Friday, October 2, 2009

Divine Styler - <i>Word Power</i> (1989)


To say that many of Ice T’s Rhyme Syndicate turned out to be perpetual obscurities and/or underachievers is an understatement.   For every Everlast, Lord Finesse and Grandmaster Caz, there are several almost unknowns, even solely within hip-hop.

Divine Styler is one of them.  Despite being active for over 20 years – having released 3 studio albums and made dozens of guest appearances – he has unfortunately stayed very much off the radar, even within hip-hop itself.

To call Divine Styler “afrocentric” doesn’t quite do his steez enough justice.  Afrocentric he certainly was (…is), yet he shunned the favoured shouting-in-your-ear method of his contemporaries, in favour of a much more mellow, sophisticated, and in no small way funky vibe.  Word Power is less of an album, more of a journey through a diverse aural landscape, a sincere documentation of Islam and its elements of mysticism, beautifully littered with James Brown samples and production from Bilal Bashir, as well as Divine Styler himself.

Having burst onto the scene in 1989 with his debut single “Ain’t Saying Nothing/Tongues of Labyrinth”, Divine Styler soon followed up with Word Power, and dropped a similarly off the wall – albeit less well received – album in 1992, entitled Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light.

And then…nothing.  Barring a brief involvement with House Of Pain’s 1996 album, Divine Styler had all but disappeared off the face of the earth.  During this time, he converted to sunni Islam – having thus far been a 5%-er – and made pilgrimmage to Mecca.

However, despite the obscurity of his hip-hop career, his absence did not go unnoticed, and interest in Divine Styler reached almost cult-like status when hip-hop journalist Ryan Somers attempted to call him out of retirement via the medium of his magazine/fanzine, conveniently entitled “In Search Of Divine Styler”.  Some skillful scrolling through this fine webpage will enable you to pull up covers for every issue of the mag – which also covered broder hip-hop topics – and MudScout Media has the skinny on the mag’s creation.

Divine Styler’s long-awaited comeback eventually happened in 1999, with Wordpower Vol.2: Directrix, which was again a powerful ode to the Islam that had come to play such an important part in Divine Styler’s life.

Word Power is long out-of-print and is painfully hard to find, so as usual, you can cop it here:


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