feature: subway art – interview with bronx mc & singer tish hyman
By Sound Check
June 24, 2015
Bronx native, Tish Hyman, has been keeping her eyes on a music industry spot for over a decade. From being one of the most respected female underground battle rappers on the east coast to working with music industry heavy hitters such as Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Diddy and Fabolous, to name a few, Tish has been busy! Thankfully, she found some time to give us a look at how she got to this point, and what we can expect in the future.
By Kristen McCallum, AFROPUNK Contributor
“Spitting a sick and quick freestyle on 5 Fingers of Death, Tish is crowned Queen — successfully being the very first female Rapper to throw down her bars, off the dome. This woman just set the bar pretty high for any female’s to come.” – SwaysUniverse
KRISTEN: You seem so genuinely proud to have grown up in the Bronx. What was growing up there like and what role do you think it has played in your success so far?
TISH: I am proud to be from the Bronx. I’m proud because I made it out. It was hard growing up there but there was still a sense of community and loyalty in some ways. It made me tough and fearless, which I think helped me in my success because I figured shit…if I could survive there I can survive anywhere.
KRISTEN: Spending the majority of my late teens living in the Bronx, I can vividly remember someone always working on music or working to be the next big artist; but they seemed to think fame or recognition was an immediate thing… Can you tell us how long you’ve been at this? Do you consider yourself famous?
TISH: I have been at this for 15 years. I started in battle rap. I, too, thought it would be an immediate success. I got told “no” many times and still get told “no”, even now. I don’t feel famous but I feel fortunate to be received well by the people. And that after all these years of trying, I’m breaking through.
KRISTEN: ‘Subway Art’. I’d first like to thank you so much for that song AND the video, it’s such a testament to being from NYC and riding subways with all the different people and all of our different stories. Can you share with us how you got the idea for the song?
TISH: Thank you!! ‘Subway Art’ is more than a song to me. It’s a page out of my book honestly. I always was curious as a child about homeless people. I remember feeling sad when I saw crackheads in the halls and on the platforms. I saw children homeless and hopeless there. When you ride the train people always enter the cars telling their stories about their lives and asking for help, and it seems there is no resolution. I felt the need to talk about it on my album because the album is about my life and what has affected me over the years.
KRISTEN: I find that sometimes I’m expected to decide if I want to be a black woman, a lesbian or a writer on any given day…have you ever felt like you were being directly or indirectly asked to choose how to represent yourself?
TISH: Yes I have actually, but not to choose between being a black woman or a lesbian. I’m a black lesbian. When I was younger I would go for a more butch look and approach in life but as I got older I began to tire of being called sir and I also realized that acting like a boy didn’t make me any more of a lesbian so I chose to just do what came naturally which is be a black woman who is indeed a lesbian. Whatever that is ☺ I’m just Tish at the end of the day.
KRISTEN: Do you ever feel pressured to run with the “sex sells” kind of marketing that a lot of female artists are known for? What would you consider your style or how you present yourself to your fans?.
TISH: Sex sells. Yes it does. But sexy is different to everyone. For me, I’m very sexual and I think I’m sexy. My style is quite androgynous but I think more than the clothes it’s my attitude. I’m just presenting myself as myself. I wear what I like, sometimes I wear men’s clothing and sometimes I wear women’s it really just depends on the fit and how good it looks on me.
KRISTEN: If someone saw you on the subway with your headphones on, which artists are you most likely listening to?
TISH: I’m listening to – Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Drake, Jay-Z, The Runaways, Amy Winehouse and Smokey Robinson to name a few. The list could get long so I’ll just leave it there. I listen to new artist too like Drams, Raury, Post Malone, Fetty Wap, peeJ, Dreezy and Leikeli47 to name a few. There are definitely more but these are my favs right now.
KRISTEN: This might be a ridiculous question but I want to know! What do you call an artist who sings AND raps? I mean I know you can say rapper/singer but is there no industry term for it? If not, would you say it could be because that type of talent is so rare in the industry?
TISH: Lol it’s a great question, actually I feel like everybody raps n sings now a days. Thanks to auto tune. Some sing better than others but everyone is doing both it seems these days. I think there hasn’t been a term created because no one has thought of a good one yet. I think there would need to be 2 terms; one for people who can only sing with auto-tune and one for actual singers who blow and rap.
KRISTEN: At this point, what would you say your biggest obstacle has been when it comes to your career? How do you see yourself getting beyond that?
TISH: Well after years of smoking, drinking and singing non-stop I found out I have a cyst on my vocal chords and this could cause permanent damage to my voice if I don’t have a minor surgery to remove it. The recovery period is 2 months. I can’t sing for 2 months!! It’s like telling a bird not to fly. I’m having serious trouble dealing with this but doc says I’ll be better than ever after and I won’t have to deal with this again, so I’m happy it’s not forever.
KRISTEN: What’s next for you? What should we be looking out for from Tish Hyman in the near future?
TISH: Next for me, after surgery is to do more performing and releasing my album. Writing songs for other artist and collaborating with artists. Acting!! Lots of acting!! I also want to make a movie about my life. More albums and taking to children and adults about life and being inspirational to people all around the world!!
KRISTEN: If you could offer black and brown folk everywhere one piece of advice to carry with them, as they continue to navigate their way through their lives in a world that doesn’t seem to appreciate or acknowledge their gifts …what would it be?
TISH: Believe in you. You can do anything you put your mind to. It’s the oldest corniest saying in the book but it is true. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do and no matter where you are from you can go anywhere you want in life. Just believe in you. I love you. The universe loves you. Love you.
Thanks Tish, I’m wishing you all the best with your surgery and a speedy recovery! Your fans will still be here when you’re all healed and ready to grace the mic again! We’re keeping our eyes and ears open for Dedicated To!
To stay updated on Tish’s recovery as well as her upcoming projects, visit her website at www.listen2tish.com! You can also follow her on Twitter @listen2tish_ and Instagram @listen2tish …trust me, you don’t want to miss out!
* Kristen McCallum is a writer residing in Harlem, NYC. Follow her for updates on Twitter/IG @krm_writes and you can see more of her work on her website, www.kristen-mccallum.com.
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