Reunion of Digable Planets, cool like dat

Band reunites for energized First Avenue concert

by Keri Carlson

Minneapolis might not be Los Angeles, but just as actors want their name on the stars of Hollywood Boulevard, musicians want their own star outside First Avenue.

After reuniting to perform at First Avenue, where they played more than a decade ago, the Digable Planets returned only to find they didn’t have a star outside the downtown landmark.

But after Saturday night, perhaps they will. 

The crowd practically drowned out Ladybug’s rhymes with cheers as she began her verse on Digable Planets’ best-known song, “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat).”

Though they were not the first to infuse jazz with hip hop, the band was the first to bring it into the mainstream as well as the alternative rock genre – reaching number one on the rap charts and 15 on the pop charts.

With an upright bass sample from Art Blakey as the anchor and slick horns on top, “Cool Like Dat” was just as much bop as hip hop, and it established the easygoing, laid-back feel that was truly unique to Digable Planets.

The audience that packed First Avenue on Saturday certainly indulged themselves with 1993 nostalgia, getting the most pumped when hearing the familiar opening beats to the “cool” radio and MTV hit.

But for much of the crowd, who sang along with many of the songs, the band was obviously more than just a one-hit wonder. For fans of underground hip hop, the group developed a hugely influential style, paving the way for artists such as The Roots and The Fugees.

Seeing Digable Planets live on stage made their music fresh again. And given the crowd’s reaction to Ladybug – the loudest of the night – many were clearly taken back to the first time they ever heard her declare “I’m chill like dat.” Ladybug was then, and sadly still is, a rare female MC. Even rarer, she could rap just as smoothly as, and on par with, her male bandmates, not heard since the Funky 4+1.

Digable Planets were as fun and exciting as the group’s fans could hope for. For all those who were too young to see them their first time at First Avenue, they were nothing less than a delight.