The late 1980’s. The first generation of kids to grow up on Hip-Hop was coming of age. An experimental vibe was in the air, like anything was possible. This is golden age Hip-Hop, where stylistic innovation was the rule – From Public Enemy to De La Soul, from Eric B & Rakim to A Tribe Called Quest – creating the breadth of style that this powerful music could hold.
This is the fertile ground upon which Digable Planets were raised. Craig ‘Doodlebug’ Irving and Mary Ann ‘Ladybug Mecca’ Vieira met at Howard University. Ishmael ‘Butterfly’ Butler, originally from Seattle, was in New York. A chance meeting in Philadelphia (of course) led to full on collaboration as they connected over a common love of poetry, jazz, and Hip-Hop culture. Assembling in New York, Digable Planets released their first album in 1993. Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) hit the airwaves and was certified Gold by the RIAA. The lead single, Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)was a crossover Top 20 Billboard hit. While ATCQ and De La Soul had their spin, Digable Planets integrated soul and jazz into Hip-Hop in a fresh new way that broadened the genre musically and stylistically. Their look and vibe evaded Hip-Hop stereotypes at any early stage; one had the sense at the time that Hip-Hop was a vast cultural concept.
The trio went even further with their second album, Blowout Comb, organically integrating soul, jazz, and live instrumentation with social consciousness and positive observations on life. Blowout Comb was more serious, with political reference and imagery, which of course set the path for less commercial possibilities. Digable Planets called it quits in 1995, as each member went on to accomplished solo careers.
Fast forward to 2017, almost the other end of the evolution of Hip-Hop. A genre that has survived the pressures of the market, but not without collateral damage. We could say the same for the nation, and for just about every other genre. We find ourselves looking for the roots, the authenticity of music and of life. And so, now is the perfect time for Digable Planets, creative leaders with a stake in history, to return to the world stage. On New Year’s Eve 2015/16, the band kicked off a seemingly endless world tour to a chorus of appreciation. Along the way they returned to their culturally native spot – Philadelphia – for two sold out shows at The Ardmore Music Hall. Independent Philly label Artists First Records arranged to record the shows for the sake of history, and now Digable Planets LIVE is set for immediate release on Friday June 30.