Review Summary: Relaxed and luscious, Blowout Comb is a jazz rap classic.
I don’t like old school rap. I find that it is painfully basic in every way, and it simply fails to hold my attention. I appreciate the aggressive nature of Enter the 36 Chambers far more than the laid back character of albums like Step in the Arena.
So considering my dislike for old school hip hop, my love for Blowout Comb came as a shock. While this album was released in 1994, in spirit it is much closer to eighties rap: it does not try to wow the listener with complicated lyricism or hard hitting beats. Instead, Digable Planets recorded an undeniably chill album that holds the listener’s attention but at the same time will leave anyone who gives it a spin extremely relaxed.
The production is the main draw for this album. The easiest comparison to make is with A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, as both albums possess a heavy jazz influence. But I would say that the production on Blowout Comb is superior to that of their Native Tongues predecessors, as the beats are more layered, varied, and funky. The album is rife with live instrumentation, which keeps it sounding extremely fresh; bass, wind instruments, guitar, and a myriad of samples all contribute to the album’s amazing sound. Every beat is an absolute pleasure to listen to, as there is so much going on in the music; the beats could easily stand alone with no vocals and be an interesting listen. The drums never sound stale. Blowout Comb is without question one of the best produced albums I have heard to date.
The emceeing is in no way groundbreaking, but still very solid; the flows are relaxed and the lyrics are tight. The rapping follows what I would call the “Guru” doctrine: have a great voice, rap over amazing beats, and then let the rest sort of take care of itself. That is not to say they are bad, but the production is clearly the focus of this album and the rapping serves to complement the beats instead of the other way around. Ladybug Mecca is one of the most impressive female rappers I have heard, and I think she, with a voice that is pure gold, has a slightly stronger performance on this album then the other two. Lyrically, the album deals with getting high and fighting the man; they “do it in the park” while also having their fists “right against the fascist.”
Whenever I am stressed out, this is the album I throw on; I don’t smoke pot, I listen to Blowout Comb by Digable Planets. This album is criminally overlooked, as it has little of the bluster or the hype that the other legendary ’94 releases have. If you like jazz rap (and who doesn’t?) I highly recommend this album as it combines the smooth atmosphere of an old school rap album with the polish and likability of mid-nineties rap.