Digable Planets is one of the groups that helped to make the 90’s arguably the golden age of hip hop. Digable Planets is the hip-hop trio made up of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira , and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving. This group formed in 1992 and dropped the single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” which hit number one on the Billboard rap charts, top 10 on the R&B chart and top 20 on the US Hot 100.
Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) dropped in 1993 along with The Chronic (Dr. Drew), 19 Naughty III (Naughty By Nature), 14 Shots to the Dome (LL Cool J), Doggy Style (Snoop Dog), The World is Yours (Scarface) and many more. Despite the huge roster of Billboard topping music Reachin‘ is one of my favorites. I recall walking into Tower Records on a Tuesday afternoon for my usual weekly fix of new music. The sales guy placed the LP Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) in my hands along with a few others to head to the listening station. I was groovin’ from the first few beats on “It’s Good to Be Here” and once Labybug Megga kicked in on her verse I knew that I would be walking with the album that day.
Reachin’ and all of their music is a psychedelic trip of hip hop melted with jazz over and undertones. The music on Reachin’ includes samples of Curtis Mayfield, Art Blakey and Sonny Rollins. Much to my disappointment the group separated due to “creative differences” after releasing Blowout Comb in 1994. Blowout Comb didn’t get as much commercial success as Reachin’ but was a great album that secures Digable Planets a permanent place in the soundtrack that makes the 90’s one of hip hop’s greatest decades.
Since that breakup in 1994 the group performed together again in 2011. The 2016 tour was a pleasant surprise for fans. The Paradise Rock Club in Boston was one of the stops on the Digable Planets 2016 tour. The Paradise Rock Club is an intimate venue that lets the fans get right next to the stage. Seeing this setup I was thrilled at the prospect of being up close and personal with Ladybug Mecca, Doodlebug and Butterfly.
Digable Planets said it well on “Last of the Spiddyocks” when they proclaimed “You down with Digable Planets, you’s a hipster.” The crowd was filled with a new generation of hipsters, one college student commented “My dad told me about Digable Planets and that he use to listen to them just after he got out of school”. We all settled in next to the stage rocking to DJ Earl as we awaited the start of the show.
True to their music, Digable Planets performed with a full band: drums, bass, keys, lead guitar and percussion. The music was supplemented by Butterfly on a beat box and vox machine. The music transcended the decades and the mellow cool cat sound that is Digable Planets was as fresh as the first time I listened.
“Reunited” by Peaches and Herb was the perfect song for them to start the show. The show felt out of time and space as Digable Planets turned every song into not only a showcase of the original tunes but a tripped out show case of free styles over funky tripped out jazz music from the band. I was transfixed from start to finish during their almost two hour show.
Digable Planets Set List
- May 4th Movement
- It’s Good to be Here
- Pacifics (“N.Y. Is Red Hot”)
- Cool Breezes
- Art of Easing
- Black Ego
- Dog It
- Nick Bags
- 9th Wonder
- Rebirth of Slick
“Bringing peace and love through our music.” – Doodlebug
Digable Planets – Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
If you have Digable Planets in your Music Library go dust off that LP or cassette and remind yourself why you love their music. If you have been missing out on Digable Planets take a listen to “Rebirth of Slick” and go add them to your Libro Musica.
If you enjoy Digable Planets you should also take a listen to the duo Shabazz Palaces. Butterfly is one half of this duo and is teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire.