Ladybug, Butterfly and Doodlebug have turned the wrong end of the telescope toward themselves for their names, the hippiest-sounding stage handles since De La Soul's (yeah, them again) Trugoy the Dove. The Planets took the names of real or fictional insects based on a philosophy culled from works by Kafka, Sartre and Marx "that focuses on fighting against oppressors and maintaining community amongst oppressed people," Butterfly intones in the group's bio. "I parallel that with how insects stick together and work for causes--bees, for instance; you can't come around a nest and mess with it, because you're going to get stung."

To all this bee-boy existentialism, the Planets add the strongest feminist platform in hip-hop, by far. When asked what the co-ed makeup of the personnel adds to Digable Planets, Ladybug suggests that the issue is as moot as a comparison of her group to De La Soul. "Nobody ever says to Butterfly or Doodlebug, 'You're two guys rapping with a girl. How do you feel about that?'"

Butterfly is unarguably the group's leader, credited with conceiving, freaking, arranging and producing the album, but Ladybug insists the Planets divvy up the writing fairly. While she probably doesn't get quite a third of the rhyme time, the rapper holds her own with Butterfly and Doodlebug.

"We're all equal in this group as far as the writing is concerned," Ladybug insists. "One of us will have an idea for a song, we'll talk about it, break off, write our own verse, then come together and do it."
The group shouts out its feminism on the anti-antiabortion protest "La Femme Fātal," taking aim at abortion-clinic bombers and men who always want their fingers on the button. (The song gets bonus points for the rhyme of the year: "I hate to sound macabre/But isn't it my job. . . ?")

"It was something that happened to a friend of Butterfly's," Ladybug explains. "We all came together, discussed it and felt he should say it. It's especially important coming from a man."
But Ladybug stops short of indicting antichoice rappers like Arrested Development's Speech and House of Pain's Everlast. "I don't down them or dislike them, but life doesn't stop after birth. I just feel women should be able to control their own bodies. The whole abortion issue shouldn't be up for discussion."

There's enough of a feminist presence on Reachin' to send Ice Cube running for cover. On "Swoon Units," Butterfly even name-drops radical lesbian feminist-poet Nikki Giovanni.

The Planets' decidedly liberal slant has attracted the media like moths to the light bulbs over the members' heads. But critics aren't the only like minds Digable Planets counts among its following. The cool school that the Planets work so intently to separate themselves from converged, ironically, at the group's album-release party. Members of De La Soul and Gang Starr came to check out the competition and, perhaps more important, to kvetch about the media.

"They were telling us they like our sound," Ladybug says, "and don't worry about people lumping us in the same category. It's refreshing to know they know that.

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