Actress of stage and screen and nascent emcee, Miriam A. Hyman, or Robyn Hood as she’s known in the rap universe, is as ambitious and accomplished as they come. The driven, active, expressive and passionate Philadelphia native is a 2012 graduate of the Yale School of Drama with an MFA in acting, the 2011 Princess Grace recipient of the George C. Wolfe award in Theater and the 2016 Leonore Annenberg Fellowship recipient for Performing Arts. Most of all, she already has a highly prolific acting career and a long list of credits with successful inroads in hip-hop music as her latest endeavor.
Of all the many roles she’s filled, she has received critical acclaim for her McCarter debut as Berniece in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson and as Posthumous Leonatus in William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. She is the narrator for the audiobook of Natalie Baszile’s Queen Sugar and has made television appearances in Blue Bloods (as medical examiner Emile Cooper), 30 Rock, The Wire, Law & Order, as well as features in films such as Split and The Congressman. Furthermore, her career as a hip-hop emcee is taking off at lightspeed. Her most recent project, the For Higher EP, a collaboration with singer Erika Hicks, was released in December of 2016, and it’s drawing attention left and right. We at SwurvRadio.com had the privilege of asking some of our own pressing questions to the rising talent.
How old were you when you got into acting and is your love for it stronger than for the music?
I started acting as a teenager and music just a few years ago after graduating grad school. I can’t say that my love for acting is greater necessarily. It’s just been a part of my life for longer. My love for acting has opened many creative doors for me and music is one of them.
You’ve impressively performed in many roles already needless to say. What has been your favorite so far?
In theatre, my favorite role that I’ve had the privilege of playing so far was Blanche Dubois from Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. I was in my second year of grad school at Yale School of Drama when cast in the role. I fell in love with her plight, troubles, successes and all. Fun fact, Trai Byers, Andre on Empire, played opposite of me as Stanley Kowalski. He was a third year.
What type of acting opportunities would you like to take on in the future and who in the business would you like to work with?
I love action and mystery films so I’m hoping to do a bit more of that in the years to come. I also love comedies. I’d love to work with Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, Melissa McCarthy, Viola Davis, Key and/or Peele to name a few.
Congratulations on all your success by the way. As far as the music goes, what goals do you wish to accomplish as a recording artist who speaks to a wide audience?
I hope to implement change regarding language choices in lyrics. Too often, it seems as though lyrics are no longer the most important factor to a great song. There can be so much profanity, violence and disregard to labeling women that the true essence of Hip Hop seems to be getting lost in a culture that just wants to mumble and turn up to a beat. With that being said, I think there is a time and place for everything but I do ponder what has happened to the “message.” One of the reasons I started writing was because of what I wasn’t hearing in music today.
A good deal of your music is fun and bright, but you also have a political/conscious side in some of your songs, particularly in your new EP. “Red & Blue” addresses police brutality, and the next track “Holes In My Pocket” discusses the duality of wanting to buy some of those nice things out there but not being able to afford them. What do you want the message to be in those songs?
Well, two things. First off, “Red & Blue” addresses two distinct systems that have huge impacts on the inner city, the cops and the gangs. “Holes in My Pocket” addresses the societal pressures that say what you should and shouldn’t have based on your economic status. Basically, I’m saying labels can’t and won’t define me.
When you lived in Philadelphia, did you witness firsthand any indecent police harassing your friends and neighbors? How did the reports and stories of that sort of thing affect you and those you knew, emotionally and mentally?
Yes of course. I don’t think you can grow up in any inner city neighborhood and not be a witness to police brutality at some point. I think so many of those stories have been grouped with current stories that have been unfortunately swept under the rug. My way of addressing it is through my music.
Because female lyricists are still underrepresented in hip-hop, do you think they have more of a responsibility than some other groups to impart progressive messages in their music?
I’m not sure we can depend on male rappers to honor us in the way we should be. However, I think if more women artists would set a standard of respect it would be acknowledged and regarded. I mean you’ve never heard Queen Latifah or Lauryn Hill calling themselves “bad bitches” or “hot hoes.” That’s because they didn’t see themselves as such so the world, the hood, we had to respect it and we still do.
One of the big stories recently was the Remy Ma vs. Nicki Minaj feud. Do you see that as helpful to the culture from a competition standpoint? Or do you see it as hurtful to female advancement in the field since they’re essentially going after each other and quarreling?
Not really, I don’t see it as helpful competition. I mean, I wasn’t motivated because I didn’t learn anything new. I wonder if both ladies really spoke about something a bit more meaningful or even creative, how many more they could have potentially inspired. I can appreciate a head to head but it doesn’t seem like much was accomplished during the feud. I mean, were you motivated in any way?
Good point. It does seem like the typical, dare-I-say contrived rap beef. On a brighter note though, you’ve mentioned Lauryn Hill as having had a positive impact on you in the past. Who are some of your other role models in hip-hop?
Wow, so many. Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Nas, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, Kendrick Lamar to name a few. Honestly though it’s been artists like Nina Simone, The Isley Brothers, Bob Marley, and my big cousin Phyllis Hyman, RIP, that have inspired me to appreciate great music with a message.
You’ve stated before that you enjoy being an independent artist. What sort of freedoms would you like to take advantage of going forward and what new paths would you like to explore as an emcee?
I’d like to explore my options and keep on copping. Lol Seriously though, I’ve always really liked jazz and gospel so I’m hoping to maybe mix the two genres together in some way and sprinkle it with bars. I love percussion and I’ve already started playing with creating beats so the sky is the limit. I love collaboration, so I look forward to connecting with other artists to be stimulated and generate dope material.
I can tell you’re destined for more greatest ahead no doubt. Is there a timetable for the release of your next album or is it too early to say? Is there a title?
Much appreciated, thank you! It’s a little too early to say when my next album will be released or what the title will be but the writing prep has definitely begun. I’m currently wrapping up (pun intended) a mixtape called Sweet 16 with a producer duo called Cultural Bastards from NY.
Magnificent! Thank you very much for your time and thoughts, Robyn.
A balanced performing artist to say the least, Robyn has already done so much good in the biz so early in the going. People will definitely be hearing and seeing more from her in no time. Catch her in Blue Bloods tonight (Mar. 31) on CBS at 10pm EST, in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix May 19, in the third season of Odd Mom Out on Bravo and in comedy-drama series Master of None also on Netflix later this year. She can be discovered and learned about more as an emcee at @robynhoodfanz across the major social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her own signature website plus her EP For Higher can be streamed or purchased from SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, iTunes and Google Play. Robyn never seems to stop so make sure to catch her on your highlight reel very soon.