Digable Planets
Blowout Comb


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
February 18th, 2013 | 24 replies | 3,233 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


#99: Digable Planets, Blowout Comb (1994)

How will history remember an album like this? The hip-hop listening community’s approach to music new and old seems increasingly pitched toward an outright rejection of anything that aspires to be “intellectual,” a tag that has been associated with the long-defunct trio Digable Planets from the beginning. There are a bunch of reasons for this--accusations of cultural appropriation, distaste for big words, genuine aesthetic aversion--but the whole business is starting to seem a little silly. The object of anti-intellectual rap polemics, whatever it may have been at first (Immortal Technique?), has now phased out completely, leaving a phantasm onto which we can pin accusations and also about twenty thousand Lil B imitators in its wake.

What I’m trying to say here is that we should all take a second to remember how lucky we are that Blowout Comb exists. This album--released the same year as Illmatic and Ready to Die, remember--is a paragon of “intelligent” rap, funny and weird and catchy and, yes, incredibly smart all at once. It closes the gap between the Five Percenter/black nationalist politics of its creators and their overwhelming urge to get, as “Jettin’” would have it, “funkaaaaay”. To say that members Ladybug Mecca, Butterfly, and Doodlebug “find a balance” between their cerebral and creative urges feels like selling them short; they instead imbricate the two until they are inseparable from each other.

Listen to “Black Ego” and tell me I’m wrong. The lyrics are abstractly centered on the “black ethic” Ladybug calls out her haters for lacking, and presented in a different context I could see the potency of the group’s hip-hop philosophy severely diluted. But the song is presented in this context, right here: a bass groove that goes six feet deep, an awesome clap sound to limn the rhythmic track, and an absolutely perfect sample drop (“That’s right, baby”) that introduces the chilling whispers of the chorus. These jacked-up tropes of “jazz rap” do not distract from the message of the song but rather render it indelible. At its best, Blowout Comb is the catchiest piece of propaganda you’ll likely ever hear.

That is only at its best, however, and much as I want to preserve the legacy of this album, it actually suffers from the same issue as the mainstream pop albums it so thoroughly rejects: it’s fairly top-heavy, petering off about halfway through. “Dial 7,” ostensibly the album’s mission statement (“In the year of ‘89 I stole back my black mind”), has a chorus that falls flat on Sarah Webb’s weak guest spot and allows the group’s collective black identity politics to slide into the realm of mere silliness--they are the “creamy spies,” apparently. Things start to slip from there, the production and the raps both relying on unsatisfying gestures toward “coolness” until the excellent closer “For Corners,” which features a beat that impressively prefigures the ultra-chill style of 2000s-era producers like Nujabes and Lone.

That said, even the structural inequities of Blowout Comb don’t quite diminish the album’s cumulative power as a record that has a message and a method. Whether that message appeals to those who historically benefit from the power structures these three so unerringly rail against might be questioned by lovers and haters alike. Unquestionable, however, is the album’s approach: fresh, funky, and invigorating. Surely our hip-hop history, increasingly filled to the brim with folks making money off their ability to just not care, has room for an album like this.



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user ratings (91)
Chart.
4.1
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Relaxed and luscious, Blowout Comb is a jazz rap classic....


Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



14990 Comments


two 3.5s in a row oh no

this album was slightly less good than i remember it but like half the tracks are still killer goriller

oltnabrick
February 18th 2013



30158 Comments


your rating is too low man ;]

Digging: Miyuki - Fellow Citizen

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



14990 Comments


i used to loooove this album as ive hitned at but idk

i think i liked the idea of it more than anything. digable planets are such a cool group and "black ego" is seriously one of the best rap jams of all time but it just doesn't retain its power all the way through

oltnabrick
February 18th 2013



30158 Comments


dam, do you like their first album more than this?

foxblood
February 18th 2013



6797 Comments


i like reachin more but this is def better than a 3.5 for me

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



14990 Comments


actually no--i like this one more

oltnabrick
February 18th 2013



30158 Comments


ye this is my fav from them as well

Negator
February 18th 2013



311 Comments


This album is monumental. But not better than reachin'.

mindleviticus
February 18th 2013



8168 Comments


damn this rules

mindleviticus
February 18th 2013



8168 Comments


Ladybug Mecca is such a good rapper

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



10010 Comments


Sweet, sweet review man. I love this album, but agree with your criticisms.

I have one nitpick:

"The hip-hop listening community’s approach to music new and old as of late"

This last part is pretty clunky. Maybe you could add some punctuation to split it up some.

Digging: Deniro Farrar - Rebirth

mindleviticus
February 18th 2013



8168 Comments


Jennifer Lawrence.... more like most overrated actress ever

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



10010 Comments


Overrated? I don't think she has much of a fanbase at all yet. Not sure if you're fooping or not, though.

Regardless, her role in Silver Linings Playbook was amazing. Dat booty shake.

mindleviticus
February 18th 2013



8168 Comments


phhhttt you're joking right?

lol im joshing ya i never saw silver linings.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



10010 Comments


Well it's a hell of a lot more great than I ever expected it to be. I'd definitely recommend it - you'll have a wider appreciation for Lennifer Jawrence =]

EaglesBecomeVultures
February 18th 2013



5193 Comments


silver linings was okay
this record on the other hand is fantastic

Digging: FKA twigs - LP1

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 18th 2013



14990 Comments


thanks omaha, took some wordies out

bloc
February 18th 2013



34679 Comments


Reachin' is excellent. I will listen to this one soon.

Digging: Anberlin - Lowborn

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2013



14990 Comments


now im confused about my opinion on this album w/e it's real good

MeatSalad
August 20th 2013



14194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i get sly when i feel the positive vibe

Digging: Love - Forever Changes



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