Digable Planets Biography

US psychedelic jazz rappers who, along with Gang Starr, were hailed as the instigators of the genre. Contextually they were more accurately the legacy of De La Soul / P.M. Dawn’s Daisy-age rap, as can be detected from their colourful pseudonyms; Doodle Bug (Craig Irving, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA), Butterfly (b. Ishmael Butler, Brooklyn, New York, USA) and Ladybug (b. Mary Ann Vierra, Silver Springs, Maryland, USA). This conveyed their kooky, spaced-out philosophy, their names derived from an admiration for the community structures of ants and insects. Musically it was a delicious combination of wordplay and dreamy jazz backing utilising samples from artists as diverse as Art Blakey and Curtis Mayfield. The crew admitted that ‘We use a lot of the colloquialisms that came out of jazz’. However, there was an underlying political bent, as expressed on debut album tracks such as ‘La Femme Fetal’, an attack on the Pro-Life lobby who firebomb abortion clinics. The trio then toured with live musicians in an attempt to recreate the jazzy atmosphere of the album. They returned to the recording studio to lay down tracks for 1994’s Blowout Comb, a strong follow-up that sadly failed to match the success of Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space). Lacking a single track as catchy as the debut’s hit single ‘Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat)’ partly explained the album’s commercial failure. The trio disbanded shortly afterwards, a sad demise for one of the genre’s more creative acts. Ishmael Butler reinvented himself as Cherrywine, releasing his debut album Bright Black in 2003. He reunited with Irving and Vierra to perform at the 2005 Lollapalooza festival.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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