Life on these planets
VAIL ” The late afternoon sun casts a glow over Craig “Doodlebug” Irving’s face as he sits on the edge of his bed in a hotel room in Santa Barbara answering the same question he’s been asked every day for the past year.
Why did Digable Planets break up?
He doesn’t sigh. He doesn’t complain. Doodlebug is conscious of his choice to position himself amid the stars, and he’s prepared for what ensues.
Rewind to 1995. The group has just released two killer albums, “Reachin’ (A Refutation of Time and Space)” and “Blowout Comb,” in as many years, with one Grammy under its belt. The Planets, Ladybug, Doodlebug and Butterfly, a jazz-infused hip-hop trio, hovered at the top of the charts with their sophisticated, mellifluous rhymes. But before long, the cosmic cats fell prey to the pressures of fame, record labels, art, passion and inexperience despite the group’s musical success.
“We just didn’t have great interpersonal relationships and instead of dealing with it we just walked away,” Doodlebug said.
Fast forward 10 years, and the hip-hop trio is orbiting the planet once again with “Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles,” a compilation of tracks from their two previous albums as well as a few B-sides, with a new album in the works, and perhaps the more pressing question at hand is why did the Digable Planets get back together?
“I don’t think the Digable Planets chapter was fully closed with two albums,” Doodlebug said. “Years after we broke up people wouldn’t stop asking me about the other two and I talked to them and they said the same thing. I was like damn, ‘They couldn’t go on their way.’ It was almost like we had to get back together. My identity was always going to be attached to the Digable Planets and I felt like my identity in the music world was best suited as Doodlebug in the Digable Planets.”
Each member pursued separate projects following the breakup. Doodlebug moved to Philly, renamed himself Cee-Knowledge and founded the Cosmic Funk Orchestra. Ladybug settled in Connecticut and under the name Ladybug Mecca released her first solo album, “Trip the Light Fantastic.” Butterfly headed to Seattle, eventually forming the funk-based hip-hop quartet, Cherrywine.
Talks of getting back together surfaced when Butterfly Mecca made a cameo with Cee-Knowledge and the Cosmic Funk Orchestra. The union was realized when a European concert promoter approached the band to play a series of dates abroad. The band agreed and began touring in February. They continued the second leg of the tour in the states last fall.
“We had so much fun in Europe and everything went so well that we haven’t stopped,” Doodlebug said.
In the fast-paced, fast-changing macrocosm of hip-hop today, the Planets have held true to their insect monikers ” Butterfly, Ladybug and Doodlebug.
“In the hip-hop world, a world that’s so magnanimous, we’re going to come in as the smallest, most insignificant creature that’s most likely to survive the greatest of natural disasters. It’s rooted in Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis,'” Doodlebug said. “It’s a blessing we’re here. In that long lull we could have been forgotten, especially in the rap world today when someone gets exed out every day.”
DJ Peter Blick, who’s mixing it up at Samana Lounge in Vail Village tonight through Tuesday, said he often mixes Digable’s beats.
“They’re one of my favorite hip-hop artists,” Blick said. “They’re jazzy and conscious, and they do it live, too.”
Crawford Byers, talent buyer for 8150, said this is the kind of hip-hop that’s right up his alley. He expects a good crowd to come out for the trio, especially Ladybug.
“She’s just got the greatest voice ever,” Byers said. “She’s one of the hottest hip-hop singers around.”
Tonight the Planets will rock 8150 with a live band, including Richard Williams aka Filthy Rich on drums, Brian Jackson on keyboard, Gerald Turner on bass and his brother Thaddeus Turner on guitar with DJ Jedi on the turntables, backing up their familiar tunes.
“We’re gonna hit them against the head with a lot of old stuff, a lot of freestyle stuff. You’re gonna hear some of the same songs that you know and love but we’re gonna flip ’em a little, get freaky with them,” Doodlebug said, proud to be donning the insect name again, proud to be a survivor. “Hopefully, we’ll always be around.”
Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14641, or firstname.lastname@example.org.