Digable Planets

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Digable Planets
Origin Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz rap, alternative hip hop
Years active 1992–1995
2005–2011[1]
Labels Pendulum, Blue Note, EMI
Associated acts Shabazz Palaces
Members Butterfly
Doodlebug
Ladybug Mecca

Digable Planets /ˈdɪɡəbəl ˈplænəts/ was an American alternative hip hop trio based in New York City, composed of Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler (from Seattle), Mary Ann "Ladybug Mecca" Vieira (from Silver Spring, Maryland) and Craig "Doodlebug" Irving (from Philadelphia).[2]

History[edit]

The cover of Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat).

Origins[edit]

Butterfly spent his childhood in Seattle, Washington, where he was born in the early 1970s. After his parents divorced, he moved around the country with his history professor father, living in Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Harlem and Brooklyn, New York. Upon completing high school, he attended the University of Massachusetts on a basketball scholarship but quit before long. He decided instead to earn an education in the music business, taking an internship with Sleeping Bag Records, a New York City-based hip-hop label, in the mid-1980s. Doodlebug grew up in Philadelphia before moving to Washington, D.C., to attend Howard University, where he made a reputation for himself as a deejay on the college’s radio station. He also mixed with local members of the religious sect Five-Percent Nation of Islam, adopting some of their political ideals of black power. Ladybug, though she was born in Brazil in the mid-1970s, spent her childhood mostly in Maryland. By the time she was in high school, she was a restless young woman; in four years, she attended three different schools.[3][4]

1992–1993: Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)[edit]

By the late 1980s Butterfly had moved to Philadelphia to live with his grandmother while making a living and learning the ropes of the local music scene. He met Doodlebug on the local circuit while the latter was rapping with an outfit called Dread Poets Society, which later became the 7 OD’s. Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug soon became fast friends and rapping partners. In the early days of Digable Planets, they lived together, first in Jersey City, New Jersey, and later, New York. The last move brought them into the heart of Brooklyn’s black neighborhoods, where they scraped by for a while rapping and working. Ladybug, for example, was selling sneakers just before the group won its record contract in 1992. By that summer, however, they were recording the material for their first album with Pendulum Records

The trio's unique fusion of jazz and hip hop received excellent reviews and solid sales with the release of their debut album, Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space), in 1993, which was certified gold by the RIAA.

The album's lead single, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)", in 1993 became a crossover hit, peaking at #15 on Billboard magazine's singles chart, earning gold certification by the RIAA, and winning the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The track peaked at #67 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1995.[5]

1994: Blowout Comb and charitable causes[edit]

The group's second album, Blowout Comb, was released in 1994 (see 1994 in music). This album departed from their debut by including feature appearances from outside artists, such as Jeru the Damaja and Guru of Gang Starr. The album was inventive for its time but did not yield any chartable hits.

In the same year the group appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as "Album of the Year" by Time magazine.

1995: Breakup[edit]

The trio subsequently broke up due to creative differences in early 1995. An additional hardship hit group member Ladybug Mecca when she dealt with the deaths of both of her parents.[6]

2005–2011: Reunions[edit]

In February 2005 the trio reunited and embarked on a reunion tour, which was followed by the release of a compilation album titled Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles on October 15, 2005 that mixed previously released material with remixes and B-sides.[7]

From 2009 to 2011, Doodlebug and Butterfly toured across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Backed by the live band, Doodlebug's Cosmic Funk Orchestra, and often with Butterfly's Shabazz Palaces or hip hop duo Camp Lo as the supporting act, they toured with other female MCs to represent the female energy that has always been a core element of the group.

The group performed at Numbers, in Houston, Texas, on May 15, 2010, alongside the hip hop duo Camp Lo.[8] During an interview with the Houston Chronicle near the time of this show, Doodlebug stated that a new single would be released, called "Fresh Out", and that a new album was planned for digital release in summer of 2010.[9] The group also performed alongside hip-hop group The Pharcyde at the North by Northeast music festival in Toronto, Ontario on June 19, 2011.[10]

A reunion show scheduled for December 2012 in Seattle, Washington was cancelled days before the performance. When asked in a subsequent interview about the group's status, Butler stated "I think it's the end."[1]

Solo work and collaborations[edit]

Butler established a live music hip-hop act called Cherrywine, whose album Bright Black was released in 2003. In 2009, Butler established Shabazz Palaces with multi-instrumentalist Tendai 'Baba' Maraire. The group anonymously self-released two EP's, Shabazz Palaces and Of Light in 2009 before signing to Sub Pop Records and releasing their debut full-length album, Black Up to wide critical acclaim on June 28, 2011.[11] Butler and Maraire later collaborated with Hussein Kalonji as Chimurenga Renaissance to release riZe vadZimu riZe on March 25, 2014,[12] and are set to release their sophomore Shabazz Palaces LP Lese Majesty in July 2014.

Doodlebug is now known as Cee Knowledge and tours with a band called Cee Knowledge & the Cosmic Funk Orchestra that released two albums in limited edition on FarmHouse Records.[citation needed]

Ladybug (now known as Lady Mecca) has also embarked on a solo career, releasing an album Trip The Light Fantastic in 2005.[citation needed] Ladybug Mecca also appeared on "Spreadin' Rhythm Around" on Legacy/Sony's Billie Holiday Remixed and Reimagined album. In 2008, Ladybug Mecca collaborated with eMC (Masta Ace, Punchline, Wordsworth, Stricklin) on the title track "The Show" and Del tha Funkee Homosapien's album Eleventh Hour on the song "I Got You", and also contributed the voice of Tracey Triceratops, the leader of The Dino 5, on the Dino-5 children's CD through Ropeadope Records. Lady Mecca also performed as DJ Lady Mecca on March 12, 2011 at LOLA in St. Louis, Missouri. According to Kevin C. Johnson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch pop music critic, "what stood out about Mecca's two-hour, 50-song set was her song choices, full of selections music fans don't necessarily hear every weekend at the clubs (unlike, say, DJ Solange, who totally pandered to the crowd at the gig at Exo earlier this year)."

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Singles[edit]

  • "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" (1992)
  • "Where I'm From" (1993)
  • "Nickel Bags" (1993)
  • "9th Wonder (Blackitolism)" (1994)
  • "9th Wonder (Slicker This Year)" (Mad Slicker Remixes) (1994)
  • "Dial 7 (Axioms of Creamy Spies)" (1995)
Year Song Chart positions
US Hot 100 US R&B US Rap
1993 "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" 15 6 1
"Where I'm From" 60 7
"Nickel Bags" 93 12
1994 "9th Wonder (Blackitolism)" 80

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Matson, Andrew. "Ishmael Butler on Digable Planets: 'I think it's the end'". Seattle Times. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ Bush, John. "Biography: Digable Planets". Allmusic. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  3. ^ http://www.answers.com/topic/digable-planets-1
  4. ^ http://www.discogs.com/artist/48393-Digable-Planets
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 155. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  6. ^ [1] Interview with Ladybug Mecca.
  7. ^ [2] Pop Matters review of "Beyond the Spectrum: the Creamy Spy Chronicles"
  8. ^ [3], Houston Chronicle.
  9. ^ [4] Houston Chronicle Interview with Doodlebug of Digable Planets
  10. ^ Stevenson, Jane. "Devo, Hats play free for NXNE". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 25 April 2011. 
  11. ^ https://www.subpop.com/artists/shabazz_palaces
  12. ^ http://www.okayplayer.com/news/okayafrica-audio-chimurenga-renaissance-the-bad-is-so-good-mp3.html

See also[edit]

Beyond the Spectrum: the Creamy Spy Chronicles