There’s something about music of the nineties that we just can’t seem to let go of. Whether it was the sound, the way it made you feel, or the amount of time, effort, and overall work that you knew the artist was putting into it, it's something that forever stays in the minds of so many music fans today. It’s why when artists like Ida Divine come around, they instantly do well.
While Ida Divine is well aware of the time period she’s in, and her music is very well within this time frame, there’s no denying that her music offers a bit of nostalgia when it comes to what we were accustomed to in the nineties. Her music definitely invokes that spirit, and that overall feeling of happiness. Once you realize she’s working with Herb Middleton himself, it all becomes rather clear. Middleton, as many will remember, was a part of the huge circle that included Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, Mary J. Blige, and so many others. He was instrumental in building the musical landscape of Evan’s self-titled debut, and Blige’s My Life. Obviously, his worked continued on with a host of other artists throughout the years, and now he’s back in the market for building that artistry from the ground up again.
With Ida Divine, the union couldn’t be any better. Their styles matched together has proven to be a golden combination. One listen to Divine’s “I Rise to the Top”, and you’ll understand just was I mean. Her path has been written, and the stars are definitely aligning perfectly for her.
In our feature, we talk about the album for sure, but we also talk a lot about her humble beginnings, and just what she has in store for the world. She’s worked hard to get to this point, and the doors are now opening wide for her. Her union with Herb Middleton is something that has been properly serving to both of them. She was at a point where she needed that special somebody to get her to the next point in her career, and the same applies for Middleton. He was in search of that special somebody to take his company to the next level. From that, came Divine Intervention!
UG Digital: Thank you so much for your time. We’ve been working so long to put this together. It’s exciting to connect with you because I love your album. I love the movement you’re making, and I haven’t seen it in a long time from an artist. There’s something about the stuff that Herb puts together.
Ida Devine: It’s very nostalgic
UG Digital: There’s a quality in your music that is not heard anymore. Kudos for that...
Ida Divine: Thank you for appreciating it, and thank you for your musical ear. If you have a music ear, you know what sounds good, and what connects you to the music you grew up with. That’s the main thing I aim to do with my music, just to give people something that’ve heard, but in a new package.
UG Digital: So talk about your start in music?
Ida Divine: I’m originally from Staten Island, from the same projects where Wu-Tang came from. I watched them before they got on, and they would always be in these cyphers. They would always be freestyling in a circle. Funny as it sounds, I started to feel like I could be in Wu-Tang (laughing). I started writing raps and poetry. My mom is Jamaican, so she played a lot of roots reggae, dancehall, Sade, and american music as well. Everything combined, it played a key factor in what my music is now. That’s when I started thinking I could be a musician. I was 13 at that time.
UG Digital: As cheesy as it sounds, I’ve always recognized and idolized the people coming from that area, and places like the Bronx, and Brooklyn, and just NYC as a whole. I also look at those from Jersey. I think the fact that you're from Staten Island speaks to your music and the quality. You think of Lauryn, who comes from Jersey, and it’s the same thing. You remind me of her in many ways.
Ida Divine: That’s such a great thing because she’s one of my idols. NYC is an inspiration for musicians from anywhere. If you’re from anywhere else pursuing music, and move to NYC, you’ll be inspired. It’s not the easiest place to live, but the intensity feeds into the music. I've lived in the South for a little, which was much easier, and I created great music. I was raised in NYC though, so I carry that survival type of mentality.
UG Digital: That mentality, and that spirit of hustle that so many people in NYC have, how has it helped you in jumpstarting your career? You mention how much easier it was for you in the South. How has that spirit helped you to continue to build in NYC? I imagine that it has to be difficult in getting people to pick up on it?
Ida Divine: One of the tactics I use, sadly, is being a woman (laughing). You have to use it if you want to get any further. When you see a female artist, you look at them physically, then you listen. That’s just human nature. In Charlotte, trap music was getting really big. I would write a rhyme, and I would freestyle over a trap beat, but sing it. I noticed it was getting a lot of attention. It was strange because they didn’t know what to do with me. I would go to these open mics and be the only girl there rap-singing. From there, I gradually went into singing and then got management. It started with hip-hop though. I just got in where I could fit in.
UG Digital: I know I said you remind me a lot of Lauryn, and when you look at her beginnings and where she started, there was never any hiding the fact that she was beautiful. People saw it, but I don’t believe they ever knew the fire she had to offer until she really put it out there. You fast-forward to now, and she has been running nearly 20 years off one cd. I feel like you’re going to mimic a lot of that.
Ida Divine: When I look at her, I look at where she comes from. She comes from a good household, and obviously came from the suburbs, but I believe it plays into her message. It doesn’t matter where you come from. If you have a message, you need to share it.
UG Digital: A lot of people go through the same struggles regardless of where they’re from. A lot of people in the suburbs sometimes have things a little worse because they may not really be affording that lifestyle and they’re working harder to maintain.
Ida Divine: That is something that people would never know. You look at them and think they have everything, and then they’re shrouded away from the inner city. Someone like her probably craved that inner city culture. I’m glad she’s here and doing her thing. She did the Nina Simone remixes. It’s great.
UG Digital: So for you as an artist, knowing the stress behind promoting your product, I don’t think anyone would get into this unless they knew they had something. What for you made you feel it was a sure thing.
Ida Divine: You never know if it’s a sure thing, but you get little signs that tell you that you’re on the right track. The first one I got was early. I have two boys, and we were watching Fantasia on American Idol. My oldest was like mom, you can do that. From there, I got other little signs. I started to open for a lot of artists coming through Charlotte, like Dead Prez, and Raekwon. Those type of things really give you confidence. Over time, it becomes more of a sure thing.
UG Digital: What was the reaction, obviously you being in the south, and then somebody like Raekwon comes through that's from where you come from?
Ida Divine: I think it was more like what is she doing here. Keep doing it. I always got positivity. I opened for Lady Saw, and she was great. She travels by herself, and she had her DJ with her. She was just like keep going. If they want you to take your shoes off, take them off and give them to them. I’ve been getting great feedback from these legends when I meet them. They tell me to keep going.
UG Digital: I think you’re doing it. You’re so seasoned, and you know what you’re doing. You’ve clearly worked hard at putting your package together. In this day and time, where do you feel like you fit into it all? Given the nostalgic feel to what you offer, and the fact you’re working with Herb...that’s all good, but you have a lot of people who are going to look at it’s old school.
Ida Divine: I do have a vintage sound, which is attributed to the production I choose. He has a very classic sound, like classic 90s R&B. That’s fine, and I love that. I also do a lot of other things, and you’ll hear it through the production. For instance, I have a track that is like techno-hip-hop. I think that I fit in where I want, but I remain true to my sound which is soulful. Also, I can see a true school kinda 90s genre or nostalgic vibe coming back. Like boom bap is coming back.
UG Digital: I think it definitely is. In terms of your artistry, what is your goal?
Ida Divine: I want to have a Rachelle Ferrell type of following. She can sing whenever or wherever she wants, and she is good. If I’m not on TV or radio, that’s cool, but if i have a room full of people wilting for me to come to their city, I’m cool with that.
UG Digital: You’re well on your way to building that. There’s a song you did that used the same sample as Kanye and Jay-Z.
Ida Divine: That song used Otis, and the song was Groove is in the Heart from Dee-Lite.
UG Digital: I love that song. I thought you were killing it.
Ida Divine: I like to mash up music, and do multiple covers at a time. It’s fun for me.
UG Digital: That’s what’s allowing you to connect with listeners. We want to hear music. Some of what’s out today is so manufactured, and you get sick of it after a while.
Ida Divine: The same drum patterns, and same voice recognition. I get it. That’s what soul music is about. It’s authentic because it comes from the soul.
UG Digital: In terms of you being with Herb, he’s one of the biggest names in there industry, and I think in the same respect we second guess ourselves, so I don’t think he realizes how big he is.
Ida Divine: Herb is so humble. You can’t tell him who he is. He’s like “oh no, I worked with Usher once, he was cool”.
UG Digital: I’m like, does he realize he was behind Faith and Mary?
Ida Divine: He did. There’s someone that said he was the diva maker (laughing)
UG Digital: He and I connected at the time we did the Faith Evans issue. In reaching out to the individuals involved and he jumped at the opportunity.
Ida Divine: That’s great, and I just wanted to tell you before you go any further, thank you for that! Faith is one of my favorite artists in the entire universe, and she’s from Jersey. She had that hip-hop and R&B soul. I don’t think she gets the recognition she deserves. I couldn’t get enough of her. Thank you for doing that.
UG Digital: She was the first artist that I stepped out there and put together a full issue for. It’s ironic because when her cd dropped, I remember where I was the day it dropped, and as connected as I was to music, I don’t think I could appreciate it for what it was at the time. Like a year later, I worked at an amusement park which was like an hour from home, and it sits on an island. I had this lonely sense where I felt like I was alone, and her album carried me through that period. What amazed me about doing this issue is when I reached out to her team, they were excited and participated. I don’t see other magazines doing that. As a journalist, there’s always been the saying that you want to always remain objective, and fewer journalists put their true emotions into their work, but I want to show through my work that I truly am a fan, obviously without being crazy with it (laughing).
Ida Divine: It’s kind alike Unsung. It has become so popular and huge because there is a hunger for seeing how the music came about.
UG Digital: You connecting with Herb, did you know his track record? How did you come together?
Ida Divine: In Charlotte, I was managed by two females, which was a big part in why I was media trained. They did all kinds of things with me. They had a woman who did PR. She did her own events as well. She said she knew I was going back to NYC, and she connected me to Herb. I was getting away from rap, but he was looking for a female lyricist. I sent him various things, and he wanted to do a project. Once I googled him, I was like “oh shit”. I said from that point, I would make sure I was dedicating time to creating, and allowing myself to listen. I know he knows what he’s talking about. He lives out of state. I had to travel to get this album done, and I’m so happy at how it turned out.
UG Digital: It shows your love, and how badly you wanted it.
Ida Divine: I had to. I also work in the healthcare field, and I work third shift.
UG Digital: It’s funny that when I called you one day, I had that sense immediately that you were in healthcare.
Ida Divine: Yes indeed. When that shift changes, you become instantly tired. Sometimes, if I knew I was recording afterwards though, I would gear myself up at about 4am, and put every bit of energy into it. I’m glad we can all hear the intensity.
UG Digital: Where are you as an artist in the next five years?
Ida Divine: Next year, I’ll be going to Birmingham, and doing some work in the UK and London. My music has been over there for a while. I’ll do a small run over there, and build it up. I’ll possibly get into some Broadway as well. I’ve been doing some auditions.
UG Digital: I think it’s amazing. Going to the UK, things pick up so strongly in terms of music that the sky will definitely be the limit. You’ll be at an unbelievable level.
Ida Divine: They constantly check for Soul Music artists. They look for them. A lot of artists go there and get the recognition they want. Then when they come back here, it’s reciprocated. I see that happening. I’ll dedicate a good chunk of time to learn their market and connect with the fans, DJs, and promoters there.
UG Digital: In terms of final comments, what do you want to get out there to your fanbase?
I want them to purchase I Rise to the Top. I’ll be in Philly in March at Warmdaddy’s, and at BB King’s in February. I’ll be back down south as well.