Digable Planets was one of those great early-’90s hip-hop groups that never quite made it out of Clinton’s first term. Breaking through in 1993 with the classic single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” the group received even more praise from the hip-hop core with its second LP, Blowout Comb, in 1994. The trio has reunited and is (supposedly) planning a third album more than ten years later, and Ladybug — one-third of the original lineup — has decided this is the perfect time to release her solo album. But this watered-down R&B is far better suited for an earlier era: say, 1991.
Too long at sixteen songs and two skits (one of which is actually funny), the album wades through rock, R&B, bossa nova, hip-hop and pop. But, like Esthero’s Wikked Lil Grrls, it’s too unfocused to do any of it notably well. Ladybug is talented: She has a decent voice, she can rhyme and she had enough personality to hold her own alongside Butterfly and Doodlebug in Digable Planets. But when she’s on her own, the comparisons to better hip-hop-flavored singers don’t show her in a good light. Esthero has a much more interesting voice, and Mystic, who comes to mind on the dark, socially-tinted “Children’s Say,” is a better singer.
When she sticks to rapping, the album has its best moments. “Ladybug Come Outside” is just weird enough to take a step forward instead of the step back most of the record takes. But too often she relies on her voice and dull melodies that force the songs into becoming background music. An artist such as this is difficult to badmouth because she has been so successful in the past and because she is so obviously trying something different, something that should always be appreciated. But with each listen I hear less to care about. Slipping into stores almost as quietly as that un-marketed Limp Bizkit album, it would be nice to trumpet a great comeback album from this once relevant artist. Instead, Trip the Light Fantastic is merely the throwaway the release implied.