Hip Hop culture is unrelenting in its diffusion. For each space into which Hip Hop is welcomed—whether as filler between cracked city concrete or as primer beneath faded duplex paint—it is rejected with vitriol in another space. Yet even in the face of such vitriol, and in those anaerobic environments so seemingly non-conducive to the breath and life of Hip Hop, the culture thrives almost spitefully so. The classroom, and more generally, all of Academe, has long been considered non-arable land for Hip Hop culture; that is, Hip Hop has not been allowed to plant itself in the fertile soils of Academe, among the other revered art forms to sprout throughout human history. And so Hip Hop has traditionally relied upon the hands—the callused, bloodied, dirtied hands—of “farmers” from its own culture to dig out its space in Academia. The hands of Myrlin Hepworth are plenty callused; the hands of Merlin Hepworth are quite bloodied; the hands of Myrlin Hepworth are undeniably dirtied, and they are hands seemingly ordained to carry and plant Hip Hop culture in lands unfamiliar.
The term “conscious”, so far as it is bandied about in Hip Hop culture, is a seeming pejorative, for a number of reasons: Namely, because such a categorization implies consciousness in Hip Hop is anomalous, but also because the term is restrictive of the artists unto whom it is cast. Myrlin Hepworth is a teacher—literally. His pathway to the pinnacle of professional poetry has launched him beyond the confines of rural Louiston, Idaho, and into classrooms all over the United States, before bunches of wide-eyed, vulnerable poetry enthusiasts. In the truest since, and in fashion uncommon to most musicians, Myrlin Hepworth is a professor, and that title awards him a unique platform. To the academy, he speaks the language of Hip Hop—that dialect flavored by the boom-bip and the turntable scratch—and to Hip Hop, he speaks the language of the academy. Myrlin’s latest project—mature and calculated as it is—serves him well as the document—the dissertation, perhaps—to unify even more so the two worlds he inhabits.
The Funky Autopsy—much like Myrlin—is better left unconstrained by labels. It—he—is so identifiably Myrlin that it cannot possibly be anything else, and so the result is a musical mosaic so Malcolm X in its oratory precision; so Jack White in its unpredictability; so Tim Russert in its inquisition; so Raekwon in its aggression; and so much an embodiment of the diversity engrained in its creator. The album’s intro offers a thin, airy, ambient beat overlaying a cacophony of voices reminiscent of a middle school hallway, in a seeming nod to Myrlin’s teaching background. Thereafter, The Funky Autopsy guides listeners down a winding road, beset on both sides by both Academia and the world of Hip Hop; each ebb and flow of this winding road offering the listener an opportunity to gaze into the worlds before them. Myrlin’s “Don’t Ever Be Lonely” and “To the Rescue” mark the album’s first meander, bringing listeners to the border of the Hip Hop world. In these particular tracks, Myrlin’s romanticism of the microphone and boasts of lyrical prowess are positioned beside his cultural reflection and critique, in true Hip Hop style. “I stare upon the wall like, ‘Yo, who the dopest of them all?’/ I use microphones to break mirrors, screamin’, ‘Can you hear me?’, Myrlin emotes at the start of “Don’t Ever Be Lonely”, in words which encapsulate Myrlin’s true essence—his magnetic humanness juxtaposed against his seemingly heroic virtue.
“The Funky Autopsy” continues along, meandering between Academia and the Hip Hop world. “Arizona I Love You But…” is a profession and damnation of the torrid race relations in the southwestern state, yet its precise criticism of efforts to defund ethnic studies programs asserts Myrlin’s academic acuity. “Arizona I Love You But…” marks yet another meander along the winding road of “The Funky Autopsy” and provides to listeners an opportunity to gaze into the heart of Academia. Myrlin’s compilation maintains its winding pattern throughout, with tracks broaching the subjects of Hip Hop deity J Dilla, the prison industrial complex, teaching methods, carnal desire, and a number of others. The diversity in his album—the freedom with which it navigates both Hip Hop and academic lands—is microcosmic of Myrlin himself, as well as a testimony to his efforts. To be found at the conclusion of The Funky Autopsy—when a hush descends and consumes us all—is that the winding road down which we’ve traveled has led to a dead end; and before us, a convergence. To our left, all that is Hip Hop, to our right, all that is Academia, yet at our front, a merger of two worlds previously segregated.
Give “The Funky Autopsy” a listen here: http://myrlin.bandcamp.com/album/the-funky-autopsy