Suicide victims often think that their demons are put to rest with their bodies. This is false. In fact, those demons remain above ground, and the burden of confronting them shifts from the victim to the people who survive the victim: immediate family, relatives, close friends. It becomes their obligation to contend with inherited evils, evils that can fester and breed even more dangerous offspring. Deliverance from these cosmically insidious forces can only occur if family and friends are able and willing to beat them back into submission.
To me, suicide seems to be onset by an ultimate and improperly treated dis-ease with living, either manifested through or caused by destruction of one’s own body and mind. Cause and effect are moot. The two co-exist in a state of destructive symbiosis, feeding off one another and fencing their victim in the domed circularity of their minds. They coerce their victims to forget their connections to other people and the investments others have made in them.
Hemingway defined courage as ‘grace under pressure,’ and art can no doubt be that very grace. It can serve as a mechanism to convey the incommunicable, to cope with something altogether overwhelming, whether it is deep despair or complete and utter happiness. The overwhelming can be translated into something immortal, exemplified by Phyllis Hyman and the wonderfully distressed music she left in the wake of her suicide.
Hyman was the consummate sophisticated lady; a true diva, statuesque in appearance and independent in thought. She didn’t have to be a pussycat to sell records. And though she did sing about her sexuality, she also sang about loneliness, all the while commanding the microphone with a booming, masculine voice. Her talent was so immense that not only did she collaborated with some of the best musicians of her time, the best musicians of her time came to watch her perform.
Hyman was a pillar an era of wildly famous black songstresses who collectively ushered in the modern Urban AC format (see: Gladys Knight, Anita Baker, Diana Ross). The Whitney Houstons and Mariah Careys of our generation owe their relatively easy ascendancy in the carts to the trailblazers like Hyman, Shaw, and Carne. It should come as no surprise, then, that some of the best hip-hop producers of our time have turned to Hyman’s weighty discography for musical inspiration.
Pete Rock realigned parts of Hyman’s funky hit “Magic Mona” for Meth and Red’s “Ayo.” 9th Wonder diced Hyman’s “Ain’t You Had Enough Love” for Little Brother’s “Star,” a bonus cut off Left. And Skyzoo’s right hand man !llmind chopped and looped pieces of Hyman’s smooth single “No One Can Love You More” for Sky’s introspective head-bobber “Dear Whoever.”
Phyllis Hyman – No One Can Love You More (used by !llmind for Skyzoo’s “Dear Whoever”)
In the words of Phife Dawg from the first verse of Tribe’s “Baby Phife’s Return:”
“Let me take this time out to say RIP to Phyllis Hyman/
who never got the props that she damn well deserved”