Boston's Digable Planets (the trio of Craif "Doodlebug" Irving, Ismail "Butterfly" Butler and Mary-Ann "Ladybug" Vieira) did more than simply anchor hip-hop
to a less confrontational and more laid-back stance.
Rebirth of Slick (1993) used a sample of Art Blakey' Stretchin' and de facto coined "jazz-hop".
That aesthetics was affirmed on a ground-breaking album,
Reachin' A New Refutation of Time and Space (Elektra, 1993), that
went against the flow of hard-hitting post-Public Enemy albums, while preserving
the political agenda.
On stage, the trio of rappers fronted a combo of dj, standup bass, drums and saxophone.
Despite its grander ambitions, the laid-back atmosphere of
Blowout Comb (EMI, 1994) also highlighted the limits of the trio, incapable
of finding its own voice despite the great intuition of their debut album.
Ishmael Butler resurfaced two decades later as the frontman for Seattle's
The EPs Shabazz Palaces (2009) and Of Light (2009) and the album
Black Up (Sub Pop, 2011) basically applied the
free-jazz, glitch and industrial aesthetics to hip-hop. However,
Butler's old-school rapping was largely irrelevant compared with the
unnamed contributors who concocted the
murky noir off-kilter beats and the
dense synthesizer-infected ambience (notably the female vocalist of
Recollections of the Wraith).
Shabazz Palaces' Lese Majesty (Subpop, 2014) didn't even have that
musical background, and relied on the occasional contributions of
jazz singer Catherine Harris-White to elevate the songs from utter
mediocrity. Motion Sickness was perhaps the least monotonous.
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