Trippy urban dreamscapes, detailed imagery and production grounded in funky '70s jazz populate this crafty if sometimes incongruous sophomore outing. Instead of locking into formula, Digable Planets have taken admirable chances, and a slew of superb live players breathe life into tracks backed by tastefully understated New York-flavored beats and ambient effects.
But intentionally or not, the texture on Blowout Comb is more amorphous and less head-bobbing than last year's debut, which featured the thumpin' Jeep anthem "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," notching DP a Grammy. And experimentation occasionally leads the Planets astray.
The rowdy drum track on "Black Ego," for example, merely agitates the cut's spacey flow, and a few jams are hampered by quirky refrains that fail to become infectious. And while this trio mentions Brooklyn, N.Y., more often than Cypress Hill mention dope, when powerhouse Brooklyn MC Jeru the Damaja steps up on "Graffiti," he seems caged by the sleepy mix, unable to cut loose.
By contrast, Guru, of Gang Starr, slides right into the buttery "Borough Check," based on vibesman Roy Ayers' "We Live in Brooklyn, Baby," and DP hit their stride. The momentum continues, culminating with "Blowing Down," a percolating, psychedelic groove.
The creamy deliveries of Doodlebug, Butterfly and especially the golden-tongued Ladybug, however, are the glue on Comb. The three MCs artfully intersperse Five Percent Nation dialect and Planetspeak on black pride and cultural imperialism with dabblings in political philosophy ("I study Chairman Mao") and scenes straight outta New York City's projects ("Without a doubt/This is the place to be/I see baseball caps/And hear beats by Ron G"). Still, this moody collection is more likely to rock an opium den than a Myrtle Avenue block party. (RS 696)
(Posted: Dec 1, 1994)
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