Digable Planets is one of the most unique and eccentric hip hop groups I’ve heard. Most would call them an old school “alternative” hip hop group, but I find that term pretty vague to describe their diverse styles. If I could give them a genre, it would be experimental jazz-hip-hop spoken-word fusion. Almost every track they drop features a smooth jazz backdrop with drum chops that’ll make your head bob non-stop. This fits perfectly with the vocalists laid back, slow, and annunciated flow. One characteristic that separates Digable Planets from most old school groups is the presence of a female in the crew. Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieria adds some sick female vocals which tops off each track with some added charm.
My favorite thing about Digable Planets is their focus on simplicity. Very rarely do they drop a complicated, lyrically complex rhyme or verse that lacks in meaning. Instead, their focus is always on keeping it slow and simple, highlighting the mellow flow.
In my humble opinion, Digable Planets epitomizes the mellow charm of jazz more than old school hip hop. Their debut album Reachin’ (see below) in 1993 featured samples from Jazz kings like Art Blakey and Curtis Mayfield. On tour, they featured live jazz musicians which was celebrated by hip hop lovers, but criticized by jazz enthusiasts for simply covering old jazz tracks. In their following 1994 album Blowout comb — which features beautiful original jazz solos accompanied by experimental and spoken word vocals — this was solved. In 1995 the group broke up, citing “creative differences”. It’s unfortunate, but thats it — only 2 years active on the scene, which may be why they are little known today.
1. Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)
This is their number one hit single. Such dope flow and delivery. My favorite the transition to Ladybug’s verse.
2. Where I’m From
Blowout Comb (1994)
This is my favorite album. It’s less about catchy hooks and focuses more on experimenting with vocals, spoken-word/slam-style delivery, and is overall a little be darker than Reachin’. If you read my post on Guru of Gangstarr, you might be wondering if he has any connection with Digable Planets because of their similar styles. Yep, he does, and he’s featured in one track on this album. Here are my favorites.
Borough Check ft. Guru of Gang Starr