Digable Planets, Digging

Though the richly dynamic “Reachin’”, had its acid jazzy vibe and hop-pop reach, Digable Planets’ second album “Blowout Comb,” is a misunderstood masterpiece.

Before the jazzy, alterna-hip hop trio and their live ensemble hit the Ardmore Music Hall on February 23, know this: the beloved Digable Planets may have gelled in Brooklyn, and been born by Seattle’s Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler and Mariana “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira (from Silver Spring, Maryland). But, they came together in Philly where Craig “Doodlebug” Irving lived (as did Butler’s grandma), amid a club crowd that included local hero King Britt who would become the trio’s live stage DJ.

Though the richly dynamic “Reachin’”, had it’s acid jazzy vibe and hop-pop reach, their second album “Blowout Comb,” is a misunderstood masterpiece. Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary with a Light in the Attic label’s vinyl reissue, their sophomore effort was a deeply personal and epically social work referencing the Five-Percent Nation, the Black Panther movement, Islam, Black Guerrilla Family founder George Jackson and the then-bourgeoning Afrocentrism of Brooklyn in the 1990s. Instead of jazz, they went for funk. Rather than feature the lush, loud Boho harmonies of “Reachin’,” “Blowout Comb” is less hook-y, and its mellifluous voices and vocals are forceful, yet, buried deep within producer Dave Darlington’s mix so to force the listener to focus on their idealism and abstraction.

“We wanted to bring clarity to where we were coming from in the first place,” noted Butler during a 2019 conversation about taking the communal insect hive metaphor of his politicized Seattle upbringing – and that of his Planet-ary comrades – to the more familiar world (to he and Irving) of Black Nationalism.

Digable Planets

“Both of our albums are our children, where you really can’t pick a favorite,” Craig Irving told me last year. “I love them both. They affect my heart in two different ways – they were two different sets of times, generating two different sorts of excitement. But, yeah, ‘Blowout Comb’ is stronger. More us.”

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