Digable Planets Drop Debut Album Reachin’ – Today in Hip-Hop
XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Feb. 9, 1993: Digable Planets were among a new wave of rap artists integrating jazz and hip-hop into their repertoire. Thirty years ago, on this day, in 1993, the New York-based rap trio released a visionary amalgam of jazz and hip-hop with their classic debut album, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).
Digable Planets consists of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Craig “Doodlebug” Irving and Mariana “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira (also DJ Jazzy Joyce who joined the group in 1994). The three artists met as students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and began developing their sound with poetry and music in 1991. After submitting demos to various record labels, they managed to secure a deal with Pendulum Records in 1992 and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., to record their debut album.
Reachin’ arrived at a time when jazz sampling was customary in rap. The album, produced mainly by Butterfly, fit perfectly with its cleverly-placed jazz samples over smoothed-out drum beats. The LP’s first single, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” sampled “Stretching” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and “Blow Your Head” by Fred Wesley and The JB’s. The song’s easygoing groove and the trio’s slice-of-life rhymes were a breath of fresh air and the antithesis to gangsta rap that was dominating the genre.
“Cool Like Dat” would earn Digable Planets a Grammy trophy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group on March 1, 1994. During their acceptance speech, Butler used the moment to highlight society’s homelessness problem.
Reachin’ would go on to sell over 500,000 copies in the U.S. and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums for the charting week of Feb. 27, 1993.
In the 30 years since its release, Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) has been celebrated as a classic album that brought a revolutionary sound to hip-hop that was cool like that.