KEXP Live at Iceland Airwaves 2016, Day 3: Digable Planets

Iceland Airwaves
Katy McCourt-Basham
Photos by Jim Bennett

Second on today's broadcast live from KEX Hostel at Iceland Airwaves music festival was the incomparable Digable Planets. Formed in Brooklyn in 1992, the poet-rappers, comprised of Ishmael "Butterfly" Butler, Mary Ann "Ladybug Mecca" Vieira and Craig "Doodlebug" Irving, continue to push the limits of what many would expect from a hip hop performance. While they only released two albums in their heyday, their influence was far-reaching, and the projects they’ve worked on since have been fantastic. Ishmael Butler's projects include Cherrywine, Chimurenga Renaissance, and Shabazz Palaces, and Craig Irving's include Cee Knowledge & the Cosmic Funk Orchestra. Possibly best known for their first single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” from their 1993 release Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space). This is not Ishmael Butler's first performance on the KEX Hostel stage, Shabazz Palaces performed here with THEESatisfaction at Airwaves 2012. 

KEX was packed shoulder to shoulder as fans pressed into the bar, excited to catch Digable Planets in this rare, intimate setting. As if knowing of this special moment, the sun peeked through the clouds, shining down on Reykjavik for the first time all week. When Cheryl introduced the band, she said "I gotta pinch myself right now," and it was clear the crowd felt the same way. Greeted with deafening applause, Digable Planets opened with "May 4th Movement" starting the show with the warm, familiar crackle of a well-worn record. The crowd was moving from the first note. Digable planets play with a fully live band, which is uncommon for a hip hop act, and the brilliant lineup of Seattle talent really made the show. They added elements of jazz and some electronic touches, embodying Digable Planets' unique sound. The band were super tight, keyed into the MCs and the ebbs and flows of the show. When Ladybug had some mic issues, drummer Conrad Real (appropriately, in a Superman shirt) saved the day with an unreal drum solo, and the crowd went wild. The set had a great balance of songs from Reachin' and 1994's Blowout Comb, dazzling the audience with "Black Ego," "What Cool Breezes Do," "Pacific," and "Jettin'" an unbelievable performance and a truly special Airwaves experience.


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