Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
A NEW BUZZ IN THE MUSICAL BEEHIVE
FOR BUTTERFLY, LEAD RAPPER OF the Digable Planets, blending jazz and hip-hop was an organic process. Raised in Manhattan, the son of a jazz-fanatic father, he played saxophone in jazz combos as a high schooler. About three years ago he started gravitating toward hip-hop and met up with his future Planets partners, Mary Ann Vieira and Craig Irving, rappers who were attending Howard University in Washington. The three "started experimenting with sound. We knew the language and the cadences of hip-hop and rap, but we tried to be a little different from other groups." Jazz, he says, "was always the main ingredient."
While it's common enough for rappers to adopt nicknames, the Planets' insect names have a more serious twist. "It has everything to do with how we feel," Butterfly says. "It's like how bees work for the hive. We think that, in America, African-Americans need to reestablish that kind of social climate." This activist spirit extends to the group's makeup. "It's unusual in America to have a male and a female carrying the same weight," Butterfly says. "But it's wrong that it's unusual. Just by Ladybug being as good as she is, maybe people will be able to accept it."
Butterfly, 22, says he can't identify a jazz-hip-hop scene as such, but with the emergence of artists like Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest and Ronny Jordan, the style is catching on. "Because of sampling, a lot of people are turning to jazz," he says. "Stuff is popping up all over."
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