MJ here with Writter’s Block, and taking some time out in between shows to join me for this exclusive interview is classic Hip Hop legendary artist, Doodlebug AKA Cee Knowledge with Digable Planets! First and foremost thank you for taking some time out of your tour for MJ! So, here we are decades and decades later and Digable Planets are still creating music and rocking out stages across the states and the world! Talk about that longevity. Talk about your relationship with your fellow group members. Besides everyone having families and their own individual lives, does it feel like no time has passed at all?
Doodlebug: Thanks for having me sis! Yes, we have had a long and interesting journey in the music industry with a lot of ups and downs but I wouldn’t change a thing because I believe those experiences forged us into the adults we are today. I met Ladybug while I was living in Washington DC and later when I moved back to my hometown Philly is where I first met Butter. Once we got cool he came to me with this idea of a rap group he was starting called Digable Planets and he heard some of the music I was doing with a group I was in at that time called the Dred Poets Society. He asked me to join him in putting this new group together and after hearing the demos he put together I was hooked. Eventually Ladybug joined the group and Butter through the connects he made while being an intern at Sleeping Bag records, was able to parlay a meeting with Dennis Wheeler, an A&R at an up and coming label called Pendulum and the rest is history!
MJ: What do you say to the young, up and coming artists out there that claim all these new trends and one hit wonders in Hip Hop? What do you say when they also comment about emcees and artists from the 80’s and 90’s need to retire from the mic? Because when I hear that I personally want to yoke up those folks, but that wouldn’t be politically correct!
Doodlebug: I have no problem with the young cats because for real I want them to succeed. But I feel like we failed them in a way by not passing the baton along to the next generation of rappers so they have a better foundation on which to expand on. Yes the music is there that they could look back on for proper reference but true inter action and guidance was lacking. We must do better because even outside the music biz in the real world there is a disconnect between old school and new school. These kids grow up in fatherless households which lead to resentment towards their old heads and this mentality is spread across the community.
MJ: What are some of the differences or the most changes you see now as opposed to making music and touring back in that golden era of Hip Hop? Have those changes affected your career at all?
Doodlebug: technology has dramatically changed the way the game is being played, with the advent of social media, digital sales, and live streaming via ITunes and Google Play etc. This has opened the flood gates and leveled the playing fields just a little to allow anybody with some internet marketing skills to get their music out to the whole world. It has inundated the market with new music and now you just have to figure out how to stand out amongst the rest of the needles in the haystack.
MJ: From the point of view of a pioneer and legend in the music industry, how would you personally define Hip Hop? Do you feel certain elements are not evident or lacking in today’s music industry?
Doodlebug: Hip hop is life. It started in the early 70’s out of the experiences of black and brown teenagers in the South Bronx who created their own brand of music, dancing, art and fashion that spread like wildfire and created new opportunities for ghetto youth across the world.
MJ: Your fan base, supporters, and followers have been going strong and are truly committed to Digable Planets especially on in international level! Is that one of the factors that keeps you both humble and grounded? What are some of the other key factors that keep you so down to earth and genuine?
Doodlebug: Yes, it is very humbling but also empowering to know that your music has affected so many people around the world and that although you haven’t recorded new music in a longtime these same fans are steadfast in their belief of the vibes and movement we created back in 1992! We have been lucky enough to travel the globe a few times and it always amazes me to see such a diverse crowd come out to see us perform. There is everything from teenagers to grown folks and all types of people from different ethnic backgrounds that come out to see us and it’s a great feeling and inspires me to continue to spread the love. But, more importantly it’s my family and friends that keep me grounded and check me on my bullshit when it’s needed!
MJ: Your love for Hip Hop and music in general derives from where and who? Did you foresee this level of longevity in your career when you first began touring and making albums? Do you ever sit back and just think wow this is all so surreal?
Doolebug: My love for music started at an early age with my mother who loved all types of music and would play anything from Frank Sinatra to Earth Wind and Fire. My mother’s record collection was crazy and became the foundation to my humble musical beginnings. I first discovered Hip Hop from the block parties around my hood in the late 70’s and early 80’s when Dj Kosmic Kev and the Grandmasters of Funk would set up their massive sound system on Gilbert Street and Rugby Streets (uptown) during the summers. They would blast the illest sounds while an up and coming emcee Parry P controlled the crowd with his ill rhymes and my friends and I were hypnotized by what they were doing. In fact from that point on my mission in life was to be like those cats and my friends and I went home and began to imitate what we saw them do and eventually we discovered the Lady B radio show on the AM dial where they played all Hip Hop, and from there my mind was totally blown!!! Since those days I knew I wanted to do something in music but had no idea that I would actually make a real career out of it and decades later Hip Hop would become such a worldwide cultural phenomenon.
MJ: What would you say has been one of the most profound life’s lessons you experienced and grew from musically?
Doodlebug: the most profound life lesson I’ve learned from my time in the music industry is to never follow the herd and never be afraid to be yourself and do what makes you feel good!
MJ: Let’s get down to the music! Let everyone know what’s hot right now! Let everyone know about shows and the tour! Let everyone know where you will be next!
Doodlebug: I am currently putting the final touches on my new CFO project called “Alien-Aided (a Cosmic Funk anthology)” coming soon to all digital platforms via Artists First records/RopeADope Records. I’m also working on a comic book that my business partner Thomas View and I wrote together called “The Epic of the Heaven and Earth Association” that I am also developing into a web series. I’m also currently touring around the world with my Digible Planets family and we hope to have new music recorded next year so look out for that!!
MJ: You have a beautiful family, God bless you all! How involved are they in your career? Does little man know what a legend his father is? Is he musically inclined as well? Will you be passing the torch, or in this case the mic down?
Doodlebug: yes, I’m very lucky to have such a great support system with my wife and kids. They support me 100% in all my endeavors and keep me focused. my older kids have a better idea of who I am as a rapper and my place in the Hip Hop lexicon but my younger kids don’t get it so much but they do bug out whenever they hear my song on the radio and it definitely puts a smile on my face to know my kids are proud of their daddy!!
MJ: whose idea was it to reunite Digable Planets? Was it a group effort or one member in particular?
Doodlebug: after the group initially broke up in 1995 there was a lot of tension amongst us so we went years without really talking to each other at all but eventually the anger subsided and I think we all began to realize that our friendship and the musical movement we created together was bigger than whatever drama drove us apart. In 2005 we all agreed to meet up at a studio facility in New York where we talked out our issues and decided to try this again. I had an opportunity presented to me where we could take Digable Planets out to Europe and do a reunion tour for a couple of weeks. Everyone agreed to do it and once we got to Europe and saw the overwhelming response from the fans that showed up in droves with lines around the corner from each venue we realized that this was something good. We got back to the states and started getting crazy offers to perform at all these major music festivals and thus began the whirlwind reunion tour we have been on for a couple of years and that I’m hoping we will flip into a new album of original music.
MJ: As we wrap up, I have to ask this one question that I ask everyone single artist I interview…who is in your personal playlist, of any genre of music?
Doodlebug: my current play list includes Roc Marciano, Sean Price, Wise Intelligent, Brookzill, Shabazz Palaces, Collie Buddz, Elle King, Phantograms, Solange, the Lox, Bruno Mars and BJ the Chicago Kid, etc.
MJ: I want to personally thank you for continuing to create music and to continue to bless the mic and stages across the globe! I’m sure you are thanked at shows for resurrecting Hip Hop. But I’ll say that you can’t resurrect something that has always been alive! People fail to realize that not being heard on all outlets of music does not define someone as a has been or washed up! Digable Planets brought something to Hip Hop that was unique, groovy, funky, soulful, and alive! Here we are in 2017 and not a beat missed and not a lyric left out! Salute and thank you for all your contributions to music and to the culture of Hip Hop!
Doodlebug: Thank you!