Ladybug Mecca with Masia One , Tara Chase, Zaki and Lady Noyz at El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Saturday (December 18), 10 pm. $10-$14. 416-777-1777. Rating: NNNNN
To many listeners, Ladybug Mecca's smooth vocals are the sonic definition of coolness. The MC, best-known as one-third of 90s iPod faves Digable Planets, has a tone and pitch similar to a soft bar of soap sliding across a naked back. Those calm yet engaging tones come through my phone from her New Jersey abode as she speaks about losing her cool - at least within the confines of a song.
"The whole 'cool' thing, it's not a misconception," Ladybug begins, "but I have a song on the new album about people who bring issues into your life. That's really disrespectful. Handle your shit, and don't try to bring anybody else down.
"The song's about a girl who got in a relationship with an abusive male, and it's all about not disturbing other people's peace of mind. I lost my cool on that one - that's what I wanted it to do. But if you still want to perceive me as laid-back, that's fine."
Her success in the Grammy-nominated hiphop trio may have happened at a young age, but Ladybug didn't learn rhythm from playing whack-a-mole at Chuck E. Cheese. The beat runs in the family. Her mother was a Brazilian jazz singer, and it was at Mama's concerts that a young Ladybug became intrigued by music and performance.
"So music has always been in my life," she explains. "As I got older, I started writing down little thoughts about the world, my life, a plastic bag - anything. When I was 15 or 16, they evolved into poems, and then rhymes."
Ladybug's attempt at a major-label solo album after the Digable Planets' mid-90s dissolution resulted in dissatisfaction for both the lady and the label. In response, she decided to try going it as an independent artist, a route that's led to the upcoming release of her Rebirth Of Mec debut, slated for February.
"The business aspect of hiphop music is a real monster," she says. "To get your records played on the radio is very political; you need such a build-up to get spins on Hot 97. Payola still exists. Going independent isn't cookies and cream, but it's a whole different ball game. I respect it more than the business of hiphop."
But, she admits, having full control of your album can mean perfection-obsessed delays, so the album took a while to make.
Ladybug says it was worth it.
"I started working on this album a while ago. I don't mind that it's more time-consuming, because I want to put out the best product possible. I'm not just going for one sound - I wanted my debut to capture most of my influences, from samba to hiphop to Afrobeat.
"I definitely had a hands-on approach," she continues, "cuz I'm more comfortable knowing how my songs get where they are."
Ladybug's pleased to hear that I know of no Internet rumours about her. She's also happy to answer the James Lipton-style query about what works of art inspire her, suggested to me by my dad.
While she claims to like a lot of art, she says she's got four masterpieces that she really loves: her children, whom she calls the main inspiration for her work and life.
"My children inspire me, my ancestors inspire me and goodness inspires me."
Who doesn't wish they could say that?