Bassist, songwriter and rapper Divinity Roxx has a new children's album and book project. (Courtesy of Divinity Roxx)
Divinity Roxx, best known for playing bass in Beyoncé's all female band, is making her mark on the family music scene. From start to finish, her new album, Ready, Set, Go, is about positivity in mind and body.
Divinity says that as she was writing the album, she thought "about the kid inside of me," as well as her nieces and nephews.
"A lot of times they're listening to adult music, and these concepts are too mature for them, and I don't like to hear them singing some of these lyrics," she says. She set out to write "a jam that's appropriate for a five-year-old, that makes them feel good about being alive, and makes them think about life in a different way."
The title track of Ready, Set, Go is the ultimate morning jam, with its aerobic tempo and rhymes like "Put that pep in your step, put that pride in your stride."
Weekday mornings were upbeat at the Atlanta home of little Debbie Walker, the future Divinity Roxx. Her mom was president of the local PTA. "She would give us a sermon every morning about how it was time to get up and why we were going to school," Divinity recalls. "And you got to make opportunities for yourself and...go out there and be something in the world and you got to be prepared." Channeling her mom's energy, Divinity says, "The lyrics are just about being prepared for your day, because preparation is the key to success."
Divinity Roxx was plenty prepared when she auditioned for Beyoncé, but getting to that point in her career wasn't always easy. She's been playing music since she was a little girl, and spent a lot of time with her uncle who played bass and saxophone. Divinity's first instrument was clarinet.
But when she was in middle school, her mother started doing drugs. "She wore herself out. I had this really rare blood disorder as a kid, so she had to take me to the doctor every single week," Divinity recalls. "And then as soon as I got better, my sister had arthritis in her knees, so then she started going to the doctor every week. I think my mom just checked out at a certain point.
"Addiction is real," she adds, "and it tears people apart."
Divinity says her mom has been in recovery for 30 years now.
Years later, she used a voice-mail recording from her mom in the song "Miracle," on her solo album ImPossible.
'You walk like a bass player. You talk like a bass player.'
Divinity went to the University of California at Berkeley to study journalism, but says she ended up mostly hanging out with musicians. She recalls that when she told a bassist friend she was ready to pick up an instrument again, he told her, "You're a bass player. You walk like a bass player. You talk like a bass player."
She's pretty sure now that her "vibe" was responsible: "Bass players are more laid back. They're cool being in the cut." (No offense to guitarists, she's quick to add.)
Divinity practiced and played at clubs whenever she could. She learned that her idol, bassist Victor Wooten, was hosting a bass camp in Tennessee. "He has this philosophy about how music and nature are really connected and interrelated so he was teaching life and survival skills as well as bass," she says. "And when I heard that he was having the camp, I said, 'I have to go.'"
"Divinity came across as the complete package—more than myself," Wooten says. He remembers that when she first played for him and the other counselors, "it blew us all away." When camp was over, Wooten asked Divinity to tour with him and his band. "She was a hit every night," he says. "She was just riveting and powerful, and just electric on stage."
Divinity never heard Beyoncé say "I'm tired"
Divinity was over the moon. She says her "dream" was to have a career like Wooten, a Grammy-winning artist who makes a living writing, recording and performing. "He had his own tour bus!" she remembers thinking.
But in 2006, people kept telling her that Beyoncé was forming an all-female band, and that she should audition for it. "I didn't think anything about it because I was like: Beyoncé is Beyoncé. She can call anybody. I don't even understand why she's having auditions; I can think of five bass players she should hire right now, and none of them equal me, right?"
Wrong, it turned out. Having watched the pool of applicants get smaller and smaller after auditions in Atlanta and New York, Divinity and the other musicians still standing learned from Beyoncé's father, Matthew Knowles, that they were hired.
"He says, 'OK, so Beyoncé wants all of you to be a part of her all-female band, and get ready, because in two weeks you're going to play the BET awards,'" Divinity remembers. "We were just there dumbfounded—like, what just happened?!"
Touring the world with Beyoncé was a huge learning experience. During an exhausting period of traveling, performing and rehearsing, Divinity happened to get on the elevator with the superstar and her mom, Miss Tina.
Beyoncé, Divinity recalls, leaned up against the wall and sighed. "Miss Tina looks at her and says, 'Are you tired?' And she stands up and looks at her and says 'I could run a mile.' I just laughed and I said: 'Yeah, that's the attitude.' I've never heard her say, 'I'm tired.' I try to take that out of my vocabulary. Because she's going to do what she has to do to reach her goal."
Love wins every time
With her new children's project, Divinity Roxx has now reached one of her goals. Good thing, says rapper FYÜTCH, who's active in the children's music scene. He's one of the guest artists on Divinity's new album.
"The fact that Divinity Roxx is dedicating her mission, her time, her music, her resources, her experience as a world traveled musician to kids' music and family music and books," he says, "it's showing how diverse this industry really is, and much potential there is."
While unabashed positivity runs throughout Ready, Set, Go, Divinity also includes a song called "Love, Love, Love" that recognizes sometimes families argue. "Whenever humans come together, there's always some kind of conflict you're going to face," she says. "But if you can rest on the fact that you love each other and respect each other when you are expressing your differences, that love is what's going to keep you bonded." Wise words for grown-ups too.
Scholastic is publishing the lyrics of two of the songs from Divinity's new album: Happy and Healthy and the forthcoming Me + You, both with illustrations by NaShanta Fletcher.
Now Divinity is working on a one-woman show which she describes as "the origin story of a superhero named Divinity Roxx."