The late powerhouse vocalist Phyllis Hyman is the subject of an upcoming musical tribute this week, though from perhaps an unexpected source.
Her cousin, New Jersey-based rapper David “Kolt Kodesh” Hyman, is set to release his latest single “Phyllis” in her memory on July 6th—which would have been the Tony Award-nominated singer’s 73rd birthday.
“She has grown to be a huge influence/inspiration to me in many ways over the years. I wanted to make this tribute for a long time,” Hyman said when announcing the single on social media last month.
“Now the right ingredients were finally put together to make it happen.”
It will be Hyman’s third solo single released this year, following February’s “Lower Nature,” and “Pterodactyl” in March.
The song also follows up his January extended play “In Akkordance” and a feature the same month on the “Catacomb Muzik” EP with fellow Black Catholics John Levi and Rabelzthemc. Hyman also appeared on the single “SLeeP PaRalySiS” with rapper Jxtt in May.
Hyman shared snippets of “Phyllis” throughout the month of June as well as visual tributes to the late singer, noting that the single will be “ a song about pain,” but hope as well.
“It’s a song about relating to the stories of those who’ve gone before us and finding inspiration to trudge on. It's about spirituality. But mostly, it’s about family,” he said.
“I believe I’ve made a song she would really enjoy.”
The production on the track comes from the Michigan-based artist Kwillo, with cover artwork by LSDoom Graphics.
Phyllis Hyman, whose career peaked in the 1980s, is known for her soaring vocals and a number of hit singles, including “You Know How to Love Me” and “Living All Alone”. She also recorded the original title track for the 1983 James Bond film “Never Say Never Again”.
She collaborated throughout her career with greats from across several genres, including Norman Connors, Pharaoh Sanders, McCoy Tyner, and Barry Manilow, and received a Tony Award nomination in 1981 for her role in the Duke Ellington-inspired musical “Sophisticated Ladies”.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder during the height of her fame, she would later struggle with addiction and suicidal thoughts, much of which was known to her close friends and associates. She died in June 1995 from an intentional overdose at her apartment in New York City.
Her kin in more ways than one, David has been open about his own struggles with mental health, with the theme appearing multiple times on his latest EP.
“I didn’t know if I was going to rap again,” he said in a January interview, noting that he had since recovered from a dark period spiritually and otherwise.
“Literally, God just poured into me a newfound motivation, a newfound inspiration to write music and it just started bubbling up.”
Now his presence in the Christian hip-hop scene, which began shortly after his reception into the Catholic Church at last year's Easter Vigil, looks to be back in full force.
“Phyllis” will be available on all platforms Wednesday, and Spotify users can pre-save the track at the following link.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).