When rappers decide to settle down and become serious musicians, we can talk all we want about how laudable it is that they’re following their artistic muse, but the records they make usually suck. Q-Tip changes his name to Kamaal, and instead of the Love Movement, we get the bowel movement. Harsh, sure, but more true than anybody wants to admit, right? Digable Planet’s Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler hasn’t made as drastic an about-face as Q-Tip, but he has moved to Seattle, learned to play guitar and gotten his Prince on with a new band, Cherrywine, and made a whole album of blues-funk-hop.
Butler is nothing if not inspired, because there’s nothing of the cutesy Digables sound left. Instead, he and his bandmates come off like some abstract cross between Prince and Cee-Lo. Interstellar keyboards and wah-wah guitars serve as a backdrop for rap-sung stories about partying on the edge of sanity (“What I’m Talking”), scathing indictments of rapper/rocker empty MTV-isms, and, uh, drugged-out blues Tricky would be proud of ( “See For Miles”). Overall, Butler may want to come off like some post-hip-hop Sly Stone, but mostly he just sounds stoned.
E-mail Hobey Echlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.