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Ladybug Mecca: Still "Cool Like Dat"
5/9/05 - interview

rapper Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets

You may remember her soft-as-silk flow during her days with Digable Planets, when "Rebirth of Slick" (Cool Like Dat) was a favorite during Hip Hop's zenith.


Ladybug Mecca has been in the process of developing her first solo album, "Trip the Light Fantastic" and has recently reunited with her former group members to drop a third Digable Planets album.


Ladybug's new release is set for June 28, she was recently on a European reunion tour with Digable Planets for the entire month of Feb, also performing twice with DB at the Winter Music Conference and in Los Angeles at El Rey. 

Digable Planets will soon begin their US reunion tour June 7 to July 10th, capping off with Lollapalooza on July 23 (see below for solo upcoming performance dates). Ladybug speaks on what's been happening since the last Digable Planets album and more in our interview. What are presently working on?

I'm actually wrapping up my album right now, we are in the mixing stage, there are two more records I wanna record, because I definitely want them on the record. I've done a bunch of songs over the last two years, its like hip hop, afro beats, riddims tied in to hip hop. Just the whole spectrum of my influences and music that I just enjoy and have loved since I started listening to music. Jazz, Samba, hip hop of course.


So its like really genre-less, I just have to really leave it up to the label to place it where it needs to be placed. Since I'm not just rhyming, its very diverse, really reflective of who I am and my musical taste. I enjoy life, enjoy all the facets of it, life is neverending, I just try to absorb it all.

There are a large number of hip hop fans, including Latinos, who never realized that you were Brazilian. How does being Brazilian, or South American, fit in with your music, and do you ever feel the need to represent for Brazilians in Hip Hop?

Well, I feel the need to represent just people period, no matter where your from. As far as bringing Brazilian influences, I wanted to save that for my solo album, I didn't emphasize that on my Digable work, because now its my voice being heard rather than three voices. I'm sure they wouldn't have minded, but I wanted to go off on a whole other album. I am Brazilian, and the way it was for me when I was growing up, you walked into my house and it was Brazil. Most other people cultures in America it was like that.


Samba music was the first music I ever heard, the rhythms I heard, that was Africa, the Portuguese, mixed with the indigenous people of Brazil. So, its important for me to bring that through because that's who I am. I really captured those rhythms, those harmonies, those ad-libbings of Brazilian samba, that really translates on my album right now. Even if that album is in English, I bring that vocally. It was my very first influence in this first dimension.

I know that you originally lived in Maryland and D.C. before moving to NY after high school, that you now reside in Harlem. Had you lived in Brazil or made trips there, and do you speak Portuguese?

No, I never lived there, I only visited once when I was 10, and then we went as a group to open up for James Brown in '95, so that was for about two weeks, between Rio and Sao Paolo. Going as a kid it was great, we just immersed in the culture, we were able to learn Portuguese a lot better, really just understanding who we are and who we are in our culture. And then going back as an adult, I was able to look at it from a whole other perspective, objectively. I didn't get to enjoy it was much because I had to work, but I did get to bring my mother before she passed away, and my older sister.


That brought me great pleasure because my mother didn't see my family in a very long time. I love it there, I have children now, I definitely want to go back and allow my children that experience. We keep in touch with my family there through email and through the mail, but there's always that void of wanting to gob back and and reconnect. America is very different. When you have family that lives in a third world country, they are not as programmed by the system, they are just more real, they hold on to real things that our ancestors passed on. Brazil is like the second nation outside of Africa that has such a large population of Africans. It really translates in the music and the culture.

When we went there, as a child your oblivious to a lot of things, children are closest to purity, closest to mother, father, God because they are fearless. But returning in my early 20's, of course we are driving along the street, tons of children are asking for money along the stop signs. But, when I was in Sao Paolo, I had the pleasure of meeting these emcees who were in the underground scene of Brazil hip hop, and this sister Lady Rap, we were all up in her neighborhood the few days I was in there. I was in her part of town, meeting people.


I remember at one point Knowledge and Ish told me that they were driving around and they were with this other brother, he was like a radio personality in the underground radio station, they stopped at a stop sign, and next thing they know, all the police have machine guns in every window of the car, because people are constantly being of being harassed for being of African descent. It was very overt, the gentlemen who worked for the press had to show his badge, he had to beg him to not kill them, he had to really plea his case very quickly so nothing would happen. That's ongoing every day, not to mention the children because of the political and economic situation, they are murdering these children every night.


I took all of this in, it was very heartbreaking, but at the same time I met some people who were working to combat this. I met this writer who wrote a comedy book, I remember one of his little comic strips, its called the Black Man's Guide to Living in Brazil. He says if you are standing on the street and smoking a cigarette and you see the police, don't run, don't walk away, and don't just stand there. That gives you an indication of what its like to be an original man in Brazil, and these things we don't see in brazil. The picture they paint is that everything is great, that people are all equal, but its all bulls**t.

You released the platinum debut Digable Planets album, won a Grammy, followed it up with a second album that didn't cause as big a splash. With having won a Grammy in your past, do you feel that this raises the bar of expectations that people will have of your music?

I think it probably depends on the individual. that's all I can say. How they perceive a Grammy award. I don't feel any kind of pressure, I feel no pressure whatsoever. I'm just doing what comes naturally and very happy in making the music I'm making and saying what I want to say, I'm relishing in that joy.

When does your next album drop?

It will definitely be out by this Fall. We are expecting to drop a single from the album about June or July at the latest. We were expecting to drop it last year, but things change. I apologize to everyone that was waiting, but life happens. Its cool, I think it will be a lot more happier having to wait, I know I am because I certain wanted to get certain records done before putting it out, I didn't want to wait to use it for soundtracks.

In your own words, describe your debut solo album.

The album is just its just like all of my influences, all of my love, all coming out, many different colors, different sounds, different subject matters, transcendence of my parents too. I just completed a song called "Sweet and Polite", basically a song that's its about uh, how do I say this, about being smart about being a revolutionary, or being revolutionary in thought. Just being smart about how you manipulate the system and navigate through this system.


Then there is a song called "Do Not Disturb the Peace", this is the only way I can describe it: It's about, kinda urging those people that carry a lot of baggage and bulls**t in their lives to not bring it into other peoples lives, to deal with your issues and don't drop them on other peoples. That's kinda like the overall message but the lyrical content deals with an abusive situation. I'm just brining live and what I view as being reality, real things that real people go through, just trying to convey it in a beautiful way, it was really important for me to have the perfect beautiful music piece that could stand alone, without any vocals.


Those are the songs that influence me and bring the music out of me, bring something out of me, if I'm not writing the lyrics first. And then there are some really dope afro beats that really gets you moving, its like that song is called "Sexual Alchemy", it's about the purest form of communication between a man and woman as far as on a physical level, its just not about the superficial part of it. Its just men, man, putting it all out there for everyone to go either they love it, not everyone is gonna love everything, but that's okay.

Who are you collabatoring with, who is doing the production?

I have an artist feature which will be this gentlemen named Martin Luther, he's incredible, he's from the Bay Area, long overdue to be out. He's guest vocals on a song called "Last Train." And then production wise, I did production, this dude named Mad Aris from California, he did a couple songs for me production-wise. This group called Sa Ra they did some production for me, this gentlemen named Eric Rico, and then this producer named Koproduced, Udelley, I did some production also, and that's pretty much it.

How does music from Ladybug differ from that of the Digable Planets era?

Well, first of all, Digable Planets was Digable Planets, which was three members. Ladybug is just Ladybug, I chose the music, I produced the music, I wrote all of the lyrics, so its just my interpretation, its my voice, versus a group. Also, versus having a label pick and choose and say yeah we want this record, no we don't want this record, I don't have that burden, I don't have that annoyance. Gave me the freedom to do what I want to do. Also, in speaking about Ladybugs voice, back then I was a 17, 18, 19, 20 year old,. I was just a baby, I was just following the universe, following the wind, I don't know how I got there. It was really just in the hands of the creator, now its different, I'm a woman, I handle my sh*t, I've experienced life, I'm a woman, a mother, an indigenous woman who knows what's up, knows the bullsh*t, ,knows what's real, that's how I live my life.

I was always a conscious individual since DN, Blowout Comb, there was a lot of anger at what I was learning, what I saw in Brazil, what I learned about colonialism, became very angry and reactionary about. Also at that time I lost both my parents, they left me here to become a woman, that was fine but that was very painful. Blowout Comb was kinda like I was kind of in a semi-angry state, I wasn't in a peaceful contented state. But that's what happens as you grow, from your teenage years to your womanhood, hopefully you know how to process things. I process things a lot differently now, I'm an adult, I'm mature, I'm brining those perspectives. There's like a more nurturing side on this record. that's what happens, when you have your own children and a loving husband, that brings the best of you out as a woman.

Before you were pretty political, I heard a newer cut with you and it seems as though you aren't really pushing in that direction. Should we still expect a political Mecca on this album?

I don't really view myself as a political person, but I definitely am a conscious woman, so yeah, I am still that, definitely. But, I have evolved, you aren't gonna hear the Digable albums from Blowout if you are looking for that. We all evolve as we grow, change is constant in the universe, if you aren't in tune with that, you gotta get in tune.

There are people like myself who were hip hop heads in the days of Rebirth of Slick, and still are, but now we are dealing with a new generation of hip hop fans with more of a taste for commercial music. Was there any push towards appealing towards younger listeners who aren't familiar with Digable Planets, or was this album creating with no particular audience in mind?

No, there wasn't any conscious decision to like do that. I made a conscious decision to reach people period, no matter what age they were, but I didn't do that. I didn't sit there and calculate or formulate a way to reach the younger people. Nah, I really just hope that they just enjoy my music. What I'm saying isn't difficult to understand, its very digestable, and people always underestimate people as being stupid. If they are at a point in their lives where they want to open up to something new, where they are tired to listening to the same sh*t over and over again, I think they can enjoy what I'm doing, cause honestly, when I think about the younger people, what really drives them, the music has to be right, there has to be a headbanger, but I like that too, but I didn't formulate that and calculate it for them.

That's why I don't f*ck with major labels, I don't compromise with who I am. I did that too, but I cant do that anymore. I remember doing from the Digable Planets, and having to fight with people who have no ear. But, because they were the bank that loaned us the money, we had to listen and obey massa, but not anymore though. Nowadays its great, because if you scan independent numbers, you can get independent distribution. So many avenues now because you can take off and make 5, 6, 7 albums, widen that fan base. Major labels got a time frame, its over. On an independent you can work it for a year, it translates to more sales, more audience. You just gotta make that decision.

Since those days, you've become a mom as well as a married woman, what type of effect does this have on being a creative force and subsequently the music that you create?

Countless effects on my music. My life is my point of inspiration. So, all the experiences from birth of my children, I had home birth. I had four children, three biologically, and the last child I had him in the home vs. the other two children I had in the hospital. So, just that experience in and of itself just taught me, what it taught me was so incredible and amazing, it just gave me another respect and overstanding of life here in the third dimension, and how important that transition to life is. I'm able to write from that perspective. All of the experiences, the joys and frustrations of marriage and relationships. I have three boys and a girl, all those experiences make life beautiful and make life what it is, I'm able to put that in my music..

What distinguishes you from other emcees out today, or other female artists in general. Do you feel that as a female emcee that you are responsible for putting out a positive portrayal of women in hip hop?

By virtue of the fact of me being Ladybug, no one else can come with my perspective. Of course we share, myself and other artists, are probably are a lot more alike. Just by me being virtue of me being who I am. There are artists out there that focus on certain subject matters all the time that I choose to not focus on all the time, but I'm coming from a whole other way, we have necessities in life but it aint everything. There are artists that I consider... I love Lauryn Hill, I love Erykah Badu, I love India.Ari, they are touching on things that I consider more relevant. Things that really matter in my life. Well, positive cant exist without negative, so to me that's not really being true to who I am. Just being positive, 'cause I can flip out too and be negative. Its about being positive, negative and the grey sh*t in between. But, I don't wanna lean towards "I'm from the hood" and I got to keep it real, keep it negative and talk about whatever. I'm just bout being true to who I am.

If you could do a collaboration with any artist that you haven't already worked with, of any genre, who would it be?

There's not just one. Let me make that clear. Lately I just been wanting to do a song with Nas, badly. I feel like I really inner, over and understand the brother, where he's from. I think our flow would mesh nicely together. Our two flows would be nice. There's a lot of people, Gilberto Gil, really trying to do one, maybe on the second one. 'Cause I'm very influence by his music, and who he is as a person.

Can you talk about some of the activities you are involved with outside of your own music career, whether it be recreational or professional?

Maybe my vegan lifestyle. My spiritual aspect of me, we are all vegan, I really try very hard to keep them away from the programming, just guide them from life best I can, its really difficult, because everywhere you turn its like programming. I have homeschooled my children all this time, I'm getting to a point where I want to continue doing it, but I may not be able to. I meditate on a daily basis. Life to me is one constant meditation, but I do take the time to sit and give thanks to my ancestors.


I keep a vegan diet. We're very conscious of everything. It's a very big part of our lives, just staying as natural as possible, with the children and with our lives, trying to keep as pure as possible, not polluting my body with toxins, even soaps and stuff, that's just poison for your skin. I fast a lot, not the cant' eating food, but raw fruits and vegetables, raw juicing, uncooked foods. A lot of water, enemas. We're so fooled into thinking humans drink cow milk. Even rice milk. You gotta get away from those foods that cause mucous in you. We still drink rice milk. Boys, you should drink rice milk, not soy milk, soy is good for females, but not for males. Things like that. We don't use toothpaste with fluoride. I just use water, sometimes I use baking soda a lot.

What can we expect from you in the future

what I am preparing myself for is A. more records, independently, I definitely want to get into film, the acting part of if first, of course only roles that I feel are the right roles for me. I cant go in there and do everything that you see, I just cant represent that. Working on writing, a movie, releasing a book, and that's pretty much the immediate future. A book that was written by my mother in law, before she transcended.


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