March 8, 1995

Digable Planets Music, Message ‘Cool Like Dat’

Latheena Abdulla Jones Mcclatchy News Service
 

Although many dismiss rap music as portraying only a negative aspect of African American life, hip-hop artists have been breaking barriers and innovating rap since its origins in the “Boogie-Down” Bronx of New York City.

Among the ranks of MCs working to promote positivity are the New York-based Digable Planets. From their music, it is evident the Planets take this very seriously.

“I stand in the face of oppression with my sisters and my br”thers no slippin’, no half-steppin’… . Nothing can save ya, but this is the season of our self-savior,” Doodlebug raps in “Dial 7,” from the trio’s latest disc, “Blowout Comb.”

“We just want to represent the real hip-hop, in its truest form,” stated Butterfly, a Seattle native and group member. Clearly, from the lengthy liner notes of “Blowout Comb,” which feature Watts poets and other artists and calls for unity, the DPs are a group of their word.

The Planets have come a long way since their “cool like dat” 1993 debut album “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).”

In “Blowout Comb,” Ladybug (also known as Mecca), Cee-Know the Doodlebug, and Butterfly concentrate less on bug gimmicks and more on fly beats. This quality is most present in the unique sound of “Black Ego” - reminiscent of an old Isaac Hayes album.

Even more impressive, all tracks were produced, written and arranged by the group.

Rappers Guru and Jeru the Damaja, from the Gangstarr foundation, and DJs Sulaiman (of Doodlebug’s Seven and A Crescent Productions) and Jazzy Joice showcase their skills in “Borough Check,” “Graffiti,” and “9th Wonder,” adding a variety of different flavors to “Blowout Comb.”

Still, with live band The Blowouts to back them, the Digable Planets’ sound comes alive on stage. A certain essence, far superior to any tape of CD, came through as they performed to a sold-out crowd Feb. 15 at DV8, a Seattle nightclub.

The concert opened with Spearhead, a Bay Area rap group whose sound mixes reggae, funk, and jazz to add to a spicy hip-hop flavor.

Although beats and bass lines consumed the audience, they were only secondary to strong vocals and lyrics. “I like to shoot hoops not brothers,” voiced lead man Michael Franti as he paraded confidently about the stage.

The music not only got the crowd hype, but presented to them a positive message without preaching. Which proves MCs can represent without a nine millimeter.

The show was dominated from then on by the Planets, who rocked the house with cuts from both their albums. “Cool Like Dat,” “Dog It,” and “Gettin’ Free” enhanced the show with funky beats and rhythms.

“The Art of Easing” had everyone’s head bobbing to the groove as Ladybug’s feminine voice penetrated the crowd. “Ninth Wonder” and “Nickel Bags” that sent an upheaval of roars throughout their performances.

The highlight of the show was, unquestionably, DJ Jazzy Joice’s exhibition of skills on the turntables. The Bronx DJ blew up the spot, scratching old-school cuts from Run DMC to LL Cool J.

Her immense talent showed females can do it just as good, and better. Without samples or loops, the Digable Planets are an example of what being “cool like dat” really means. “I’d just like to say, recognize what being cool is about. (It’s) about knowing things … having knowledge and information you could be whatever you want.” True indeed.

To quote from the “Blowout Comb” liner notes, “Words are beautiful, actions are supreme.” Much respect to the DPs for keeping it real to the art of hip-hop music.

xxxx

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