The Bronx will forever be the home of hip hop, arguably the most influential culture the world has ever witnessed. But the borough is also home to a new voice, which closely mirrors that of another champion of the people — Lauryn Hill.
Tish Hyman not only shares a striking vocal resemblance to the legendary Fugee, but the singer/songwriter/rapper's music is based in the same reality which won Ms. Hill the adoration of millions. So who exactly is this musical femme fatale, who has already logged minutes behind the scenes with the likes of Kanye West, Alicia Keys and Diddy?
We get the details on Tish's forthcoming debut Dedicated To , her humble beginnings as a New York City battle rapper, putting the Bronx on her back and more.
What’s the concept behind your debut album Dedicated To?
Dedicated To is basically me saying that I’m dedicating this album to anyone who has ever felt like they couldn’t achieve something because of where they’re from.
Most people heard you for the first time on Fabolous’ “You Made Me.” How did you end up linking up with Fab?
I actually linked up with Fab through a producer named Bink who produced on “Subway Art.” I was in New York, so I called Bink, and said, “Bink, I need to meet with some other rappers from New York City.” The first name that came up was Fab, and then he connected us. From there, it was just immediately really cool.
Can you name some of the producers you’re working with on Dedicated To?
On Dedicated To there’s Bink, John Pattice, Will IDAP, Timothy Bloom, Dave Kuncio, and there's also a guy named Stan Trax. We also have Genesis - he also did “2 On” for Tinashe. And Nate Walka, who wrote “Blame It On The Alcohol” and “Say Aah.”
Sounds like some nice talent on there. So which talent did you discover first? Was it singing, was it rapping, was it writing?
I started rapping first. I was a battle rapper from New York in the Bronx. Everybody in my hood raps. My brother was my first inspiration to rap. He was a battle rapper, and he used to be on the corners rapping, and I saw how everybody respected him and really looked up to him, so I wanted to do that. And next thing you know, I started writing raps and spitting them all over the streets.
When did you discover singing?
My mother sings, and she used to take me and my sister underneath the spotlight in the living room, and we would sing Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” And my solo song was Dionne Warwick’s “That’s What Friends Are For.” But my sister actually had the pipes at the time. She could really sing, and I felt like she could over-shine with that s--t, so I decided to rap. So I became a rapper first because my sister was the better vocalist, and I wanted to do something that I could do that she couldn’t do.
What’s the inspiration behind the first single, “Subway Art?”
I mean growing up in the Bronx, I rode the train a lot, saw a lot of homeless people, saw a lot of drug abusers and saw a lot of sad s--t being in New York. And so, when it came down to it, I wanted to tell a story about things that touched me. The whole album is an autobiography, so one of the things that touched me was the way that the train systems are. People get on the train and they tell their stories day-to-day. You know, you could have a whole 20 songs a day if you take the train long enough, and I felt like I wanted to speak about that because it was over-looked.
It’s just like art— you walk by a painting, you don’t touch it, you don’t improve upon it, you don’t mess it up, you just kind of walk by it. Some people look, some people don’t, but it’s just there. Every time it’s in the same spot like subway art, so that was my main reason for calling it “Subway Art.” I just wrote the song because that touched me as a kid, and even as an adult I still find myself touched by seeing these people on the train and hearing their stories.
How were you discovered?
It was a long journey. A lot of “no’s,” a lot of closed doors. But I winded up writing a song for a young kid, Ahsan Watts. The song I wrote for him got him signed to a major record deal with Interscope, and through that, I guess they were playing the record in different offices, and people wanted to know who wrote the record. Then when I came to LA, all the publishers were trying to find me because they thought I was very talented, and I had a reasonable catalog of different genres of music.
What got me into being an artist, again, was I got tired of going from studio to studio and writing a bunch of songs that I didn’t have my heart into. I’m a great performer, I like talking to people and I like singing and rapping, so I was just like “f--- it," I’m just going to do my own album.
You’re often compared to Lauryn Hill— does the comparison get kind of tiring?
It’s an honor, of course. Lauryn Hill is one of the best, honestly she’s the best female rapper there ever was. Vocally, she was amazing, her stories were amazing, she’s very intelligent and she stood for something that she believed in and she set the path. If it wasn’t for her, there wouldn’t be a me. So I definitely appreciate that comparison, and I just hope to live up to the comparison. She laid the foundation of this path, and I think that I can hold the torch and keep going. I can’t wait for her to drop another project. Hopefully I'll do a song or something with her one day. She’s amazing. I love Lauryn Hill!
With the album, Dedicated To, is it heavy on the singing or is it heavy on the rapping or is there a fine balance?
It’s a lot of rapping, a lot of singing, and a lot of sing-rap. I just do my own thing. I think there's a lot of emotion and all that. It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. I tell a lot of stories that people probably wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about. I just put my whole heart into the album, so I hope people love it. It’s got 20 songs on there —it’s got a ton of s--t— but everything has a positive message at the end of it all. I think it’s kind of an even split of singing and rapping, but it’s mostly emotional.
The Bronx has been slept on for a while now. You have guys like French carrying the torch, but for the most part the Bronx has been kind of quiet. Do you feel like there’s any weight on you to carry the flag for the borough?
I want it! I want all the pressure that comes with carrying my city on my back. I want to do it for the Bronx like Jay Z did for Brooklyn. It’s time for us to come back and let n----- know where we started it. It ain’t nothing! I got this!
Dedicated To is schedule for a fall 2015 release