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Ladybug Mecca
M.ike C.ontroller
Representing Brazil and Nueva York
Place of Residence: New York City
Current Project: Rebirth of Mec

The Grammy awards are a few days away, up for awards in the rap category are Eminem, Ludacris, Nelly, Petey Pablo(?!) and Mystical(!?!). In 1993, a group named Digable Planets won a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Digable Planets consisted of two male members - Butterfly and Doodlebug - and a female named Ladybug. Digable Planets merged sophisticated jazz rhythms with socially conscious lyrical content, forming one of the best groups of that time.

Their most popular song "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" caught people's attention not only because of it's insane bass line, but the voice and flow of Ladybug. A female MC as part of a group had been done before (Funky Four plus One More) but for most people this was something new. She went line for line with Butterfly and Doodlebug and to people I've talked to, was the secret sauce of their success. Call it the L-Boogie factor.

In 1994, they released a sophomore album Blowout Comb which traded the bebop cool of the first album with more of a jazz-soul vibe. It was an album bursting with creativity and their consciousness spilled into the liner notes with a Geronimo Pratt mention, Black Panther shoutouts, and scattered Black Power messages.

However, popular taste in music was changing fast. Blowout Comb  came just as the newly formed Death Row Records and the West Coast sound began to put a vice grip on hip-hop music - in fact, Dr. Dre won a Grammy for best rap solo for "Let Me Ride" the same year as Digable Planets.

After releasing one video from the Blowout Comb  album, the group disappeared just as fast as they had emerged.

You don't forget talented groups.. or talent that failed to get a chance to fully bloom. So there I was flipping through a magazine a few weeks ago and what do I see? A profile on Ladybug Mecca and the upcoming release of her solo album on an independent label, Nu-Paradigm Records. You've got to be kidding. This was something I had to get some more information on. The phone rings, "Hey, this is Mecca."

I keep it short and sweet, so it's in and out, and it's just like a hit for you. Not like a hit record, but it becomes like a drug where the people want more.

I saw the piece that you had in Oneworld  and I was like "Ladybug is back on the scene?" I mean it's been a long time.
Yeah, it has.

What have you been doing all this time?
I've been raising a beautiful family, writing, experiencing life, getting ready for this ultimate moment here which is the album. I had other deals, other situations on the table, but they just didn't pan out, it just wasn't time. So here we are now. Music is definitely changing.. the consciousness is on the rise I should say."

I believe that too. I can feel a switch in the music, you know? Rap comes in waves, you have different things that take over for a time and there is a feeling of change right now.
Yeah, that's just because the consciousness of the planet is rising so everything is starting to make a shift.

So you say you started a family and all that?
I have four beautiful children, as you may have read in the article (three sons and a daughter from her husband's previous marriage) and a wonderful husband. And I'm on an independent label now that is amazing; a group of creative individuals who share the same vision as I do. It's real peace.

With Digable Planets, when did the breakup occur and why did you guys breakup?
The breakup occurred after the second album. And I left the group because my mother had just passed away, and then my father passed away about ten months later. So, you know, I needed some time off.

I can understand that. Blowout Comb  is an incredible album.. that second album. I was playing it earlier today, trying to recollect and everything.
Thank you. Even though we all had our separate issues we were dealing with at the time and then issues all together as a group, we still managed to pull it together. It's a beautiful album for sure.

At that time, 1993-94, you were like the first generation Lauryn Hill. Being that Digable Planets had the girl and the two guys thing, and like with Lauryn Hill, people were giving you a lot of respect. Did you ever feel any pressure to go solo during that time?
No, never any pressure. But I knew it would be the natural way to evolve as an artist, to explore that avenue.

Digable Planets was like a socially conscious jazz group; there were a lot of political and social statements in your music. Where did those roots come from?
Those roots come from really, really deep within. I guess when your coming of age and your intuition starts speaking to you and telling you that things aren't right in certain situations. Certain things your observing just aren't clicking, not making sense, it's just plain dead wrong. That's where I guess the social awareness is born from. So it started from there, just noticing what was wrong with the world.

Was there any particular book, anything that you read that lit your eyes up?
No, it wasn't any book. It was just life, experiences. Being a non-European American you experience certain things, so by virtue of not being that you get all of your experiences, your eye openers.

I know for me, the first book I read that really opened my eyes to the world was The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  I saw this guy on the train reading it, and then I picked up and that's what got me to start questioning things.
That's cool, it happens differently for everybody. But initially, like, it was really, really written deep into your DNA and it took that book to spark  it, to bring it out.

What do you think about the current crisis with Iraq
Hah! What do I think about that? I don't know where to begin.

Pro?.. For?
Not for it, definitely not for war, war is definitely not a solution to anything. I look at war as a distraction.. more like a deeper cover-up to what's going on within the government. You know, because they have a history of trying to throw the people off and slip something in on them over here. In a nutshell that's how I view this war.

What do you think about the current state of the music industry?
The current state of the music industry is not balanced right now, but I feel like it's getting there and I know that I'll be able to contribute to it.

Do you think that's the problem, that there is no balance?
Yeah, it's weighing too much on the negative side right now.

Is that why you decided to go with an independent label, maybe you'd be able to speak more freely or have a chance to get your statements out?"
Yeah, definitely. I wanted to be able to be me and not be A&R'd.

So Nu-Paradigm basically gives you free reign?
Oh yeah.

What kind of things can we expect to hear?
Just really beautiful rhythms that combine all different styles of music. Like I really explored my Brazilian culture, and those rhythms, I crossed them with my American influences. Even the 80's new wave, pop stuff that I grew up on, along with hip-hop, along with everything else. You know it's like certain phases that you go through while your growing up. I was able to explore all of that and touch all of that musically.

Can you compare it to anything that's out right now? Not competition wise.. is it similar to anything that's out now?
Definitely not that. It's definitely not similar to anything that's out now. You'll see. It's definitely some groundbreaking type stuff.. See, when people ask me to describe my music, I have to describe it the way I just did for you because I can't just stick a label on it and like package it and then ship it out. You know, I just can't do that. I can't put a label on it and that's what I love about it the most. It's not R&B, it's not hip-hop, it's not rock, it's not bossa-nova or samba, you know, it's all of that.

It sounds like hip-hop to me, which is a good thing you know, because to me hip-hop to me is all of your influences combined.
For sure. Hip-hop encompasses a lot, but the fact that I'm pulling in the whole South American side is what makes it so nice.

Is that where your from, Brazil?
Yeah, my parents were born there. I was born in America, but I had all of those influences in my house.

What producers did you hook up with?
I did production, this producer named Koproduced, these brothers that have this group called Sa Ra.. they're from Cali. They're dope. Very talented. And then this brother from Malawi, Africa.. he just brought some incredible, incredible tracks to me. I purposely worked with extremely, talented producers that are not well known, but they are groundbreaking people that brought the sound that I needed. I wasn't going for names, you know. I was going for a sound and I found it in these people.

With song structures.. with songs nowadays, if it's five minutes, it's too long. On Blowout Comb  some of the songs were like seven minutes and change. Are you breaking the same boundaries on this album?
It's long if your trying to play it on the radio, but if your trying to be free and limitless then it's all good.

That's what I mean.. are you taking the creativity to that level. Where you don't feel limited by how long the song has to be?
Time frames, I'm not really concerned about. We'll have to radio edits for radio if it's gets to that level, if we even care about radio. Actually, I'm really experimenting with really short songs, because I have some of the most incredible tracks you've ever heard and then I throw my voice on it, it's just like wow. It's incredible. So, purposely I keep it short and sweet, so it's in and out and it's just like a hit  for you. Not like a hit record, but it becomes like a drug where the people want more. Then I just feel like they will anticipate the next album.

So your viewing this is as a new beginning?


whudat.com - February 2003