As an 80’s baby, I definitely recall watching my two older brothers as they added numerous cassettes and cd’s to their collection. While they were fully immersed in hip-hop, I was just getting my feet wet. For the longest time I remember loving west coast hip-hop, namely Snoop (Doggy) Dogg, but at the age of 14 two groups invaded my pink, purple and yellow Walkman – Camp Lo and Digable Planets. Two celebrated and influential groups reunited on a rainy Saturday night at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival and reminded everyone exactly why the 90’s were such a shining era in hip-hop music.
I will never forget, sitting down and watching The Box on tv, eating dry cereal during one of my numerous vacations from school, and hearing Camp Lo’s “Coolie High” for the first time. They way they flipped the Janet Jackson sample was so fresh, it didn’t take long for the lyric “coolie high got ya wideeee” to roll off the tongues of my entire 8th grade class’ lips. When their mega hit “Luchini” came out, you couldn’t walk 2 blocks without hearing it blasted from every car in the hood. Their reception Saturday night seemed as if virtually no time passed between then and now. Hands waving back and forth through the air as the duo of Salahadeen “Sonny Cheeba” Wilds and Saladine “Geechi Suede” Wallace ran through hits from Uptown Saturday Night and Let’s Do It Again, plus a handful of new songs that still maintained the style and swag of these seasoned performers. As if on cue when the rain started falling a little harder, the “Luchini” poured from the sky, along with a guest appearance from Butterfly of Digable Planets on their collaborative effort, “Swing.”
Still feeling the high from Camp Lo’s performance, Digable Planets upped the stakes even higher with the use of a live band. Craig “Doodlebug” Irving, Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler and Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira hit the stage and performed as if no time had passed since the release of their last album in 2005. While they have all taken on solo music projects, there is something about the Digable Planets sound that is timeless and impactful. Their flawless infusion of jazz and hip-hop still rocks the crowd today, and songs seemed to morph into jam sessions, with Butterfly taking punching in melodies on keys, while Ladybug and Doodlebug’s lyrics flowed effortlessly in and out of the beats. By the time “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” was played, everyone was bursting with excitement, singing lyrics as loudly as they could and enjoying the energy and positivity that wafted around the space. The smiles the group wore onstage mirrored the smiles I saw around the crowd, and it could not have been a better response.
As I looked around the audience, I was happy to see such a diverse crowd truly enjoying the music and not engrossed in social media or shameless selfies. Perhaps it was the rain that ensured only the most diehard fans weathered the storm to see Camp Lo and Digable Planets rock the stage once again, but it made for an incredible night of music that I hope continues on. Perhaps their reemergence on the scene will spawn a much-needed rebirth of hip-hop music with more focus on thoughtful lyricism and inventive beats instead of autotune and thudding basslines.
Article: Lesley Keller