This Week in Hip-Hop/R&B History: Jazzy Hip-Hop Trio, Digable Planets, Release Their Debut Album, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)

Digable Planets

Digable Planets are one of the smoothest, silkiest, and most lyrical hip-hop groups of all time and it all started with their heavily jazz infused debut album, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space). 

Digable Planets, made up of MCs Doodlebug, Butterfly, and Ladybug Mecca, made a lasting imprint on hip-hop culture on September 27th, 1993 when Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) was released. With absolutely no featuring artists on the project as well as a production team lead by Butterfly himself, this album became a defining moment as the group successfully showed us who they were, what they stood for, and what made them unique.

The dependence upon jazz samples for the production of the album is a direct example of how Digable Planets put their unique stamp on their work by simply being true to their roots and. At one point, as he discussed the album’s production, Butterfly stated,

“It was all about resources, really…I just went and got the records that I had around me. And a lot of those were my dad’s shit, which was lots of jazz.”

Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) included samples from classic jazz, soul, and funk artists such as Herbie Hancock, Eddie Harris, The Crusaders, KC & The Sunshine Band, Curtis Mayfield, and countless others.

Lyrically, Digable Planets are outstanding on Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space). While their content wasn’t quite as overtly political as some of their later works, the group was still successful in spreading a number of socially conscious messages. Although their dialogue can sometimes be rather cryptic, they discuss topics like abortion on “La Femme Fetal” and Black pride/Afrocentrism on “Escapism (Gettin’ Free)”.

While Digable Planets were all about intellectual thought and activism, songs such as “Swoon Units” and their timeless mega-hit single, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”, prove that the trio also knew how to bring the funk in a fun and lighthearted way. In fact, the latter of the aforementioned tracks broke into the top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, and has continued to be relevant in pop culture – just ask Tide.

Hit play and take a trip of your own through time and space. We’ll be here when you get back.

Written by DJ Robinson

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