Jay Z, Hyman’s artistry is a blend of social awareness, commentary and a determination to see one’s dreams come to life. Her debut solo album, “Dedicated To,” will be released later this spring. Admitting the album is quite emotional, Hyman explained that she wanted to talk about things that aren’t often spoken of in music, while also talking about where and how she grew up. Like “Subway Art,” the entire project is expected to be message driven. In her interview with Hot 97, she mentioned, that she wanted to let young men and women know that “Just because you’re from the ghetto doesn’t make you a gangsta.” They can be more and they are more than where they come from.

tish2At only 32 years old, Tish Hyman has the wisdom of an old sage wrapped up in some serious street swag. Friendly and easy to laugh with, she is as much a dreamer as she is an activist. Perhaps her best quality is the real, raw emotion she brings to the table. Instead of preaching and bragging about doing better, she actually tries to do better in her everyday life, admitting she’s still trying to stop smoking marijuana. Signed with Universal Records, the artist already has plans and connections for her second album. But the fame she’s receiving isn’t going directly to her head. In fact, she’s even more dedicated to helping others, starting with purchasing her mom a dream house. “You have no idea how committed I am to changing my life and others lives for the better. I am truly Dedicated To” she wrote on her instagram page before hitting the stage and referencing her soon to be released album. The thing is, I think we do know just how dedicated she is. Her dedication has provided her with a new set of eyes and a clear vision that only she and people who have walked in her shoes can understand. Looking past the flaws and perceived shortcomings of hustlers and beggars, Hyman peeks into their hearts and paints a picture of raw, emotional art.

Sharita Gilmore