Ladybug Mecca: Still
"Cool Like Dat"
5/9/05 - LatinRapper.com interview
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.
LatinRapper.com: 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ladybug Mecca on Myspace: