Myrlin Hepworth's Hip-Hop Tackles Toxic Masculinity

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

Myrlin Hepworth is loath to admit it, lest anyone get the wrong idea, but when we called him at his home one recent Tuesday morning, the local rapper, poet, activist, and educator was watching a documentary on the Eagles. Not exactly what one might expect from an aspiring hip-hop artist. Yet Hepworth, who readily admits growing up listening to the band (as well as to Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, and the Temptations) believes there is a lot to be gained by exploring styles outside the hip-hop/rap realm.

"It's all music, so there's something I learn everywhere. With the Eagles — and I think this will be a big disconnect for people who listen to my music — what I hear are four male vocalists harmonizing in an incredible way. You could say the same thing about the Temptations. That's part of what makes their sound so great. Those incredible harmonies," he says. "I'm just learning how they compose music, how they add layers, instrumentation, and collaboration. It's super-valuable.

"It's not that I want to set out and make a record that sounds like the Eagles or the Temptations," he quickly adds, "but how someone in the Eagles flips a certain number of syllables might influence the way I'm rapping or how I create a hook. There's not a whole bunch of new ideas out here; there's just new ways of arranging old stories."


Myrlin Hepworth is scheduled to perform Saturday, January 30, at Crescent Ballroom.

Hepworth takes those final six words to heart on his latest release, Eulogy and Blue. The album features a darker tone than his debut, The Funky Autopsy, focusing on the cult of celebrity and the negative effects it can have on relationships.

"I don't want to be famous 'cause that shit will kill you," he raps on "Letter to Dave Chappelle," while name-dropping numerous artists and public figures who died too young: Tupac Shakur, Amy Winehouse, the Kennedys, and "too many to mention."

"The shit is about mortality. Life is hinged on death. Everything is about that at some point," he says.

His belief that there are "new ways of arranging old stories" is never more true than on "#27," a song about his uncle, shot in the back for a couple of dollars when he was just 23. The song weaves together his story and its effect on his family, with the old stories of artists like Otis Redding, Christopher Wallace (Biggie Smalls), Tupac, Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, and others who died at or before reaching age 27.

"It's a crazy fucking song," he says, before adding somberly, "I'm almost older than all these people now."

Not all of Hepworth's work is so dark, though often it is pointed and political. Hepworth doesn't hesitate to take a stand on local issues such as immigration, or national issues that hit at a local level, including the war on terror, Syrian refugees, and school shootings. His songs, sometimes painfully (though purposefully) hit home in exposing "toxic masculinity," police brutality, sexual issues, male rage, and the pervasive teaching of violence to the youth.

"In the 1960s and '70s . . . those artists were reacting to the political climate of the time. Because I love history, I'm into commenting on what we're living through now, but on a macro level . . . And I'm speaking about personal narratives, and the personal can be politically charged," he says. "The purpose of my art is to speak and express the most amount of truth I can reach with my limited amount of time here on Earth."

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.