Divine Styler was born in 1968 in Brooklyn. As a youth he walked a hard road. The Orthodox Muslim MC was introduced to Ice-T by DJ Bilal Bashir and became a member of the former's Rhyme Syndicate in the mid-80s. His early recordings coincided with a period of what the rapper now describes as "bad illegal business.” Eventually Divine Styler ended up on the wrong side of the wall. The experience apparently put things in perspective for the rapper. His debut album, 1989’s Word Power, subsequently eschewed thugged-out lyrics in favour of Black awareness, politics and culture. He says that he felt a responsibility to take the profanity out of hip-hop. The album featured rock, speed metal, jazz, folk, and hip-hop, prompting the MC to be simultaneously dubbed "the Jimi Hendrix of hip-hop' by critics.
In 1998, Divine Styler hooked up with the Quannum Posse, teaming up with his dear friend and fellow Rhyme Syndicate alumni Everlast, as well as Styles of Beyond and the Beat Junkies. The Beat Junkies' DJ Rhettmatic also appeared, on his third LP, Directrix (Featuring Exceed), which trafficked in Information Age paranoia. Divine Styler is a convert to Sunni Islam after a number of years spent in the Faradian Islam off-shoot known as Nation of Gods and Earths, which influenced Everlast also to become a Muslim. Many of the songs on his experimental second album Spiral Walls Containing Autums of Light are songs of praise to Allah, and the 1999 song "Make It Plain" details the joy he feels at having finally found a way of life he loves after decades of uncertainty and woes.
After an extended break, in a legendary twist of fate the rapper hooked up with the Mo' Wax label via DJ Shadow to release Directrix (Wordpower2), echoing the title of his debut. Aside from those major albums his tracks are scattered among other artists' albums and projects. He has done several tracks with John Tejada; appeared with Sadat X and Cockni O'Dire on the last House of Pain album, Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again; and some of his more recent tracks have been with Len, Swollen Members and DJ Shadow.
Divine Styler, the Artist. This may initially seem to be a somewhat perfunctory observation considering his body of work. However, the definition of artist is expanded with the consideration of the media, which Divine employs in order to bring his particular vision into reality. Music and graphic art are utilized extensively wherein various elements collide and overlap within a juxtaposition of eclectic forms and ideas to create a very unique invitation and dialogue. Just as his music evokes pictorial images, the converse is also true. His graphic images also create impressions of sound. The experience is at once visceral and cerebral. The abstract nature of these works amplifies the feeling tone of the particular conversation contained in each image.
On his work with Mister Sandman titled The War Machine Prototype, Divine Styler says: “For me the war machine is the western democratic industrial power structure that has taken hold of the planet & has inverted human beings in on themselves, and confused us as to who we are. Now as the machine begins to devour itself from the root, we can awaken within the machine that we’ve become and then consciously & collectively choose to reconfigure the mechanism to the peoples needs. At that point the machine is in service to others & not service to self. This is not impossible…”
Word Power, Rhyme Syndicate/Epic, 1989; Spiral Walls Containing Autumns Of Light, Rhyme Syndicate/Giant, 1992; Word Power 2: Directrix, Mo' Wax, 1999.
Sources: Information and texts compiled by Daniel Feral from a 2012 artists statement, Wikipedia entry, and Known Gallery Website interview with Divine Styler and Mister Sandman from Nov 11, 2011.