Creating a sound both unique and inspirational, Divinity Roxx is set to raise the musical bar in 2016. Chances are you have heard of her already, but if you haven’t, you will want to hear what she brings to the table.
PopWrapped: Your new video and single for your latest single, “We Are,” is beautiful and inspiring, not to mention artistically ambitious. How long did this music video take to make, and where did the idea for the concept come from?
Divinity Roxx: The music video was a collaboration between me and a couple of female animators out of Seattle, Martha Grant and Jessica Polaniecki. My business partner and I had been talking about ideas for a video for "We Are," and I wanted to do something with animation, so she went on the hunt for animators. She found these two, and their material was really creative, so we started talking about ideas and concepts, and they came back with a treatment I loved and started working right away. They really felt the song and the message in it and were excited to make the video. I sent them footage of me singing and performing the song, and they animated it all. It really came out beautiful, and they did a phenomenal job.
PW: What does your songwriting process look like?
DR: Its not glamorous, at all. Its also not consistent. Sometimes, it starts with me practicing bass. I may stumble upon a cool bass line that compels me to lay it down in Pro Tools or Logic, and then I may pull up sounds to start working on a beat. Sometimes, lyrics come immediately, sometimes not; it may start with just syllables and sounds or not. The most important and automatic part that happens is me getting the bass down and a beat and some keys or something. And, though it may disrupt my practice time, I’m usually satisfied that I created something I like. Other times, it's intentional. I sit down with the goal of writing something, and I do or don’t. Other times, I’m walking through the airport or driving or doing regular stuff like grocery shopping, and a bass riff pops in my head. I may create a voice-note and later lay it down on bass. That’s what happened with the song “WhacaDoinWhereUAtWhoUWit.” That was a voice note that turned into a song. Or I may just wake up with a line, like the line in "Just When U Think." That one just came outta the blue in my head right before I started practicing, and I couldn’t help but lay it down. It was sooo cool. Sometimes, I dream a bass line.
With lyrics, it depends. Sometimes, lyrics come, and, sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, it's just a few words; other times, it’s a stream of words I can’t stop from coming. The writing process for this album was crazy because I was back and forth from NY to LA after we laid down most of the music in the studio, but I hadn’t written a good bit of the lyrics. I just had song ideas and a few lines jotted down here and there. I flew to my apartment in Jersey to finish the album, but I hadn’t finished writing everything. I turned the living room in Jersey into a little mobile studio and wrote most of the album lyrics in three days because I had to get back in and finish. I was piecing together previous phrases and concepts I had jotted down in my phone, and I just stayed at it from early in the morn to late at night for a few days before going in and laying it down. I actually make up songs all day long about whatever I’m doing or what I’m about to do or what I’m observing. They’re usually silly and related to whatever I’m doing, like cooking or something, but there’s always a song happening and a performance for it, as well.
PW: Where do you gather inspiration from?
DR: Inspiration is everywhere. For me, it comes from multiple sources. Listening to people talk at the next table in a restaurant, a brief encounter, a conversation with a friend -- another song lyric can spark an idea that inspires a song. Inspiration is everywhere, and, when you’re tapped into receiving it, it just happens.
PW: Many albums have themes that run through them. Does your new album ImPossible [pronounced 'I’m Possible'] have a specific theme that runs through it?
DR: The name of the album is ImPossible because there have been times when I didn’t think I could be. I am possible, despite the fact that the world may oftentimes tell me that I’m not. The album starts with a voice note from my mom. That voice note is a few years old, and, when she sent it, I was going through some pretty tough times, and she could feel it. I was hustling, trying to figure out what was next for me after the Beyonce gig. I was re-identifying with myself as an artist, as a musician, as a woman in the world. My dad had died. I moved to LA. It was crazy. But she kept saying to me to expect a miracle, and I think, in some ways, that’s a theme that runs through the album, as well. Those two themes are prominent on this album, and I’m expecting a miracle for you, too … cuz, after all, what good is a miracle if its only for me?
PW: How would you describe your music to someone that has not heard it before?
DR: It depends on what day you ask me. I’d say it's funky, alternative, rocked out hip-hop infused with jazzy dub basslines and authentic lyrics. This record is different in that I kinda went back to some R&B sensibilities, as well, and emphasized my love of jazz and soul music. I’d just say it’s a little bit of everything with thoughtful lyrics and some cool groovy bass.
PW: There is simply not enough time to talk about everything you have done for the music industry -- or the amount of accolades, talk shows, music events, and other such things. You are clearly a music vet at this point in your musical career. Can you tell us a few of your most memorable musical highlights?
DR: I have so many incredible memories from this journey, I don’t know where to begin. From getting that first phone call from Victor Wooten to tour with him when I was still developing as a bassist and solo artist, to being chosen by Beyonce to tour with her in her all-female band. The first show we played with her was the BET Awards, and, if you go back and look at that show, my face says it all. I had the biggest cheesiest grin ever because I had just come out of a time of everybody telling me no, I couldn’t be a black girl who rapped and played bass and infused rock and hip-hop. I had just gotten out of the studio with Will.I.Am, and that whole thing kinda tanked, so I wasn’t sure what was next for me. Playing the Grammys and The White House for the President and his family, Oprah, Ellen, Saturday Night Live -- so many incredible memories. Traveling all over the world from Ethiopia to South Korea. There are so many incredible memories. Releasing this album is certainly a highlight. I’m really proud of this body of work, and it took quite a bit to finally get it done, so, right now, this is the highlight of it all.
PW: We are currently seeing a great influx of socially-aware female musicians. What makes you choose to help raise the intellectual bar above the current club mentality of the music scene?
DR: I don’t have a choice but to speak the truth. As an artist, I have a responsibility to the reflect upon the times, to reflect my experiences and those of other women like me who find themselves marginalized in this society. If I have the opportunity and platform to be heard, why not make it a powerful statement, a statement that other women can relate to? My art is not merely about being in the club having fun, though I enjoy that sometimes, too. My music is the medium though which I raise my voice, raise my fist, in protest, in solidarity -- but always for a reason, a purpose.
PW: My personal favorite song on the album is "Break These Walls Down" featuring Anhayla. I think I just listened to it over ten times in a row, haha. Other than "We Are," is there another specific song that you would like to shed some light on?
DR: Each song on this record has a special story attached to its conception. One of the songs I think people misunderstand is "Let U Go" because the two songs before it are love songs. After all that love is poured out of my soul, I talk about letting go of a toxic, addictive relationship, and it's easy to think I’m referring to the same person whose praises I was just singing on the song "Question" and "WhacaDoinWhereUAtWhoUWit." But I’m not letting go of a person on that song, I’m debating on whether I can let go of this relationship with music, the music industry, and my career as a musician and performer. Although this is my third album, when I made it, I said it would be my last. I still go back and forth about that. I put it all out there on this one. It’s about as honest as I can be about my life and my perspective on the world. But it is a grind, a serious grind, a very hard grind. It’s a very dirty business, and I question whether or not I can continue to operate in it sometimes. But I love creating and performing and writing, so who knows -- maybe there’s another album brewing deep inside, but, for now, I’m still debating whether or not I can "Let U Go, or do I want some mo’, got hand my hand on the do’, can I walk out fa sho."
PW: Your musical journey is a very interesting one. Can you tell us a bit about what it took to get to this point in your musical career?
DR: Haha, we don’t have enough time to talk about all the little intricacies and happenstances, the ‘being in a certain place at a certain time’ and making a certain decision that led to the introduction of this person that led to the exit of this person that led to the creation of this piece of music or that one. There have been a lotta ups and a lotta downs, a lotta highs and lows, a lotta celebrations and disappointments. At the end of the day, I picked up the bass and taught myself to make beats. I started writing songs, and they started getting better. I work really hard to be better -- a better musician, a better person, a better friend, lover, daughter, partner, just better. I kept going despite what people said about my music, about my art, about whether I was good enough or cute enough or smart enough or cool enough. Eventually, I created something I love, and I’m excited to share with other people. My goal has always been to inspire someone else, and I think this album has been doing that so far.
PW: How long did your new album ImPossible take to make?
DR: It took some time. This album is a culmination of a bunch of previously written material -- old tracks I made years ago and rediscovered. I just started pulling up old beats and files from my hard drive and thinking, awww man, I was in a cool space when I made this, so it's got to go on the album. "The Book," for instance, was something I’d made in my house in Atlanta, and I haven’t lived in ATL in about five years. I attempted to record that piece before with another band, but it wasn’t working, so I scratched it. But with Julian (guitar) and Lamar (drums), I was able to get exactly what I wanted out of it. It kind of worked out like that on this album. We were in an alternate universe, and everything just worked out.
PW: What advice do you have for independent artists looking to make their own mark on the industry?
DR: Go with your affinity. What is for you is for you. For some people, the first song they write is a hit record; for others, it takes decades. Some people never get it. It’s about being honest with yourself, pushing through and remaining focused on your goals, handling your business, developing and maintaining relationships, and shedding your ego. It's tough but you have to accept criticism but, most importantly, have integrity. It's not easy, and there will be times when everything comes together and times when everything falls apart, but know that whatever crisis you are experiencing or whatever amazing high you’re on, it won’t last, and there will be something else -- always something else to experience.
PW: Lastly -- and thank you for your time -- do you have any news that you would like to tell your fans about?
DR: We are planning on taking the show on the road. We will be touring the ImPossible album in the US and Europe this year so please check out the website for dates and to sign up to my newsletter for updates, new releases, videos, and new music. Thank you for your thoughtful questions and for taking the time to really listen to the music. That means a lot.