Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hip Hop Remembrances: Digable Planets

I was a little behind the curve when it came to warming up to hip hop back in the early and middle 80s. I was much more interested the music coming out of the UK, from Duran Duran to Sade to the Smiths to Loose Ends. That music was innovative, and for me it was aspirational; hip hop seemed to me to be more of a reality based genre, so I wasn't really there.

I think it took going to a school as white as Hampden-Sydney for me to be slapped back into a black reality of sorts, and with that slap, hip hop was there to welcome me back into the fold. I took to it like a duck to water. I could write thousands of words to express how hip hop helped to shape aspects of who I am today, but I want to focus on just one group today: Digable Planets.

1993 was a year of promise for me. I'd come out of the closet to my family and friends, and I'd decided to pursue graduate school in history (which I would begin in the fall of the following year). That was the year that "Reachin' (A Refutation of Time and Space)" was released. Digable Planets' explicit combination of jazz and hip hop really appealed to me; it represented a sense of just how cool hip hop could be. I also liked the fact that Butterfly, Doodlebug, and Ladybug Mecca seemed like people with whom I could relate (like the brothers from De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest). I wanted to feel that sense of connection, and they provided it.

"Where I'm From"

I remember that their next album "Blowout Comb" didn't do nearly as well, but I liked it just the same. I definitely love the song "9th Wonder (Blackitolism)," because I was "slicker" that year myself, and on a path that made real sense to me. Enjoy.

"9th Wonder (Blackitolism)"


Anonymous said...

Free—what do you think about Hip Hop's promotion of violence (generally and against women in particular), crime, and its hostility to the gay community?

Do you give them a pass?

hscfree said...

@Anonymous: I don't give that a pass at all. If this is someone who knows me, then that should be clear. I am extremely selective about the hip hop artists I listen to. That was the key point in noting that a group like Digable Planets was a group that I could relate to. The saddest parts about hip hop are the very things that you have raised, and there has been an ongoing discussion within segments (not large enough by far) of the hip hop community on these things.

I could write a separate post about the problems I see in hip hop, and how it was, in my opinion, ruined by the glorification of violence, the objectification and cruelty to women, and the vicious homophobia. The people I listen to and have loved aren't in that category.