Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hearts and Minds and Ladybugs

Before you had Lauryn Hill disappointing all her fans by dropping out of the game, randomly popping up throughout the past decade or two to suggest a fake-out comeback, taunting them with what might've been, you had Ladybug Mecca doing the same thing. Also like Lauryn, Ladybug was the brightest star of an otherwise male trio. And, similarly, she also wound up wasting what sparse solo outings she did record with bland R&B cuts. I know... controversial opinion: everybody loves Lauryn's "The Sweetest Thing" and her Roberta Flack covers. Fine; but while Ladybug might share Lauryn's lack of range when it comes to her singing voice, she doesn't share the inexplicable popularity. So there. :P

Lauryn also didn't descend into house music and weird club crossovers. The point is: I can remember since way back in the 90's seeing random, sporadic releases from or featuring Ladybug, and being optimistic nearly every time. But the ones that weren't god awful were just alright. Of course, even in the Digable Planets' heyday, the releases were fraught with let-downs. So, I guess there's no real hope of finding the Ladybug Mecca music that exists in our hearts.

But I've at least stumbled onto an acceptable little release.

This is an exclusive 2007 7" vinyl from HHV - an online hip-hop vinyl store based in Germany that, like HipHopSite, has also released a series of neat, self-pressed limited edition exclusives. I got it free for ordering some other stuff from them, and I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a split single, and the A-side actually has nothing to do with Ladybug Mecca at all. It's a song called "Here Comes the Judge" by Zeph & Azeem. It's alright. It's got a nice bassline. Nothing too exciting, and the song was on their album anyway. I believe it was CD-only, though; so at least that makes it an exclusive to wax.

But the B-side is a complete exclusive to this single, "Dogg Starr (Ancient Astronauts Remix)." Now "Dogg Starr" was on her album, it was released as a single, and it was released again as an EP called Dogg Starr: The House Remixes. Clearly, they saw this as their heavy hitter tune, and at least she's not singing... but the album version never really jumps off; the beat's just boring, and part of the chorus (where Ladybug kinda coos) just doesn't match up. The Kenny Dope remix, which was on the original 12", might've been a little more noteworthy if L'il Mama hadn't already scored a hit with the exact same instrumental on "My Lip Gloss Is Poppin'." And I'm not even gonna listen to the house mixes to compare those.

So this, to me, is the definitive version of "Dogg Starr." The track is much smoother, with some nice head-nodding instrumental vibes that don't collapse into that discordant garage-band feel a lot of her backing music tends to, and the chorus actually fits. It's a shame this wound up being tucked away onto an obscure freebie, rather than being promoted like the other versions were, because I think this one had the potential to make some genuine noise with the fans. Lyrically? Well, rhyme writing's never really been a Digable strong-point, but if you've always wanted to own a Ladybug Mecca record, but didn't want to deal with the inevitably depressing disappointment, I recommend this 7". I've heard her album, her guest spots, even the obscure stuff like that Queendom compilation, and for my money, this is really the best of the lot. And - I just clicked over there and checked - HHV's still giving away copies for free!

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