Blowout Comb by Digable Planets [Review]


Blowout Comb is a classic album from 1994 I had never heard of before its reissue this summer. I’ve been  making up for lost time.

The second and final album from Brooklyn trio Digable Planets, Blowout is a rare gem of early hip-hop genius that’s firmly rooted in the time and place it was created. Cut from the same cloth as Tribe Called Quest and early Spike Lee films, Digable Planets are clever, conscious MCs who spit as smooth as they mix tracks.

The fusion of jazz and hip-hop is one of my favorite qualities in ’90s rap, and nowhere is it done better than on this album. The masterful production allows the groovy music to sit next to, and not below, Digable’s vocals. The record’s themes of black identity, the Nation of Islam, and inner-city life in post-civil rights  America compliment its jazz presence.

As Mark Richardson wrote in his reissue review, “Part of it can be found in that Q-Tip lyric: This is my music, and my father hears his music in it. It was a way to connect a thread of African-American culture to the earlier generations, to affirm a sense of shared experience and tradition.”

Even the album’s title and cover art pay homage to the ‘blowout combs’ used to style afros, a trend birthed out of the black nationalism movement of the ’60s and ’70s.  “It means the utilization of the natural, a natural style,” said group member Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler.

I may not share a lot of life experiences with the Digable Planets crew, and my distance from the album and its themes is even greater having heard it for the first time 20 years after it was recorded. Nonetheless I can appreciate the importance of this work in its own time, as well as dig the groove it still holds in this time.

Pick it up on vinyl, the packaging alone is worth the price.

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