This GRAMMY-nominated legend has set the tone for many female bassists in the game. Playing for artists like Victor Wooten, Beyoncé, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Nona Hendryx, and more—Divinity Roxx is a she that rocks. She began developing her relationship with music around the age of five and knew that she was destined for greatness. Her matriculation through Victor Wooten’s bass camp escalated her career to the next level, eventually leading her to touring with Wooten less than a year after her completion. For many, it was her featured solo performances during “The Beyoncé Experience” and “I… Am” tours that inspired many young girls and women around the world to find what they are passionate about and rock it.
Roxx is meticulous in the creation of her sound. She’s endorsed with a variety of guitar companies, including Warwick, DR Strings, and MONO Creators. Simply put, Roxx is Black Girl Queer Magic. She continuously imparts her knowledge to the next generation of rockstars. Roxx shared what pushes her each and every day in a ruthless industry. Her mission? To inspire and uplift those around her to live their lives to the fullest.
Let’s start by telling us a bit about your music background. How old were you when you developed your interest in music and bass guitar?
I fell in love with music from a very early age. Between my mom playing music in the house all the time and my first music class in elementary school, I recognized the power in the combination of music and words around the time I was five. I sang in the chorus in elementary school and also played the handbells and clarinet in elementary and middle school. I was a member of the distinguished Atlanta Area II Honor Chorus, which included kids from all over the Atlanta Area II School District. I didn’t start playing the bass until my second year in college, though my uncle was a saxophonist and bassist who would encourage me to play along with him in his makeshift studio when I was a kid.
I really fell in love with the bass while I was in college. I went to UC Berkeley to become a journalist, and while I was there, I studied with June Jordan and her Poetry for the People course. I had founded a hip-hop group in high school, and after leaving UC Berkeley to move back home to Atlanta, we formed our own label and released our first album, Fool Proof, produced by DJ Kemit. I began moonlighting as a bass player and gigged frequently in local clubs like Yin Yang Cafe and Uptown Comedy Corner, where the house band would accompany poets before the comedy show began. I was in the house band with the great Tarus Mateen and his brothers then. Atlanta had a diverse music scene, and I was heavily influenced by bands like Johnny Prophet, Whild Peach, Edith’s Wish, Outkast, Goodie Mob, Joi, 100 Monkeys, Three5Human, and so many more.
There was also a prominent hip-hop scene, and I was part of this wild underground crew of rappers and dancers called “The Weirdos.” Thinking back about those times gives me chills because it was an exciting time in Atlanta, and we were out in the streets all the time working on music, going to rehearsals, dancing, being young and having fun, ciphering downtown, and just collaborating with each other. There was a Renaissance happening, and we were a part of it. Our producers, Hundred Monkeys, lived at 227 Mitchell Street and would throw parties and raves. We would hang out there every day after school and record, rehearse, and just kick it. 227 Mitchell Street was a legendary spot.
How would you describe your sound?
My sound is a blend of hip-hop, rock, soul, and R&B. I think the new name they’ve given it is “Progressive R&B.” There’s even a GRAMMY category for it now, which is exciting. I always called it “Alternative Soul,” or back in the day, I called it “Rocked Out Hip-Hop.” Those terms didn’t stick. They didn’t do my sound justice anyway, so I’m down with the “Progressive R&B” movement, BUT that description doesn’t address the rock element. We’ll get there someday. “Rock Soul” is what Fantasia calls her music, and I think that’s a great description for people who like a little Rock in their soul. I know I do.
Who would you say has been your biggest influence when it comes to bass and your songwriting style?
When it comes to the bass, I have so many influences: Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Prince, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Taurus Mateen, Tres Gilbert, Preston Crump, Meshell Ndegeocello, Flea, Janice-Marie Johnson, Shay Barnes, and all the cats I learned from while coming up in the underground scene in Atlanta, like Woodchuck, Khari Simmons, Avery Johnson, just to name a few.
As far as the influences on my songwriting style, again so many influences and inspirations from back in the day up to now: Prince, N.E.R.D., Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Outkast, Dungeon Family, Joi, A Tribe Called Quest, Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Bootsy Collins, the Internet, Anderson .Paak, Thundercat, George Clinton, Dallas Austin, and so many more!
Let’s talk about representation in the music industry. How important are diversity and inclusion (in all aspects) to you? Do you think the music industry is generally doing a good job of showing more BIPOC musicians—particularly, female and queer musicians of color?
As a creative person, my life is full of diversity and inclusion and always has been. It’s mind-blowing and numbing to think that people have to actually form committees and specialized job titles like Diversity and Inclusion Managers, Editors, etc., to hold themselves accountable for what I think is a way of life. It’s time for people to look into their own lives and see how a lack of diversity within their organizations reflects the lack of diversity in their own personal lives. We can all do better. I believe BIPOC people are making their own voices heard, taking control of their own narratives, and not waiting for the industry to catch up and include them. That’s thanks to the power of the internet and social media.
The industry is still catching up, but after this pandemic and the murder of George Floyd and countless other Americans by the police and “concerned citizens,” people are waking up to how their complicity continues to perpetuate these tragedies. I love seeing queer women and non-gender conforming artists of color raise their voices and their profile, championing other queer and non-gender conforming people of color. I remember how difficult it was for me, a Black, queer woman, in high school, but today young people have inspirational queer role models they can look up to, and they have opportunities to feel seen and validated. That’s huge. What a difference time makes, but we have a way to go. There will always be some resistance to evolution, but “resistance is futile.” In the famous words of protestors from all over the world, We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.
What has been one or two of the biggest highlights of your career thus far?
I’ve had so many highlights. Touring with the great Victor Wooten has certainly been a highlight of my career. Touring with Beyoncé, having an opportunity to take a celebrated solo during two of her world tours, and writing original music for her “I… Am World Tour” was a HUGE highlight for me. Touring with my own band nationally and internationally has been a highlight. There’s nothing like being able to perform the music you’ve written for others and to have others connect to that music so deeply that they don’t see normally perceived differences between you and them. And that’s a testament to the power of music combined with the spoken word.
What is your current go-to bass to play?
Honestly, it’s whichever bass is near enough for me to grab at the time. While my number one bass has been a custom 4-string Warwick Streamer LX made in Germany a number of years ago, lately, my custom 4-string Fender Ultra Jazz Bass has been getting all the love. That bass sounds really good, and I can dial in just about any sound I want. The only drawback about that bass is that it’s not double scale, so I still need my Warwick when I wanna get all fancy and play some chords and things above the 19th fret.
What is one thing you want your fans to leave with when they listen to your music?
I want my fans to be inspired, uplifted, and vibrating higher after listening to my music.
Tell us a little bit about any of your upcoming projects.
I’m currently working on a family music album with the first single, “Ready Set Go!” available everywhere as of May 13 (that’s Stevie Wonder’s Birthday). I’ve started a new production company, Divi Roxx Kids, that aims to enrich the lives of kids and young adults with music and content that is inspiring, uplifting, educational, and entertaining. One of the areas in the music business where we need to see more people of color represented is in the family music space. Half of the kids in the U.S. are kids of color, but when you look out at who is providing the soundtrack for those young lives, you aren’t seeing and hearing BIPOC people. There is an organization I’ve been working closely with called Family Music Forward that is working on changing that. In addition, there are some other projects I’m working on. I recently collaborated with Pierce Freelon in his project Black to the Future, and I have some other really exciting projects dropping in the fall that I can’t go into much detail about at the moment, but I’m so excited about everything I’m doing. I really feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. Be sure to check out www.diviroxxkids.com to stay up to date.