As part of Blue Note Jazz Club's reopening festival, jazz-rap icons Digable Planets melted a sold out crowd with their fresh and funky vibes.
"The three coolest insects in the galaxy are back!" proclaimed Craig "Doodlebug" Irving as Digable Planets took the stage at the legendary Blue Note Jazz Club. "It's a sweltering New York City evening and we're in here keeping things cool" followed Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler. It was the first of two shows of the evening and the first NYC show since things locked down in March of 2020 for the foundational hip-hop trio. Ladybug Mecca, Doodle, and Butterfly graced the stage with their effortlessly cool charm and charisma bringing their timeless vibes to their hometown of New York City. Backed by an impeccable live band, the group sounded sharp and fresh as they dazzled the crowd with their laidback jazz-rap stylings that sounded as original and inspiring today as they did in the mid-'90s. The group was ushered in by afro-futuristic beats that were married with cool jazz as the trio boogied on up to the stage inside the jam packed club. As the crowd sipped drinks and ate dinner, the band played on and instilled the chillest vibes with infectious grooves that gave space for the MCs to dish out perfectly timed rhymes and verses that slowly but surely got the crowd on their feet. Even with their supreme chill factor taking control on its own, the group were backed by tremendous talent that was showcased with stunning solos that hit at just the right time, but also allowed the serious flow of the rappers to be on display. It's rare in hip-hop to see a group pair intricate live musicianship with their free flowing rhymes, but Digable Planets pull it off with such style and grace that it makes you question why you'd ever go see someone spit verses in front of just a lone DJ. The magic was certainly in the air tonight and whether it was their excitement to play in front of a live crowd on their home turf or just their everyday skills, it was certainly not something to miss. The crowd jived with each track and the rhythm was handled with extreme care. The band would slowly groove before hitting the beat and allowing the vocalists to take over giving it much more of an old school vibe than most acts I've seen. They kicked things off with "The May 4th Movement Starring Doodlebug" and interpolated "It's Good to be Here" as they began to jive with the crowd and acknowledge the excitement of the evening. "Where I'm From" was an early jam that helped kick off the night as was "Graffiti" and things only progressed from there as "Pacifics (NY is Red Hot)" and "Nickel Bags" really got the night bumping. It was such a communal feeling (perhaps do to the proximity of the tables and guests) and the band really seemed to relish in the moment taking moments to free-style and make each song feel of the moment and not just rehashed nostalgia. They closed things out with the immortal "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" which brought the house down and reminded every just how deserved that Grammy Award was back in the day (just a reminder that it beat "Nothing but a 'G' Thang," "Hip Hop Hooray," and "Insane in the Brain" deservedly). Even as the future of live music seems uncertain, it was without question alive and well at the Blue Note and hopefully something that we'll be able to continue well into the moments ahead of us.