Digable Planets

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

, /10
Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (2011), 6.5/10
Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty (2014), 4.5/10

Boston's Digable Planets (the trio of Craif "Doodlebug" Irving, Ismail "Butterfly" Butler and Mary-Ann "Ladybug" Vieira) did more than simply anchor hip-hop to a less confrontational and more laid-back stance. Rebirth of Slick (1993) used a sample of Art Blakey' Stretchin' and de facto coined "jazz-hop". That aesthetics was affirmed on a ground-breaking album, Reachin' A New Refutation of Time and Space (Elektra, 1993), that went against the flow of hard-hitting post-Public Enemy albums, while preserving the political agenda. On stage, the trio of rappers fronted a combo of dj, standup bass, drums and saxophone.

Despite its grander ambitions, the laid-back atmosphere of Blowout Comb (EMI, 1994) also highlighted the limits of the trio, incapable of finding its own voice despite the great intuition of their debut album.

Digable Planets' Ishmael Butler resurfaced two decades later as the frontman for Seattle's Shabazz Palaces. The EPs Shabazz Palaces (2009) and Of Light (2009) and the album Black Up (Sub Pop, 2011) basically applied the free-jazz, glitch and industrial aesthetics to hip-hop. However, Butler's old-school rapping was largely irrelevant compared with the unnamed contributors who concocted the murky noir off-kilter beats and the dense synthesizer-infected ambience (notably the female vocalist of Recollections of the Wraith).

Shabazz Palaces' Lese Majesty (Subpop, 2014) didn't even have that musical background, and relied on the occasional contributions of jazz singer Catherine Harris-White to elevate the songs from utter mediocrity. Motion Sickness was perhaps the least monotonous.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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