Throwback Thursday – Digable Planets

In 1993 Digable Planets released their debut album ‘Reachin’ ( A New Refutation Of Time and Space)’ on Pendulum records. And despite the huge presence of jazz infused hip hop the trio gave fans something different.

Jazz and hip hop have a lot in common. They both emerged from many different types of music. And historically both genres have fought hard to earn their credibility and respect as a true art form.

Both genres also suffer from dilution stemming from commercialism and mass consumption. Simply put, marketing and broader audiences have contributed to both genres being somewhat watered down.

Believe it or not, there was a time in history when Jazz was the black sheep of music genres. Before Rock N Roll earned the ire of conservative middle America, Jazz was criticized and often described as obscene.

The improvisational nature of Jazz was alarming to more conventional artists and fans. In a similar fashion, the raw emotion and energy often expressed in hip hop is considered dangerous to those who don’t speak our language.

Groups like Tribe, Stetsasonic and De La Soul had already mastered the art of merging the two genres thus establishing a sub-genre. Yet Digable planets did it in a way that made it feel brand new.

Rebirth Of Slick

What Digable Planets accomplished with their debut was historic. Their first album was certified gold, and their single Rebirth of Slick (Cool like that) won Best Performance By A Duo Or Group at the Grammys.

The beauty in all of this was they weren’t trying to cross over. It happened organically. And that’s how it should be.

Jazz musician Wynton Marsalis has been a vocal critic of hip hop for at least 3 decades. In a 2018 interview with Washington Post podcast Cape Up With Jonathan Capehart he said “ I started saying in 1985 we shouldn’t have music talking about niggas and bitches and hoes”.

I was disappointed to hear that. I would expect him to get it. Most importantly I would expect him know that hip hop is just as diverse as Jazz.

He obviously hadn’t listened to Digable Planets. Share your thoughts on Wynton Marsalis’ comments.

Check out the video for Rebirth of Slick

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