Today in Hip-Hop history, Brooklyn trio Digable Planets released their sophomore LP Blowout Comb. Serving as a more politically charged follow-up to their jazzy debut, Reachin’: A New Refutation of Time and Space, this album showed the group’s stance on Black nationalism and inner-city living in the mid-’90s.
On this album, the trio abandoned their radio-friendly style to focus on a more militant agenda. Fundamentally, the group metamorphosed, leaving behind their once-coveted insect-centered imagery. As a group, they felt misunderstood. Their original intention with relating their cause to insects was to focus on the fact that bugs, although small, have a “nature to stick together and work for mutually beneficial causes,” according to frontman Ishmael Butler. While working on Blowout Comb, the group completely shed their insect facade and emerged anew with a new focus and new identities. The former “Butterfly” changed his moniker to “Ish,” “Ladybug” became “Mecca,” and “Dooblebug” was now “C-Know”.
Lyrically, this album was something straight out of the Black Power Movement. With references to The Nation of Islam, The Black Panther Party, Allah’s 5% Nation, and the racial and class struggles of the impoverished minorities of the United States, it is no secret what statement Digable Planets was trying to make. They did not want their Afrocentrism to be overshadowed by crossover appeal as it did on their debut. As a result, this LP did not receive much backing from their label, Pendulum/EMI. Despite its lack of internal support, the album still peaked at #32 on the Billboard 200 and #13 on the Top R&B chart.
Unfortunately, following this album, Digable Planets disbanded. The cause of the split is said to be creative differences and dissatisfaction with the music industry. Luckily for the fans, the trio delivered a masterpiece of conscious rap before fading into the pages of Hip Hop history. Take some time today to appreciate one of rap’s most slept-on albums.