Digable Planets wanted to do things differently. Some of the most distinctive differences is in the production of their songs.
The vocals are mixed quieter so that they are part of the song rather than getting all the attention. For Hip-Hop, often a lyrically driven affair, this is refreshing. After all, many a slack verse has been held up by the instrumental behind it.
“Black Ego” is very much an Acid Jazz kind of track. It’s jazzy, and dark in tone. The drum sample (“Here Comes The Meterman” by The Meters, 1969) in particular demands attention, and the main riff (Grant Green, “Luanna’s Theme”, from 1972) feels sophisticated, with its wobbly guitar run and astral bell sounds.
The verses switch up the instrumental too, with a slower and more contemplative feeling.
The lyrics themselves are slick, intelligent, and conscious. There’s more reference to music than anything else, and especially Jazz artists like Charlie Mingus. It’s a key plank of the Digable Planets style that they tend to use Jazz samples over funk and soul. This explains the song’s popularity on the Acid Jazz scene, which is all about smooth grooves and smart samples.
The song was released on the critically acclaimed (although commercially unsuccessful) 1994 album, Blowout Comb.
Such a wicked track!