DIGABLE PLANETS + K'naan + Kobayashi @ Cabaret La Tulipe

By Chris Coates - The Melting Pot - 06/07/05

Back in the limelight after an 11-year hiatus, Grammy-award winning hip-hop group Digable Planets have reunited and, at La Tulipe last Tuesday night, brought the spirit of '92 to a receptive Montreal crowd. Butterfly, Ladybug and Doodlebug's unique brand of rap, jazz, and black intellectualism fit the city's general hip-hop sensibility perfectly, reaching the true heads with packed verses and the cute hippy chicks with a soulful and upbeat vibe. Digable Planets helped pioneer what has been called the Native Tongues tradition of the East Coast in the early 90's; so present were the stand-up bass intros and colourful melodies. However, what distinguishes them from groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers and even De La Soul is their stage chemistry and, on this night, Digable Planets was Grammy-tight. It made for one of the best live performances this critic has seen in nearly two years (SA Smash at the SAT in fall of 2003).

By the time "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" dropped about ten minutes into their set, Digable Planets had the audience open. Ladybug rows flows like Silken Laumann and is easily one of the illest female rappers ever. She belted the 1993 hit as if it had been written a month ago. Butterfly's thorough yet playful lyrics and stage energy provided a good counterbalance to Doodlebug's laissez-faire stage style. On "Nickel Bags", both were dazzling, trading bars about getting too stoned as if they were still 21. About halfway through their set, Digable Planets were joined by a drummer, a keyboardist, an upright bassist and Montreal's DJ laureate DR One for twenty minutes, which included a flooring version of "Escapism" and scratching games with DR One. The variety was heavily applauded by the sweaty 200+ peeps.

The final third of the set was sprinkled with solo joints from all three group members. Ladybug stole this segment of the show with a slew of grooves from her upcoming solo release Trip The Light Fantastic, to be released on Nu-Paradigm later this summer. Doodlebug also performed a few songs under his Cee Knowledge moniker. Whether rocking solo, over a live band or performing old crew shit, Digable Planets never once lost their audience and reminded us of what platinum meant before Puffy. Honourable mention also goes to La Tulipe for being a great venue, the sound guy for doing his thing and immaculate opening sets by K'naan and local cats, Kobayashi. Aside from the Toronto-like ticket price ($27.50), this was almost the perfect show. 9/10

[Tune in to The Melting Pot every Tuesday 10:00pm - midnight]