“Whether it’s through hip hop or even Top 40 crossover records, I still try to represent my community through the plant,” says Divine RBG.
Divine RBG: dead prez, The D.E.Y., And 25-Plus Years Of Advocacy
The Grammy-nominated artist, activist and emcee has been devoting every effort to cannabis and political advocacy over the past 25 years. Best known for his work with hip hop duo dead prez and Latin group The D.E.Y., Divine focuses his creative output on themes of freedom, authenticity, and appreciation of New York’s Black and Latinx cultures. His latest album, Four Twenty Minutes, is a tribute to the versatility of the cannabis plant and its ability to inspire people.
Watch Honeysuckle's interview with Divine RBG:
“[Every artist in] every genre has advocated for herbs for many, many moons,” Divine observes. “I feel like many artists, marijuana has helped them creatively.”
Divine RBG On Cannabis And Hip Hop
Born in the South Bronx, the child of New York’s streets grew up with an intense love for what he terms “good herbs.” Declaring that he has been “selling hella bud since I was younger and I will continue to,” Divine explains how his real start in music evolved through cannabis connections. Always interested in crafting songs and lyrics that meant something, the innovator got involved with “trapping,” the New York legacy market, at a critical point in the late 1990s when hip hop as we know it began to explode from the underground to the mainstream.
“Weed and hip hop has been married since the beginning,” Divine affirms, as so many of that early period’s OGs came up through the mix of trapping and performing. Looking back at his own experience, he recalls, “Basically we was selling chocolate weed [one of New York’s most classic strains of cannabis also sometimes referred to as ‘brick weed’] and we had a shift from 12 to 12. We’d sell weed all day out of this apartment and people would just come smoke with us, come and leave real quick.”
How Did Divine RBG Meet dead prez?
The spot drew all the emerging artists of the time. But one day, producer Lord Jamar brought M1 (Mutulu Olugbala) and stic (Khnum Muata Ibomu), the duo billing themselves as dead prez, to sample Divine’s wares. It would be a meeting of epic proportions. Though M1 was from New York and stic from Tallahassee, Florida, they shared similar sensibilities regarding the expression of Black culture and how cannabis was linked to liberation. They became fast friends with Divine, who would later go on to be pivotal in the development of M1’s own cannabis line Urban Aroma, for which he remains the NYC Brand Director to this day.
“Instead of [dead prez] going to New Rochelle all the time, they would stay in The Bronx with us,” Divine remembers. “And we started organizing, we formed The People’s Army there, and we started teaching political education through self-defense and music. Then we went on together to create the Let’s Get Free album [dead prez’s debut, which peaked at number 22 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip Hop chart]. We smoked weed throughout that whole album.”
*Editor's Note: For more about dead prez, check out Honeysuckle's exclusive sesh with M1, Stic, and Umi here.
Divine RBG's Newest Album, Four Twenty Minutes
In Four Twenty Minutes, the hip hop veteran’s newest work that’s coming soon, Mama Ganja is most definitely the star. Genres intersect to tell the story of a magical plant, from old-school beats that celebrate the timelessness of a Backwoods Banana (a classic cigar wrapping often used for cannabis blunts), to soaring Spanish-language odes that embrace the sensuality and spirituality of everyone’s favorite good herb. The tracks’ vast range reflects Divine’s history with both the complexity of New York activism and the richness of Puerto Rican heritage, which he got to explore more fully through living on the island in the early 2000s and co-founding The D.E.Y. Other selections from the album shout out various movers and shakers in NYC’s current canna community, including the iconic Certz brand founded by legendary producer Steph.V, with which Divine collaborates often.
Those checking out Divine’s social media can also find links to his single “La Marijuana,” a powerful tract highlighting the harms that the War on Drugs has inflicted on Black and brown communities, while simultaneously underscoring the need for cannabis as a tool for healing. One would expect no less from the talented creator, who wields his words with the precision of a master swordsman to carve his points deep into the soul.
This spring, Divine additionally released the video for “Bronxalona (El Radio),” a collaboration with Alllyrical and KRS-One, directed by M7 ahead of the international cannabis festival Spannabis. A boisterous celebration of hip hop’s 50th anniversary, it is also a testament to everything the artist stands for: Advocacy, education, community, and the heart of music fueled by elevation from nature. May he who is named so gifted, be forever lifted, and may he keep sharing that divine inspiration with us.
Watch the music video for "Bronxalona (El Radio)":
For more about Divine RBG, follow @divine7rbg on Instagram.
A version of this article was originally published in Honeysuckle's 16th print edition. Click here to get your copy now!