Image by Leif Podhajsky / original photo by David Belisle
There are hardly any active rappers/producers who’ve been successful in different eras, but Seattle’s Ishmael Butler is one of them. His old trio Digable Planets won a Grammy back in 1994 for their jazzy song “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” back when Butler was called Butterfly, joined by rappers Doodlebug and Ladybug Mecca. Now he’s Palaceer Lazaro or just Ish in his current duo Shabazz Palaces, which stands on the artistic cutting-edge with a sci-fi/African style. Seattle almost got back-to-back concerts from both acts at the Neptune Theatre Dec. 28 and 29 — which would have been rare and very cool. But at the last minute, Digable Planets canceled.
Butler called me to explain why (see partial, edited transcript below). He said it was Ladybug Mecca’s fault for being difficult to work with, and he does not see a future for Digable Planets, calling the situation “a heartbreaker.”