Digable Planets

Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles

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Digable Planets were victims in two senses. First of all, they were victims of their own artistry, returning after a breakout debut with a sophomore set that carried no obvious hit singles (but certainly didn't suffer from the lack). Blowout Comb may have succeeded anyway -- A Tribe Called Quest never aimed at the charts, but still went platinum based on the strength of their music -- but by the time it appeared, in 1994, gangsta rap had hit the mainstream and soon applied a stranglehold to the charts (thus the second sense of their victimization). Whatever the reasons behind their split, Digable Planets later faded away, and despite promises of solo material soon to follow, nothing appeared for close to a decade (and none of it approached the quality of what they produced together). When rumors of a reunion finally materialized, Blue Note assembled a DP compilation to satiate fans and, hopefully, introduce the group to new listeners (who would then buy the new recordings as well). The trio's music -- with its spare, funky style and innovative beats -- had not dated a whit in the intervening decade (which isn't true of most other jazz-rap fusions). While both of the trio's first two LPs are nearly essential to a serious rap fan's understanding of the genre, Beyond the Spectrum: The Creamy Spy Chronicles serves both fans and newcomers very well. The 13 songs make time for the hits ("Where I'm From," "Rebirth of Slick [Cool Like Dat]") but also compile a string of excellent album tracks ("Pacifics," "Jettin'"), while fans will be served by the four rarities (two are remixes of already-known songs and two are B-sides). Far better to just spring for both albums, but it's impossible to deny the high quality of music heard here.

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