Destiny Roberts on the hidden lessons from 'Roy G Biv'

Destiny Roberts - Green Tape photo
Destiny Roberts (via Facebook)
Play/Pause
Listen:
Destiny Roberts on the lessons of Roy G. Biv (full interview with Jeffrey Bissoy)
Download MP3
| 00:48:20

Before I took off for Mexico in October, I was fortunate enough to sit down with St. Paul rapper Destiny Roberts, aka Moon Melanin Mami, a nickname acquired from a previous album. We met at a coffee shop near the University of Minnesota to talk about the color theme that collectively makes up her Roy G Biv series.

When we sat down to chat, the Moon Melanin Mami had not yet released her Indigo and more recent The Violet Tape, but we took time to talk about the previous five tapes; The Red Tape, filled with passion and love, The Orange Tape, brimming with hope and summer, The Yellow Tape, reminding us of how quickly summer faded away, The Green Tape that examines Destiny's faith and spiritual side, and her support for renewable and sustainable energy to combat climate change, and lastly, The Blue Tape, which prepped listeners for the coldness of winter.

The interview below was transcribed and edited. To listen to the full interview, hit play on the audio player above!

JEFFREY BISSOY: You've had a very busy last year. You released The Blue Tape. Not only did you release The Blue Tape, you had The Green Tape. And then you were like, you know what, let's add some more colors. We had a Yellow Tape, Orange Tape and then the Red Tape. What has been your creative process and thinking behind these albums?

DESTINY ROBERTS: it was November of 2018, when I've been sitting on a prior album for about a minute. And I had been meaning to put out music … And so I started brainstorming what I can do for next year, which is AKA this year, 2019. And so, [it's] November, I got one two months to figure it out for next year … Roy G Biv is a term actually learned in elementary school, and that term popped in my head during my brainstorm randomly and I'm like Roy G Biv, I should make the album.

What does "Roy G Biv" stand for?

My art teacher taught me it. It's an acronym used to remember the colors of the rainbow. So, Roy is red, orange and yellow. G, Green, and Biv is Blue, Indigo and Violet. And so [I thought], I should drop an album and have seven songs on it. And each song could be after a color in order of Roy G Biv. And then I was like, "Wait!" that's only seven songs. I have so many more songs than that … So I came up with the idea and that same day, I pretty much started organizing songs by mood. So, every song has been very intentional, as far as what I chose for each EP. But then as time got closer to the drop, which started in March of 2019, I came up with the idea … Instead of using what I thought I would, put out the old songs I've been waiting to put out for a while, it ended up being a whole different creative process where it pretty much was from scratch.

Surely you still have some songs in a vault, but what made you want to switch it up?

I just wanted to write what was relevant for me now within each color … I was so intentional with what I wanted the result to be, and it felt only right to start fresh. Just start from whole new experiences and start from where I'm at now, instead of going to where I was, whenever I wrote those other songs that I been sitting.

As a listener, when you listen to each tape, one by one, there are a lot of similarities, right? In your own words, how are these tapes kind of different and how did that impact the lyricism? How did that impact your sound when you were working on them?

I really went all in with this whole Roy G Biv thing … I dyed my dreads each color, I've dropped the tapes. I'm pretty much fully immersed myself within each color. I literally have like the colors hung up where I write my music. So, I'll just be staring at each color and thinking about like, what it means to me, what it represents for me, what it feels to me.

Red represents, for example, passion, love, different things like that. So, I have a song called "Bounce Back" and then I have like "Special," which is a love song. Red is a very dominant color, so I really wanted the first products to smack [listeners], like, "Oh, that's Moon Melanin Mami?" I really wanted to hit him on the head with the Red Tape first.

Orange is in between red and yellow. So, it's not as punchy, but it's not all the way happy yet. It's like a happy medium between those two colors… Yellow to me is like sunshine, happiness, joy… I want you to listen to that and feel happier or feel like your spirit's been lifted a little bit higher.

Listing off some of the titles on the Yellow Tape: "Yes, darling." "Plenty" "Sugar, honey. Ice tea," which I loved because you threw that one back and then added your twang to it, "Sunshine." "Cumthrough," I mean, it was definitely vibrant and very summery.

I really wanted you to feel summer in the songs and feel it in your spirit … and then Green, that's like the middle color of everything. It's not necessarily a warm color like red, orange, and yellow, but it's not necessarily a cool color like blue, indigo and violet. It's kind of its own kind of thing. That's why the Green Tape had one extra song, because the G in Roy G B has that dot, so I took that as being extra, so I put an extra song on the green tape.

Green means growth. I think about sustainability. I think about like money. You can go real basic with it with different things, trees, you know, smoking, whatever. Like my rendition of my smoking song is "Push the limit." So, so everything that Green represents … I actually have water bottles for the green tape. I'm very intentional on my lyrics. So, I have a song in their called "Plastic Planet." It talks about recycling and sustainability.

We're currently living in a world where climate change is impacting a lot of what we're doing. And it's looking like it will be the major issue of our time. Not just the U.S. or the world, but especially our generation. So, to hear you on The Green Tape talking about sustainable and renewable energy. And to be completely honest with you, I'm not sure I've heard a rapper or singing about it. Was it impossible to leave this topic off the Green Tape?

That was literally it. It was hard to pick a song for [the Green Tape] because I had so many songs that could represent Green. But I'm like, how am going to make a green tape and not put anything that has to do with the planet? First and foremost, it's like we're supposed to love each other and love the place that God put us together in. And so, how could I have the nerve to put out something that's so big and missed the whole point. For me, Roy G Biv kind of showcases my spiritual journey a little bit. I started off the whole with a song called, "Truth." To sum it up is up in a line, truth is, God is the truth. I've been on my own spiritual journey. Both my parents are ministers, I grew up in a very spiritual household.

You also work in a ministry as well, right?

Yeah, literally … and I'm at a point now where I'm seeking it for myself. Religion alone and then having a relationship with God are two different things … Religion is hitting me so different because I have that relationship part. It means something different to me now. Going back to "Plastic Planet," I recently discovered something in the Bible that talks about leaving the Earth better than how you were born into it. We're literally here to love each other and love the place that God put us to be. "Plastic Planet," literally, is me relearning something that I discovered in the Bible and then like, "Wow. This is serious." Like, recycling is prophetic, it's even talked about in the Bible. The little things that we do matter because the world is the result of our daily actions.

I look at past projects of yours like "Moon Melanin Mami" and your spiritual journey led you to outer space and you're out there with living in your mind and imagination, and in Roy G Biv, you come back to Earth. I find that a lot of young folks right now, some of us, many of us maybe, grew up with some type of religious background. And some of us have left those institutions. So, as you're on this journey to find yourself whole again, what does that look like outside of just rapping about it?

It's been literally a day to day journey. I can't necessarily describe it, but what I can tell you is that it's like any other relationship — it has to be built. It has to be maintained. It has to be nourished for it to happen and be. So, it takes a lot of discipline. And, being a good person takes a lot. It's not easy to be disciplined and be a good person. It's really hard. It's so easy to react and so easy to get in your flesh and just go there.

It's funny because on the Green Tape, the last song is called, "Rent's Due," that is based on literal stories that just happened between this year and last year with me dealing with roommates, other local artists here, that pretty much still owe me money … It's funny because I had a promo for this song. I made a parody video with wanted sign with their faces on — I went in … The time came and I had my things organized and I hear a voice like, "You're good, don't post it. It ain't worth it." I know that voice is God telling me, "Just chill out." I feel like everyone hears that voice, but it's hard to catch it sometimes because when he does speak to us, it's in a small voice — it's like, really subtle. And if you're not there, you're gonna miss it.

How has this spiritual awareness influenced the other tapes in the Roy G Biv series?

I put all the deepest messages on the Indigo Tape. I'm talking about like spiritual warfare. I'm talking about self-reflection. That's the whole basis of it. The biggest thing that shifted my journey is … I work at a school program with Union Gospel Mission, and it's a Christian base and we've done a lot of Bible studies on different things and book studies and we're all reading different books. I literally learned different ways of finding evidence and from then on, I just started listening to Joyce Meyers for the first time. And then, she started speaking to me and it just kept coming in different ways.

In Hip-Hop, you have artists like Lecrae, who raps very openly about Christianity and then you have someone like Kendrick Lamar, who is a lot more cryptic about his spiritual journey. How are you thinking about your Christianity as it comes to your lyricism in your music moving forward as you're on this journey?

I'd say as God keeps showing up in my life, that's my evidence. And that's always something that I could write about. He just shows up in so many different ways and you just be like so surprised. Like, I had a goal this year that I wanted to have at least three placements on a movie or something, and I recently got my second placement on a movie — it's called "Paper Friends" on BET. And I'm like, how do these people keep finding me like this, it's crazy.

There's two things that I learned that kind of altered some things for me. The first thing is the story of Lucifer and how the devil used to be Lucifer. And he was the angel of music in heaven. He was the most beautiful angel and then he kind of got his ego turned on and wanted to take God's spot … God pretty much kicked him out of heaven before he could. [The Devil] manipulated other angels and everyone that believed him got kicked out too. So those who followed him became demons and he became the devil. And what is crazy is that music is such a tool, like a powerful tool in this world. But is it powerful because rewinding the story behind, Lucifer was the angel of music and now he's down here? … That story had me really stuck.

When you look at how hip hop for so long has been seen as the Devil's music. Not just in the white community, even in the black community. When parents would hear their children listening to Hip-Hop, they'd often be like, "Turn down this anti-Christ music." Yet, you're saying, "I can do this music and still be a good Christian." How do you how do you make that balance when the Bible says the music maker was the Devil?

How am I going to reach people in the world, if I'm not in a world with them to reach them? … So, I don't want to be considered a Christian rapper, although I am a Christian and I am a rapper, and I do rap about that. I don't want to put myself in that box, because I feel like the people I need to reach aren't people who listen to Christian music. They're people who listen to hip hop and they may hear my song and it may change their perspective … just tryna be positive and also have substance and try to have truth … I try to do that and sound cool at the same time so people can catch on.

Sonically, you really switched up your style in the Roy G Biv Series. My first reaction from listening to the red tape was, "Oh, no, wait a minute … is this Destiny?" How did you get to this point where you're really flexing with the vocals?

Moon Melanin Mami, that was an experience I wanted to create of just taking people into my world and letting them explore in it. Moon Melanin Mami is actually the third or fourth album that I dropped. Before that, I made other a few other albums. My first album was called As Is, and is very mixtape-ish … I been making a lot of music since I was 10 years old. So, I actually have so many styles that I haven't even presented to the world yet.

You've said before that you typically worked solo on your projects, what's it like to collab with multiple producers and artists for Roy G Biv?

I'm used to being by myself with this music stuff — my brother, Tommy, taught me growing up. He recorded himself. He made his own beats. He was an everything renaissance man. So, here I am being a Renaissance woman now … I feel like J.Cole feels a lot. I'm so specific, I'm so intentional in my lyrics. You have to kind of be somewhere there with me mentally. But the people that I've worked with this year are people who I do admire that are local artists.

What was it like working with Twin Cities' Asia Divine and Daddy Dinero?

The only song that actually sat there with for the most part and vibe with was the with Asia Divine and Daddy Dinero. How that came about was actually super crazy. First of all, that was not even my song. The guy who produced — it is his song. He made the beat. He invited some of his favorite local artists to come into the studio session from late 9 p.m. to 2 in the morning … It was my first time in the studio, like actually in the studio with them … We all felt certain beats … and then [my producer started playing the "I do this" beat] and me and Asia were talking to each other, and then Dinero started freestyling the hook, "I told you, I do this," and I'm like, "Ayy!! I'm feeling this."

Then what?

I told them I was only going to be there for like two hours, so that two-hour mark was starting to come and I was scared to leave. When I was gone, they finished their verses and recorded it and they sent it to me that night … The next morning I woke up, wrote something and recorded it and sent it back. And both of them had open spaces on their verses. And I was like, did they do this on purpose? I don't know, but I'm about to write on both of their verses.

With technology, we're seeing more and more collaborations, especially among mainstream artist done remotely. What's your preference between collaborating from a distance and experiences like the one with Asia Divine and Daddy Dinero, where an idea for hit is sparked instantaneously just by being in the same studio?

I like both, but I think I think I still prefer to be in my own world. That's what I'm used to and that's where I've always made the best stuff. That's where I'm not interrupted in my thought process, although sometimes that could be a good thing. But sometimes you need to sit in whatever you're feeling is set in, whatever you're going through and really be present with it to really write the best. I just like to get sh*t done. Me and my boyfriend live together. I learned that I do better writing songs when he's just not home, it's just me.

Are there any local artists and national artists that you would love to collab with that you haven't with already?

I still have a few local artists I plan to collab with, but I've been wanting to do a song with Cashinova for a long time. I don't know why and I don't even remember when I became a fan. I'd say The Liones, and BDot Croc, we definitely gotta get something in.

I'd be remiss if I sat here with you and I didn't ask you about 3ME, your crew, and the app that you've all been working on?

We're we're working on this app, and it's gonna be called Morph. It's pretty much a way to experience music through augmented reality and it's pretty much taking everyday things and turning them into something you can have fun with and experience at the same time with music specifically. We actually do have an app that's currently out right now. It's called the Roy G Biv Tape Series App. You can only download it on the Apple Store, currently.

It's a video game with seven different levels. What we're doing with that we're starting in space and each level is slowly coming down to earth and it's basically taking us from Moon Melanin Mami to Roy G Biv. Each level gets closer and closer to earth. I think the Green Tape is a level that we actually land on earth. And from then on for the rest of the tapes, the rest of levels are on earth. It's a different game you could play and it's a different mission for each level that you play.

Since this interview, Destiny has released all the color tapes in the Roy G Biv Series, which you can stream any time on iTunes/Apple Music and Spotify.

Jeffrey Bissoy is a former assistant producer at MPR News. Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, raised in The Twin Cities and now based in Mexico City, Jeffrey has grown a passion for representation and identity, Hip-Hop, and the impact of sports on society. He's also the host of the podcast — The Come-Up — which stays current with the weekly drama of the NBA.

External Link

Destiny Roberts - official site

1 Photos

  • Destiny Roberts
    Destiny Roberts is a Twin Cities-based hip-hop artist. (courtesy the artist via Facebook)