Sitting Indian style on a multi-colored ottoman, Ida Divine resembles an undaunted Nubian princess. Her long jet-black Senegalese twist hangs down past her shoulders, allowing full view of the floral tattoo that swathed around her collarbone like a necklace. Ida’s posture was graceful like a Siamese cat and strikingly impudent. Her strong mien stated, “I am inimitable, troubles don’t consume me, for I… own the world”. Her voguish attire was unrepressed, and up to the minute. Ida’s indigo eye shadow complimented the silk, motley colored blouse that she wore. Her variegated pants were rock-star haute, as well as her leopard wedged boots. Still in a statuette position, she managed to greet us with a softened smile. Even in the gloom of day, a florescent glow appeared from the window above her, and shined onto the muted area where she continued to pose for the photographer. Under the spotlight, Ida, yielded stardom, her aura was far from transient. She was like a rare orchid in bloom. Much like the budding flora wrapped around her neck, she was undeniably beautiful. We sat quietly while watching the sacred event as if we were lovers of fine art in a packed out room.
Ida Divine, already an instinctive and idiosyncratic artist, was born into a single parent household with her mother, and younger brother, Tislam, in the “Forgotten Boroughs”, of Staten Island New York. Mastering the arts at a quirky young age, Ida tells us about her upbringing, “I was one of those kids who wanted to be like the other kids. But, I just couldn’t and I don’t know why!” she exclaimed in a flabbergasted tone. “I would do weird stuff, like sew clothes for my Barbie with needle and thread. I would get a paper bag, and try to do some origami type stuff. So, I already know something was a little different”. She giggled aloud. “I used to paint pictures and I used to do really good in art by doodling and drawing pictures. My family always thought that I was going to do something in art as far as painting. In school, I went really far in advance art. In junior high school, my painting went to the Brooklyn museum, and in high school, my picture traveled to the Charlotte Douglas airport. I always thought that I was going to be a visual artist….
Years later after that discernible premonition as an invulnerable child, IDA Divine has flourished into one of the most apt, and exquisite Independent Artist in her genre. She is that oddity that can deliver the Motown style of song without missing a pitch. Her voice is intense and sultry, and when those lyrics are set free during performances or even a practice session, she seduces the hearts and minds of any listener that takes an interest in her.
IDA has hit singles such as “Grow Up,” “Time,” “Ida Divine,” and “Sometimes” just to name a few ; these singles have traveled worldwide to California, New York, Philadelphia, Georgia, Miami, Virginia, Chicago, Nairobi Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Toronto, Canada, Australia, Paris, UK, and Poland. She’s performed alongside LakeSide, Lady Saw, Raekwon, Dead Prez, Rudy Currence, Sunshine Anderson, and Naughty By Nature. She won Best R&B female vocalist for the Carolina Music Awards in 2009 for her a mix tape release “1979” after being out for only a short span of six months. She recently won an award for Best Female
R&B artist at the 2012, Queen City Awards. Hanus TV nominated Ida for her best cover, and produced rendition recordings of “Poison.” This “Divine” entity has a feature in Four Magazine, The Fayetteville Observer, Ihiphop, The Examiner, On Smash, Hanus TV, and Rodney Perry Live. Ida Divine’s supporters compare her style and delivery to the Multi Grammy Award Winner Lauryn Hill. In my opinion, there is no comparison to another artist or lyricist. With her new cd, “Molecular Legato”, her statement is clear, and she is just a creative damsel that’s stressing the message of artistic freedom. Ida’s humble, and peaceful nature is a great deal like “Razia Sultana”. When you combine those two strong qualities with her bravura, lyrical expression, in addition to her slayer-stage presence; you already know that she is the definition of artistry ascended, and has created a new trend of evolutionary-soul.
UT: How did you know that you were going to be a singer?
ID: I would be singing while cooking, and cleaning around the house. It wasn’t until I had my sons who were six and seven at the time. We were sitting around watching Fantasia on American Idol, and my son said while pointing to the TV, “Mom, she’s from North Carolina, and you’re from North Carolina! You can sing and be on there too! I went on all girls cruise later on that month after watching American Idol. I entered into a Karaoke contest on the cruise, singing “I need you bad” by Jasmine Sullivan, and won. When I got back to Charlotte from the cruise, I started entering into open mic contest, and began doing well. I was more of a lyricist at the time, so I was trying to figure out how to mix those two because personally I didn’t think that female rappers had a long career in the industry unless you were able to do something else. Take for instance, MC Lyte. She could have died down a long time ago had she not learned to do different things or have business savvy. I said, “If I am going to do this, I need to learn how to sing as well or do something else.” I know that I write my own stuff, but that’s not enough to be a female rapper and write. I taught myself how to sing and got vocal training and all that other stuff. I have that lyrical background which is not going anywhere. I’m a good singer.
UT: You’ve been compared to other artist, and you also perform covers to other music. However, when are we going to see what Ida has to offer with her own songs?
ID: I just released my album. The whole album was written, and I co-produced a few things on there. It’s on ITunes now! It was in the works for about a year, and I finally released it. It features Inspectah Deck on there. It’s a funny story how I met back up with him. He definitely cosigns and endorses my whole movement; he knows the whole story and everything. He say’s whatever I can do to help you shine, you can do that. I have my own band. But, sometimes even in having my own establishment, I can be too brash. So, the fans may love my stuff, but then they may say that they want to hear Chaka Khan. So, I have a wealth of covers in my plethora just in case someone wants to hear something.
UT: Your vocals started fairly late in life. When you knew that this powerful voice is what you had, how did it make you feel?
ID: I’m an old baby. People approached me like I was a baby in it because I was. They knew that I was a grown woman. It was hard for some people to know what to say to me. I definitely felt like I didn’t know anything, and I still don’t. I’ve been doing this for five years professionally and I’m still learning a lot. When I knew that this was what I wanted to do, I was not going to quit my job. I knew I couldn’t do that right then because to a lot of people especially my family, it was just a phase.
UT: How is your support system now?
ID: I definitely had to prove it to myself first before I could get them onboard. It wasn’t a lot of convincing or coercing, it was, “Alright! I did this show. Let me show them this.” Pretty much having other people speak for you will allow others to understand what you are trying to do. If you say it all day, you will talk until you’re blue in the face. I have a good support system and my children love it. They have told me “Mommy we see you in that poison video and we love it.” Everyone is good, and they are supportive of it. I’m just happy to have that.
UT: How difficult is it to have children and travel as an artist.
ID: I have two sons, and they both live with their dad. They’re doing well, they are teenagers now. They handle themselves well. With the internet, they know what I’m doing. We talk frequently, and I see them. They are good with it and I have their blessing. I couldn’t do it without their blessing. I couldn’t do it without my son telling me that I could do it. Really, a big part of me is doing this because of them. It was hard in the beginning because I thought, “Oh my God am I going through a phase? I don’t want to sacrifice seeing my kids”. Then there were people after the show that would stop me and tell me, “Girl, don’t stop what you are doing!” I went on a small mini tour over a year and a half ago to some small cities on the outskirts of Charlotte, Greensboro, and the Port City. I just got so much love! I knew that I needed to continue doing it! I was making other people happy with my music, and they were responding. That makes me feel good. Having the kids blessing lets me know that I can really do it. I know Pattie Labelle, and Gladys Knight’s sons are very involved in their careers. I like the fact that their sons handle the technical things with their careers. That’s what I see for my sons. If they want to do something else, that’s totally fine. But, I definitely want to encourage them to get involved and share the money.
UT: It’s been said that artist come to Charlotte, NC to start a career and die. Where do you see yourself in that, what do you have that sets you aside from other artist?
ID: I have been born out of this city. I’m not originally from here but IDA Divine has been born out of Charlotte. I feel that one of the things that people say about Charlotte is that we are not united. It is competitive, and it is hard to be united when you have a couple of people in your same genre that’s trying to get the same exposure. As far as what I offer, I think that I have that grown woman mentality and it’s going to carry me far. I know a little about life at this point in my life. I know about me and I know about other people too. I think a lot of it is having a personality. There are talented homeless people that can’t get on because they don’t have the personality to get on or know what to do to get on. I think personality comes first and having something to say that is not offensive. As an artist, you can rub people either the right, or the wrong way. Let’s take for instance, Kanye West. Kanye came out of Chicago, as a backpack rapper, and he has turned into one of the most controversial Pop figures on the planet. So, either he’s just that talented, or he has a hell-of-a personality. He is talented because he raps and produces too. I think knowing how to do more than one thing and having a great personality is going to set me apart from everyone else.
UT: What do you want to do other than singing?
ID: My family is originally from Jamaica. So, I definitely want to be involved in some type of community work in Jamaica, Africa, or here with the youth and even adolescent females. I want to do a lot of farming education, and teaching good eating habits. I would really like people to be dependent on himself or herself, and not so much on the next person. In these times, a lot of people can’t do a lot of things. Many people cannot function without their cell phones, including myself. I think that if something were to happen on a national level, people need to know how to fend for themselves. They need to know how to do things like, make clothes and shoes. I think that it starts young. If you teach kids at a young age in addition to being tech savvy, we’ll be on our way to something good. I say Jamaica because the small countries like that are totally dependent on us. They’re dependant on us for shipping and those type things. That’s a huge thing for a country to be dependent on another country. If we stop shipping calcium pills over there, what would happen to them?
UT: What is your influence that molds your music today?
ID: Many people have influenced me. Over the years, my music appetite has grown. When I was young, I listened to Sade, and of course “Wutang”. When I got a little older, I listened to Chaka Khan. As I said, my family was Jamaican, so I grew up listening to reggae. I listened to “Bob Marley”, “Calypso”, “Dance Hall” and the “Roots” reggae. When I got a little older, I began listening to stuff like “OutKast”, some of the southern and west coast hip-hop, but mostly reggae roots, and soul. I like the conscious music like “Tribe Called Quest”. Those are the types of music that I listened to that had an influence over me growing up.
UT: What do you think about music today?
ID: I think right now at this minute, there are a lot of artist that are undiscovered who are dope. I think the ones on the radio are dope as well. I just think that sometimes they are talking to one type of group. Either they haven’t paid attention to the other groups of people, or they really don’t care to. I don’t think that music should only talk about Molly, some drug, strip clubs, or butt shots. You should be talking to someone that might have an issue with bullying. There are other things going on in the world. I don’t wake up in the morning trying to twerk. I’m hungry first of all. “Is there something on about eating?” I just think that music is targeting one group of people, and it seems like that particular group of people brings in revenue for them. On the second hand, as an independent artist like so many others that aren’t backed by labels; I use my own personal journey, and the money that I bring in just for myself, hoping that this can fuel my music. I think that’s good too. I think that if independent artist can get some funding or something, they will be able to go further. I can’t go against Keysha Cole right now because I just don’t have the damn budget. If that’s the only thing standing in my way, then I need to join up with some other people and colab with other people. I think that’s what it’s about now, teaming up with like minded people, getting on the same page and making some noise. Then markets will say, “Okay, they don’t have CBS, but they are really making a buzz.”
UT: Who would you want to do collaborations with if you could?
ID: I want to do a song with (Andre) 3000. I like him. I like Esparanza Spalding. She plays the base, and she’s won some Grammys. I like Elle Varner too.
UT: If you could go anywhere or do anything, where do you see yourself?
ID: I see myself in the same realm, like an Anthony Hamilton, or a Ledisi. I can’t say that I care that much right now about being on the radio. I know that if I were on the radio, more people would know me. But, I would like to travel and sing. I would like to tour eight months out of the year. I want to be intimate with those people, and be able to perform in front of them and have my live band just play. I want to be able to create music on the spot. I want to be an artist.
UT: We knew that you were a little eccentric growing up; tell us whom Ida Divine is now.
ID: I’ve grown into my quirkiness and I know how to use that now so that it’s not quirky and instead it’s a great idea. I just use it now to make business moves. The idea that came to me is one of my greatest inspirations is “Nina Simone”. If she were alive today, I would love to work with Nina Simone. I just thought about things like merging her with music today. If she were alive, who would she want to work with, and would she like Andre 3000? She probably would. So, I created an event, the Manifesto of Nina Simone. This is a combination of her music with today’s music. So, I am excited about that. Just imagining her and the things, that she would do, as well as what people would think about her today came from one of my quirky ideas. If asked how she felt about today’s society, she would be so blunt with the way that she answered that question.
UT: This market of artistry in North Carolina is very competitive to say the least. With you being so talented, what are some of the difficulties that you face as an artist?
ID: Some female artists have been out here since they’ve been in diapers, and they can blow. I’ve heard that in comparison to them, I can’t sing because I don’t have that background or don’t sound the way that they sound. So, they think that I’m not going to be able to sing a ballad, or sing a certain type of song because I don’t have the voice for it. For a long time, and still now a part of me feels that the gospel and soulful ties are born and bred into you. But, it’s not my fault, I don’t have that background. I have a different background. Secondly, my age was a factor. I am over the age of thirty. I was hearing “you are not the spring chicken.” The insinuation was that you have to be twenty-seven for eight years like Beyonce. Etta James was a grown woman, and she didn’t care, and she killed it back then. Of course, that was back then. Music has changed and image has changed. TV is a big part of music right now as well as videos. So, you have to factor in certain things like the look. I just said bump that and created my own style. I don’t care. “Do you like the music? Okay, if you like the music, then listen to the music.” I have breads now, back then I had short hair. My PR and several other people advised that it would be a good idea to cut my hair off. ‘We want to give you these bold looks so that you just pop and people will immediately take a look at you.” Their idea worked. I had short hair for a long time, and people would recognize me because of my short hair. I might go back to short hair at some point, but I changed my look up. That’s what a lot female artist do to keep people interested. Janet Jackson, JLo, and all of those other women reinvented themselves. I think that I’m in that lane that I can start changing up my look and my sound will still be my signature sound no matter what. I feel like I had to keep the same look for a while just so that people could identify the two beings as a whole and that look and that sound is still there.
UT: What is your favorite track on your CD?
ID: It would have to be Flute of Eden. That’s a track produced by Jonathon King out of Charlotte. I worked with a lot of local producers because I like their music. I felt that I needed to have a name to work with the big producers. I felt that if I could just make a dope song, and get a dope producer, we could make a lot of noise as well. A song produced by Swiss Beats and an unknown artist is not respected. I didn’t want that to happen. I wrote Flute of Eden in 2009 and I let my previous managers hear it. They in turn, sent it to some executives and it ended up in the hands up Roy Ayers. He is a saxophonist that worked with Earth Wind & Fire. He heard it and wanted to do a rendition of it.
UT: How did you come up with the title, “Flute of Eden?”
ID: I do a lot of reading and researching and I just thought about how people say that Eden is not a real place. Alternatively, it is a real place and there is scientific evidence that it’s in Africa. The whole song is about leaving the United States, and trying to find Eden. On my journey, I’m asking for help from President Obama, Oprah, and Farrakhan. I’m trying to figure out about my childhood in New York, and if that came out of Eden. It’s a song that reaches multitudes. When I wrote it, I was in a cool place of meditation. It just took me there.
UT: Who is Ida Unchained?
ID: I think I channel many different people that have died a long time ago. A lot of times when I’m performing or singing, I’ll close my eyes. I know that you are not supposed to close your eyes when you sing but when I’m doing that, I literally come out of my body and I don’t know what happens to me. I feel like I’m floating. I feel really, really, good. I feel that I am at my realest and speaking my truth. I was shy as a child, and didn’t do anything but draw. I didn’t talk, respond, or ask questions, I just watched. I was very quiet, and I didn’t come out of that until I was seventeen. I feel like I have a lot to say now.
UT: Did you have a vocal coach?
ID: I did. After the 2009 awards, I knew that I needed to get a coach so no one would think that it was a sham. So, I got Anthony Jackson, a coach out of Atlanta. He does stage presence coaching and all that other stuff because that comes with it too. For the longest time while singing, I would just close my eyes the whole time during my performance. That’s not performing because you are disconnecting yourself when you are not able to move around and show people that you are comfortable on stage. I wasn’t comfortable, and I was thinking too much while I was singing. He taught me to connect with people, look them in their eyes while singing, and feel their energy. Pick someone out who’s dancing and go dance with them. Then those vocals will come because you feel confident now. So, I had to learn that whole mentality behind singing too. It was very difficult because I was shy for so long. I didn’t want to look at anyone. I know now that it’s not about that because a real artist connects with people. At a Jill Scott concert, there could be thousands of people there and you feel like she is singing to you. I don’t care how far away you are. You feel like that woman is looking at you and holding your face and singing to you. I wanted to have that. First of all your business is going to have people coming back to your show because they feel so good after leaving your show. Secondly, they just want to hear more from you. It doesn’t put you on a level above them that much because they feel like they can relate to you. I didn’t want people to not want to talk to me.
UT: How did you come up with that stage name “Ida Divine, is it a biological name”?
ID: No, Ida Divine is an actual person. Her husband was Niggy Divine, and they were Italians. In the beginnings of Las Vegas when it was fueled by Mafia money, the couple had one of the first meat lockers in Vegas. Having a meat locker at that time in the dessert required a lot of money. Those meat lockers housed food for all of the restaurants that were about to be built. All of the mob bosses that had their illegal money in different hotels and restaurants would funnel their money through Ida and Niggy’s meat locker. If they were not in Vegas at the time, Ida would need to get their investment money back to them by getting on a plane and train. The FBI knew about the trafficking for the longest time, they chased her for years and they couldn’t get her.
An Ida is a sickle shaped African sword. An Ida is a weapon used in thw ancient times. Of course, Divine sparks divinity to lighten and to shine. It has multiple meanings.
UT: If you can leave a trinket with someone that wants to be in your shoes and has a chance at being a accomplished singer, what would you want to leave with them?
ID: Make sure that this is something that you really want to do and that no one is telling you to do it for money. That’s the most important thing. I’m not rich. I love to do this, and I think the love of doing it means more. Be passionate about it. If you want to do it, work hard for it and you will get it. You have to take your time. You have to be patient and expect… You have to be a grown woman about it and put your big girl panties on. People are going to tell you “No,” “Not right now,” and “You don’t have it”. Get it! Just make sure you get it, go back, and ask, “Do I have it now?” Just go get it.