DIGABLE PLANETS with K'NAAN at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Wednesday (June 8). $18. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
They may have broken up 11 years ago, but the newly reunited Digable Planets still have a strong following. At least they do in the wireless community. Member Ladybug Mecca recently had the pleasure of hearing the blazin' hot new cellular ringtone remix of If I Move On.
"Isn't it cheesy?" she laughs from somewhere in the tri-state area (exactly where she won't say).
That's an understatement. In terms of corniness, it's on a par with the new Black Eyed Peas. But it's also a good example of how naturally non-synthetic Digable's style is. Polyphonic or not, the fact that their music doesn't work in a shitty MIDI format means something. There's just too much feeling in their breezy jazz-seasoned hiphop-soul soufflé.
This was well proven in 93 and 94 with the group's Reachin' (A New Refutation Of Time And Space) and Blowout Comb albums, and their breakout single, the lackadaisical Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat). The track scored the 93 Grammy Award for best rap performance by a duo or group. Mecca's not sure where in her house the gaudy gold phonograph is right now.
"Its position fluctuates," she says. "It'll end up here one week and then under a bunch of papers or something next week. I don't worship that thing.
"I mean, I appreciate the fact that people can recognize us for whatever the fuck, but I don't go and dust it off every day. Don't get it twisted - I'm proud of my accomplishments, but for me that's not the be-all and end-all."
If it were, Mecca'd probably be content to ditch music and focus completely on the rearing of her four kids. But, missing the camaraderie and love they had for doing Digable back in the day, the group's members decided to come back together. Today, they're close to releasing their third disc and embarking on a European tour.
Before that, Mecca's officially releasing her first solo record, Trip The Light Fantastic, on June 28 through indie label Nu-Paradigm Entertainment. But she's making the album - which she describes as "sad, sexy, green, summery and feminine" while dealing with diverse themes, from questioning the political status quo to the innocence of children - available in advance to fans at the Digable show.
The ability to make that decision herself is just one of the benefits of being on an independent imprint. But for Mecca, it's not the best reason to keep it DIY.
"When you're signed to a major label, you're basically getting a loan. And you can utilize their resources, but at the end of the day they have the say-so.
"Sitting back and putting my life in someone's hands isn't rewarding for me."