Mikal Safiyullah (birth name: Marc Richardson) was born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn. As a youth positioned at the birth of hip-hop, he was a feverish graffiti artist and B-boy. His father was a prominent DJ in '70s New York, so he grew up on disco and funk records. Later exposures to psych-rock and prog would have an equally profound effect on the young man, and, ultimately, on the future of hip-hop as we know it. Safiyullah is best known as Divine Styler, a critically celebrated, radically individual artist who remains one of hip-hop's most imaginative talents. Like many of music's fiercest visionaries, Divine has always been a cultural and commercial outsider. Still, among all the figures in hip-hop possessed of genius, he sits comfortably somewhere near the top.
|Photo via Youtube |
|Divine Styler circa 1989|
His first hint of fame was in the '80s as a member of Ice-T's Rhyme Syndicate, which led to his 1989 debut, Word Power, followed by the confounding 1992 release Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light. Divine would release just one more record (1999's Word Power, Vol. 2) before retreating from the music industry for 14 years. He had become disillusioned by hip-hop's self-debasement. ("Not everything is cocaine, dope, 'hos, bitches, and chilling -- what's artful about that?") Fortunately, Divine's narrative doesn't end there. Here, in late 2014, hip-hop's grandmaster experimentalist has reemerged, complete with a new LP in tow. More »