Picks and Pans Review: Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
updated 04/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 04/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Just as Arrested Development freshened hip-hop last year with an infusion of barefoot rural charm, the Digable Planets seem poised to take this year's honors with the trio's merging of hip-hop and jazz. With one foot in rap and the other in the teachings of Miles. Monk and Mingus, the Digables have a cool, seductive sound—partly sampled, partly played by backing musicians—that has caught fire. Over bass and drums, horns repeat jazzy figures and an electric guitar strums psychedelically.
The group's debut album is full of whimsy. Each of the members takes on the persona of an insect. Butterfly (Ishmael Butler), the main rapper, has a friendly, boyish, slightly rakish presence; Ladybug (Mary Ann Vieira), his female counterpart, is equally suave; Doodle Bug (Craig Irving) plays a background role but nicely complements the other two. The raps tend to be verbose stream-of-consciousness affairs that flow from celestial musings to fashion to disposable culture to ghetto life. Full of slang and nonsense phrases, they're delivered at a pace that makes them hard to decipher at times. Occasionally a point is driven home: "Land of the free/ But not me." More often the emphasis is on creating a mood—breezy, harmonious and at the moment very hip. (Pendulum/Elektra)