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Digable Planets

Posted by Scott

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If you cared at all about hip hop during the early 90′s, chances are you’re a big fan of the two albums Digable Planets released during theie brief but brilliant career (Apparently they are touring again, but I’ve yet to hear of a new album). This was way back when, just as rap was turning into the complete mess we hear today and before "what what what what what what what what" was an acceptable refrain for a song. I know, I know, it’s not like everything back in the day was great, and it’s not like everything now is trash; it just seemed like it was easier to come by a well thought out, intelligent hip hop album back then.

When Digable Planets released Blowout Comb I was a Junior in High School and I had spent the previous summer installing a ridiculous sound system in my car. I think I played this album about 500 times in a row the first week I had it; I distinctly remember blasting this particular song (9th Wonder) on repeat on the way to taking my S.A.T.’s that year. Strange how you can forget whole chapters of your life but somehow you remember something seemingly as trivial as the song you listened to on the way to a test. I guess that’s the power of good music. It seems today I consume most of my music through headphones on planes or coming out of computer speakers, neither of which do this song justice, this one has to be played through the 12′s in your trunk to get the point…the bass is massive.

As for the cover art, this was the sort of thing I coveted when I was younger. I wasn’t exposed to anything even approaching good design where I grew up so album covers were one of my only windows into the world of somewhat decent graphic design. I remember being blown away by the design and packaging of this CD when it came out. Now looking back, I see it wasn’t exactly perfect, but still well executed considering. The version on the bottom is the cover for the single, which I think I had in cassette form before I got the album on CD.

Digable Planets – 9th Wonder (Blackitolism)

25 Comments Leave A Comment

1

Jesse says:

May 26, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Digable Planets is my favorite hip hop group of all time. im so pleasantly surprised to see them being mentioned on here.

2

Wayne says:

May 26, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I totally remember ‘Cool like that’ from my junior high years. I loved their sound. Thanks for re-introducing me.

3

Alex / HeadUp says:

May 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Hell yeah, I love classic hip-hop…interesting, I got into Digable Planets 10 years later in ’04. Lots of great sounds came out of that period in hip-hop, which I definately agree with your statement about how difficult it is to find intelligent hip-hop in the mainstream nowadays…it does exist, and it’s always great to hear, and then there’s still a ton of great music to be discovered in the thriving underground.

4

Jason Warth says:

May 26, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Awesome! Digable Planets was/is a very special hip-hop group, and I couldn’t agree more with your analysis that hip-hop (on the whole) has devolved from the “good old days” of Digable P’s, Tribe Called Quest, et. al.

The quality and the uniqueness of Digable Planets’ contribution is 2nd to none, in my book. There are no other similar groups/albums from what I can tell. Cheers for you for recognizing their contributions here…

-J

5

Ben Z says:

May 26, 2008 at 9:09 pm

nice to read this post Scott!… :) My assumptions about you and hiphop were basically correct but it was nice to see one post sort of explain all the answers to my question, “what exactly did happen to Scott’s old enjoyment (wasn’t really love) of hiphop?”…

Couple things I thought you’d find nice (if not funny):

- open up that Blowout Comb CD insert and it was a mini-poster in the same purple/blck/crm design style but of like 25 different pics and combs.

- you’re right about them touring (they were at Bumbershoot ’07) but mostly I think they come out as solo acts, mostly. Ladybug Mecca has a handful of solo verses and singles (most lately on Ubiquity I believe) and guesting w/ ZionI.

- Butterfly fronted the band Cherrywine for a minute a few years back and I even think we hit up their show (50-75 people tops) on one of those Amtrak trips me and L.O.N.S. took to Sacto one summer…after or before one of those early Tycho/Chachi shows at that cafe.

- from what i DONT hear, nobody ever knows what the other dude did or does now… but 9th Wonder (who did the production on their 1st 2 LPs) is still a huge producer and most recently did a Little Brother LP and others…

Finally — sorry for the long post — my buddy recently rolled up in a temporary ride that only had a tape deck so I broke out my cassette tape box and sure enough, a KDNZ 880am USF mixtape starring yours truly with my special guest star “scott hansen”…we played ALLL hiphop beats, mostly 1989-1994…that isht is hilarious! my sac hadn’t dropped yet or something…our voices are weird on it…

Anyways — it was nice to see the finished work on Obama/PROGRESS! Congratulations man…I’m gonna try and pick one up but we’ll see if the flock of Obamanites beat me to it! Good job bro!

6

Scott says:

May 26, 2008 at 9:24 pm

ben-
yeah man, for sure… I remember that tape, I don’t think I want to hear it though.

as for cherrywine, yeah, we went to that show with steve and lons I think, great show, we got to talk to butterfly after for a minute, remember? that was going to be the follow up post to this one, a little “where are they now” action.

7

Rae Davis says:

May 26, 2008 at 11:14 pm

Gawd i love this record.

Definitely a gem in hip hop.
Although, i always felt it was over looked because everyone loved “Reachin’” so much. Maybe it’s just me though.

8

Ben Z says:

May 26, 2008 at 11:33 pm

sweet…yeah, I was shocked when I heard you on that KDNZ tape cause I just didn’t remember you as being as much into hiphop….btw you intro’d Short But Funky by the infamous Bay Area MC Too Sheez. hehe. classic. Few would confuse him with ‘intelligent hiphop’ but that man had ‘short n simple w a unique voice’ down pat. we all have a Too Short memory and being only a small fan, that says something…

so yeah, round those times I remember you as a Photek, 4hero fan and think we all agreed with the Logical Progression series when it came time for a CD we all agreed on with some electronic, um, techno, d&b, jungle, step (take your pick)…

so if you do one, please fill me in on “where in the world is”….TRICKY? I’m sure that dude is somewhere doing something…I just thought he was gonna blowup mainstream style after his part in The Fifth Element. Never again sawr him tho.

9

Alex / HeadUp says:

May 27, 2008 at 4:26 am

Ben Z — you sure know your shit dude haha! Hell yeah on 4hero and Logical Progression, esp Logical Progression…that jazzstep sound is some of the best and most immersive dnb I’ve ever heard. I listen to it and I’m instantly transported back to the railway between Prague and Krakow in 2001. As for LTJ’s Good Looking label and the more loungey music their roster puts out, it’s good and all, but nothing touches the hotness that LTJ Bukem and MC Conrad produce when they get together.

As for Tricky, I was looking him up a couple weeks ago wondering the same thing…I’m sure he’ll resurface.

As for 9th wonder, I didn’t realize that was him on DP…he is a great producer tho, I love some of the beats he’s made for LB, stuff like So Fabulous, Light it Up (based off Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together??), etc.

10

Mike says:

May 27, 2008 at 7:39 am

When I heard that they were getting back together I was really hoping for a new album, but sadly I don’t think that’s going to happen.

11

Sherwin Techico says:

May 27, 2008 at 9:51 am

Still awaiting their ‘new’ album ever since seeing them at the El Rey (@LA) in Spring ’05. Guess they’ve been busy. Anyways, cool reminisce. I need to listen to their 10/05 album re-release. I heard a couple songs have been re-mastered. Always nice to have a good, crisp copy. I could only wish the same can be said for The Score =)

12

Ben Z says:

May 27, 2008 at 10:52 am

Alex/HeadUP -applying directly to my domepiece- (i think of that commercial everytime i see your posts) — my fault man, my memory is shot and I am always mixing up some producers/samples/or mc’s… it was King Britt who used to mix and help produce DPs, not 9th Wonder. But I can’t say for sure tho that 9th wasn’t involved (they credited prod as Dig Planets all the time)…I think I always get that one mixed up because of 9th Wonder being in a few of their song names, and ever since CDs came out, I still haven’t gotten used to learning song names correctly :) Songs are officially called Track 4 or Track 6 in my mind. hehe.

BTW – hell yeah, that Logical Progg takes me back so quickly, easily, seamlessly…its almost like I’m there again (or wished I was). Its kind of like I can’t play some of those LPs sometimes because I get too easily distracted by reminiscing…

13

Eduardo says:

May 27, 2008 at 11:02 am

Woah, no doubt! This album was infectious. I can vivdly remember the smell of the cassette notes as I, too, could not take it out of my boombox. So much sampling and diggin finesse with some deep jazz funk roots…heavy stuff. There’s a little segment on the album where they take this same beat and have some sax and trombone(?) soloing…. I must’ve heard it a million times. Thanks for bringin it back. Peace.

14

Ben Z says:

May 27, 2008 at 11:04 am

…and that reminds me for people looking for ‘new’ DP stuff, King Britt compilations (for sure the BBE Beat Generation project) usually has some new material or at least a story or mix from the old DP stuff.

King Britt’s BBE compilation is good overall and I think it had a completely new DP track (if not just Ladybug). I don’t remember loving that track more than the others on the LP but the entire work is worthwhile (Rich Medina track, Quasimoto, etc…all on top of new Britt prod). It was 2003 I believe. The other King Britt compilation I’m thinking of is a mix he did on KCRW’s Chocolate City, which they usually keep posted in an archive. I think he either plays some DP stuff on there, or he just explains the relationship in his interview w/ Garth. KRCW Chocolate City is highly recommended by the way…in the same vein as Gilles Peterson or BenjiB but with a distinctly LA-USA underground hiphop vibe…

15

Caes says:

May 27, 2008 at 3:23 pm

You might want to check out the work of Emory Douglas….He was the cheif artist for the black panther party(this album cover was modeled off of their old newspaper”The Black Panther Speaks”)…..Amazingly enough his design has influneced many of todays biggest artists(Sheperd Fairy is one …..)
http://www.moca.org/emorydouglas/

16

Jason Warth says:

May 27, 2008 at 3:27 pm

FWIW, When I was down in Miami this year for WMC, I noticed King Britt’s name on the line-up for one of the closing parties. Not sure how/what he was up to, but it definitely piqued my interest…

17

Alex / HeadUp says:

May 27, 2008 at 5:59 pm

Ben Z– also, it just so happens that Tricky has a new single out called Council Estate. Came out on iTunes last week, I noticed it while checking out Adrift/From Home and The Synchronicity Suite. His new single is very rock n roll, doesn’t sound much like trip hop to me…almost like Mos Def’s New Danger, when I was used to (and preferred) the sound of Black on Both Sides.

And is King Britt the same guy who released an album called the Philadelphia Experiment on Rope-a-dope a few yrs ago? I always get the feeling that the King Britt of that album is different than the famous producer, but I could be wrong.

18

micael says:

May 27, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Reachin’ is still a muuuuch better album, but I definitely love em both. And man, so glad to see you post shit about hip hop on here. I didn’t know it was possible, but I love you even more now.

Digable Planets is love.

19

LAB says:

May 28, 2008 at 2:23 am

Never heard if this group before (probably cos i was 4 when this album was released) but 9th Wonders is awesome. Im really gonna have to hunt this album down and buy it.

I just love thos hip hop beats, i could literally listen to them all day.

21

t o n x says:

May 29, 2008 at 11:08 pm

Blowout Comb is one of my favorite records of all time. Have you heard _Blowout Breaks_ – DJ Jedi’s mix of all the source material records for that album? Its amazing. (hit me with an email if you’d like a copy and I’ll upload it somewhere)

23

Marco says:

April 14, 2009 at 11:46 am

Digable Planets is one of the most interesting groups in hip hop. I’m writing this in 2009, and I’m 15 years old, yet I still explore hip hop music instead of just sticking to modern hip hop/rap, and i must say that DIGABLE PLANETS IS THE MOST PHENOMENAL MUSIK I HAVE EVER LISTEND TO!!!!!!!!