Cee Knowledge and The Cosmic Funk Orchestra
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Cee Knowledge and The Cosmic Funk Orchestra

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF | AFTRA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2001
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"Cee Knowledge: Still Cool Like Dat"

February 26, 2014



In April of 1994, the Digable Planets walked out of Radio City Music Hall stunned to be holding the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

In reality, says Cee Knowledge (aka Craig Irving – or Doodlebug, as he was then known), the crew was just happy for the invite and the chance to kick it with some of the established legends of the music world.

“We all had our parents with us, which was a surreal situation,” he reflects wistfully. “I got my moms sitting right next to me and there are all these luminaries of the music and entertainment world around.”

“The Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat),” the first single off Digable Planets’ debut album, Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), was nominated alongside some heavy hitters of the early ’90s rap charts and no one inside their camp thought they had a realistic chance of winning the award.

“I’m thinking, ‘Ok, Dr. Dre and Snoop got this,’” Cee Knowledge recalls. “And when they said our name it was like time stopped.”

He was – and still is – flabbergasted.

“I thought, ‘Did they just say Digable Planets?’” he remembers. “Then my mom nudged me. ‘Go, get up there!’ And I was like ‘Oh, oh shit!’”

The now 46-year-old Cee Knowledge spent his formative years in the Mount Airy and West Oak Lane neighborhoods. By the time he was ready to set off for Howard University, the concepts of black empowerment, socialism and insect theory – the idea that the strength of a community lies in how well its denizens work together, free of personal agendas, for the greater good of all, much in the way insects build hives and nests – had already been ingrained upon him. That combination of ideals and concepts would evolve into the themes of Digable Planets’ dense lyrical style.

CeeKnowledge01“My father was part of the Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, so I always would hear stuff like that,” he says. “When I was a little kid he would tell me about the teachings of [Ahmed] Sekou Toure and Kwame Nkrumah and things like that. I wasn’t really super active yet but I was conscious of it. My mom was a little more conservative, but she knew what time it was.”

He speaks with the same tone of honesty and humility you hear in his rhymes. It endears you to him, like a long lost friend or a cousin you had never met. He seems to be someone who has no walls around him, personally or creatively.

“He is one of the coolest, kindest, most humble people that I know,” says Gary Dann, manager of the Boom Room studio and the drummer in Cee Knowledge’s current band, the Cosmic Funk Orchestra. “He believed in me and took me around the world playing drums with Digable Planets for a couple years.”

With Reachin’ having just celebrated its 20th anniversary, rumors about another Digable Planets reunion tour began to circulate.

While Cee Knowledge admits he would love for that to happen, it is most likely just a dream for the die-hards, as each member of the group has moved on to new chapters in their respective lives and careers.

Since the Planets dissolved – first in 1995 and again in 2011 after a few years of touring, Cee Knowledge has mainly performed and recorded with Cosmic Funk Orchestra. They are currently working on a new EP.

Cee Knowledge brings to the Orchestra the same type of insightful and uplifting rhymes that defined the Digable Planets’ steez. The new music has a similar groove as the woozy jazz loops laid over crisp break beats employed by the Planets. The new material is amplified by a live and funkier version, which gives that Cee Knowledge flow a little extra oomph.

All in all, he is one happy funkonaut.

It is clear that he has always made music from his heart in the hope that it could reach yours. He is proud of his contributions to hip-hop history and looks forward to building on his legacy.

Though music has its fits and starts, he is still riding a natural high.

“I feel good about life, man,” Cee Knowledge notes. “I got my family. I got my health. I’m doing what I love to do. You can’t really ask for anything else.” - Jump: The Philly Music Project


"The Music Issue: Who's Hot In Philly Philly Hip-Hop"

Digable Planets' Craig Irving Makes His Comeback as Cee-Knowledge

Craig Irving didn’t grab the mic until his freshman year of college at Howard University. There, he met a Philly kid named DJ Trouble Trev and they started a group called the O.S.A.G.E. (Out for Sex And Gettin’ Exotic) Crew, named after the West Philly street where the MOVE house was bombed in 1985.

After graduation, Irving returned home to Philly—where, as a teen in the ’80s, he’d tape Lady B’s rap radio shows—and met a like-minded MC named Ishmael Butler who was living with his grandmother near West Oak Lane and working at Reading Terminal. “We sat around my grandmother’s house [in Germantown] listening to music for hours,” says Irving, then a member of the Dread Poet’s Society.
Soon after, Irving became Doodlebug. Ishmael became Butterfly. Mary Ann Vieira, an MC who was Irving’s girlfriend at the time, became Ladybug. Digable Planets was born.

The standard Planets narrative glosses over Irving’s Philly connection. But the trio’s jazz and soul- powered debut, 1993’s Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), carries the torch of the city’s frequently under-appreciated black music history. Burning throughout it are the sounds of Philly jazz cats Lee Morgan and John Coltrane, the intergalactic Afrotopia of Sun Ra Arkestra, Kenneth Gamble’s and Leon Huff’s soul, and Philly’s thriving 1980s hip-hop spirit. Planets settled in New York City, and their tongue-twisting verses frequently referenced Brooklyn, but Doodlebug ensured that Philly blood flowed through the Insect Tribe’s veins.

Beating out Snoop Doggy Dogg & Dr. Dre, Arrested Development, Naughty By Nature and Cypress Hill, Planets won the 1993 Grammy for Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group for the hit song “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like Dat).” If you’re alive right now, you know the hook.
Planets dropped Blowout Comb the next year. It was as smooth as Reachin’, more funky than jazzy, but significantly gloomier and overtly militant—it marked the death of slick and the rebirth of Huey Newton. It didn’t take off like Reachin’. Perhaps it was too politically radical at a time when gangster-rap was all the rage, or maybe it was the lack of a promotional push from Pendulum/Elektra, whose partnership deteriorated leading up to the release date. Citing “creative differences,” Planets split in 1995.

“We went our separate ways,” says Irving. “I didn’t know what to do. I stopped making music, cut my dreads and considered getting a real job ... But then I started gettin’ that music feeling again.”
Now calling himself Cee-Knowledge (he’d done so at least as early as Blowout), Irving reappeared in Philly in the early 2000s. In 2001, he visited the Sun Ra house in Germantown for the first time, and collaborated with Marshall Allen and other Arkestra members on a 12-inch called Space Is The Place.

Picking up where Blowout left off, the tracks kicked ethereal vibes and live jazz-funk instrumentation over which Cee dropped knowledge about “space hustles” and saving planet Earth.
A surprise phone call in 2005 led to Planets’ first reunion, and dates in Europe and the U.S. followed, including sets at the Coachella and Lollapalooza music festivals. “I was shocked people remembered us,” Irving says. “Everyone normally jumps onto the next trend quick, but people were still hungry for our sound.” The demand was there, but Planets once again imploded after a backstage blowout at Red Bull’s Big Tune producer competition in 2008.
Back in his hometown of Seattle, Butterfly/Butler began making music as Shabazz Palaces. He signed with Sub Pop, and released Black Up last year. A heady, Afro-futurist collage, it was far-out and psychedelic—an experimental hip-hop album praised by both indie and hip-hop critics. A few months later, Cee-Knowledge also released his strongest post-Planets album yet, Futuristic Sci-Fi, which combined spaced-out experimentation and Golden Age swagger. Both albums had Planets written all over them.
Critics overlooked the way-underground Futuristic, but Black Up got Planets buzzing again in the press. The Internet exploded at the close of 2011 with rumors that Planets were uniting for a new studio album. While talks are underway, nothing’s confirmed. “I’m down, no doubt,” says Irving about another reunion. “Planets was the best time of my life, but a gift and a curse. As a musician, I wanna spread my wings and not always be stuck as ‘that Digable Planets dude.’ I wanna try new things and experiment.”
It’s uncertain whether a Planets tour and new album will transpire, but Irving’s definitely back, and his live hip-hop group, the Cosmic Funk Orchestra, is almost finished recording their debut album.
“I’m trying to get my foothold back on the Philly scene again,” he says. “The 215 makes me who I am. I’ve lived in a few places, but no matter where I was, Philly was always in me. I took Philly everywhere I went. My music’s always been rooted here.”

Follow Cee-Knowl - Philadelphia Weekly


"EXCLUSIVE: DOODLEBUG INTERVIEW BY FLATLINE"

December 19th, 2011


HHG: With such a distinct style as an emcee with Digable Planets and on your solo work, I'm curious to know who influenced you early on in your career?

Doodlebug: I was influenced by a lot of the pioneers of hip hop. In fact, my first experience in hip hop was as a deejay so I was caught up in everything - GrandMaster Flash, GrandMixer D.S.T, Marley Marl, Red Alert and of course DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Cash Money and DJ Kosmik Kev….I later became interested in the emcee when I first heard Rakim, Jungle Brothers, Treacherous Three, Run-DMC and KRS-One.

HHG: Reachin' was released in 1993 and Blowout Comb in 94. What was the recording process like when creating those albums? It must have been a whirlwind for you as an artist to have everything take off so quickly when Rebirth Of Slick took off the way it did.

Doodlebug: The REACHIN album was produced by Butterfly and was recorded by Shane Faber and Mike Mangini in North Bergen New Jersey. BLOWOUT COMB was recorded at a major studio in Manhattan and was more of a collaborative effort between the three of us and also we used a lot more live instruments on that album, whereas the first album was all samples and drum machines. The success of the first album was definitely not normal because of how we went from no names to household names in a matter of months and it took a lot of getting used to!!

HHG: I talk with many people, who love both Digable albums equally, but who always agree that Blowout Comb is an underrated gem. How do you feel about that album looking back on it?

Doodlebug: I love both albums but I do feel like BLOWOUT COMB didn't have the same chance at success as the first album because of the record company politics that we went through in the transition between albums. REACHIN was done while we were signed to Pendulum/Elektra but after the first album, the executives at Pendulum didn't like the profit splits they were getting from Elektra, so they left and signed a distribution deal with EMI records…BLOWOUT COMB was caught in the transitional mess and never got the promotion behind it that it needed to successfully follow up the platinum success of REACHIN.

HHG: I have to ask, what was it like getting in the studio with the late, great GURU on Borough Check? Certainly there must have been a mutual respect there for what each of you was bringing to the table at the time.

Doodlebug: Working with the late, great GURU was amazing!!! I was a big fan of his and he told us he was a big fan of what we were doing!!!! At the time Guru was also a neighbor of mine in Brooklyn NY so we hung out a lot outside of the studio and in fact we toured together throughout South America when he released his Jazzmatazz project and I had the honor of doing a collabo with him a few years back before he died...I still miss that dude!!!

HHG: Let's talk about your latest solo album, "Futuristic Sci-Fi" which was released via Fat Beats in September. There's such a great vibe and flow to the album, I think long time fans of yours couldn't be more pleased. How was it working with DJ Alex J, who is also your tour DJ, when putting together this project?

Doodlebug: It was great working with DJ Alex J because he is so laid back and humble as well as talented and he has a good ear for music!!! He would email me tracks and I would tell him which one I was feeling, then I would go in the studio and lay my verses and then email the WAV files back to him so he could do the mix...We have a great chemistry and in fact we are starting to put together tracks for the next album we are going to do together!

HHG: As you've gotten older and matured as an artist, do you feel a lot more free to focus on the artistic side of your craft, rather than worrying about what the record label or whoever is trying to push?

Doodlebug: Even when I was a young buck, I didn't care much about what the record labels wanted. After listening to our first two albums with Digable you can tell that we were on another level and were not concerned with what was popular but with what felt and sounded good. In the early 90's, Digable Planets music was way different than anything else that was out at the time. The older I get the more convinced I am that it's imperative for me to stay true to my original style and flow.

HHG: You've just released a new single, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Can you speak a little bit on that? Was this a track that almost wrote itself after you witnessed first hand what was going on?

Doodlebug: Actually, the new single "FIGHT FOR YA RIGHT" was written and produced in the spring of 2011 way before the rise of the OCCUPY movement. But then in October, the producers of the track, XING n FOX, hit me up and thought that the budding movement known as Occupy Wall Street would be a great back drop to the song we did together and I agreed. So we all met up in NYC on October 17th and filmed what turned out to be the "FIGHT FOR YA - Rapstation.com


"Doodlebug (Digable Planets) & Xing N Fox Rhythm Rebel And The New Bomb Squad"

FEATURED INTERVIEW

Doodlebug (Digable Planets) & Xing N Fox
Rhythm Rebel And The New Bomb Squad
Just as we thought that the recession was over and our shares were going to peak again –just kidding-, 2011 wound up to be a dramatic year for the worldwide economy. But unlike the years before, the people manifested and found their ways to the streets. In Europe the Indignados threw their fist in the air, while Wall street formed the scenery for the first steps - they didn't forget you, Gordon Gecko- of the Occupy movement. Hip-hop couldn't be far away, could it? Well besides a few references in their lyrics, it seemed like the crisis was off many rappers’ radar. Untill Digable Planets veteran and rhythm rebel Doodlebug's song '’Fight For Your Right’, produced by his own ‘Bomb Squad’ Xing N Fox, became the self-proclaimed anthem of the Wall Street occupances....

Doodlebug, why a protest song?

I consider myself a rhythm rebel so any song I do is in essence a protest to the status quo!

The record was recorded before the Wall Street occupancy; did you feel it hanging in the air?

We recorded this song way before. In fact when I wrote the song I was protesting against the idea that you can’t be yourself nowadays. No matter what, I’m going to fight for my right to rock the mic ‘right’. Of course I understand that ‘right" is very subjective but we all know what’s right and wrong. At some point we must take a stand on what we feel is right and I feel like we have a duty as civilized people to spread the true message of hip-hop despite the fact that we are surrounded by bullshit music all day every day. (laughs)

You recorded the video for the song right on the spot, where the protests took place. How was the atmosphere over there?

The atmosphere felt like going to a family reunion and getting the chance to meet family members that you didn’t know they existed. Everyone was very friendly and very willing to talk to you about their opinion on what was transpiring and what they thought was the solution to the problems. Even the police officers we came across that day were very accommodating and allowed the people to exercise their right to protest. It was a good day!

What’s the strength of the Occupy movement, will it be able to actually change things?

I think the strength of the protests lies with the people and their determination to see this thing through to the end. There are a lot of different opinions that reflect the different types of people involved in the protest. But I think that’s also a part of the strength of the movement. It proves that this isn’t just a movement of one type of people or political party. But a movement of diverse people that culminates in the idea that we all feel displaced by the economic inequalities that have been advocated and put in place by the bankers on Wall Street. Change will come only if the people don’t get side-tracked and make sure they put these bankers and politicians to task and make them accountable for their actions.

Hip-hop doesn’t seem to matter about politics or economy anymore, right?

I believe that hip-hop still cares about politics and the economy but the powers that be don’t want to promote that. So ‘they’ only sign artists who will promote the lifestyle of consumerism and selfish agendas. The days that a group like Public Enemy will get played on a P1 radio station is probably over. So now those artists have gone underground and continue to disseminate the messages of freedom justice and equality. And now the fans who support that message must look a little harder to find that type of music but it’s most certainly still around.

Now that the markets are under pressure, do you keep your money in a sock?

I have never trusted the banking industry and so I still keep my money stuffed in my mattress. (laughs)

The 2012 presidential elections are coming up...what do you expect from it?

I’m not really sure how the presidential elections will turn out in 2012, but I can say wholeheartedly that I will be supporting Barack Obama for president!

And, the one million-dollar question: what about a Digable Planets comeback?

I can’t say for sure that I know what the future holds for the Digable Planets but I am very proud of our history and glad that I was a part of it. It’s true that as a group we went through our trials and tribulations and it’s good to know that after all of that we are still friends. With that said, there is always a glimmer of hope that one day the Planets could realign and personally I hope that does happen!

You released an album in September. The kick-off for a long-time solo career?

Yes, we released the new album ‘Futuristic Sci Fi’ on September 27th 2011 on Fat Beats/SoulSpazm records along with producer/deejay Alex J from New Jersey and Kai Chi aka Flo Sama Been Rhymin of the Cosmic Funk Orchestra. I look forward to doing more solo projects like this in the future and I hope the true hip-hop fan wi - Platform8470.com


"Single "Do What you Do" selected #1 on RapAttack Top 40 charts"

Doodlebug's single "Do What you Do" featuring DonWill of Tracy Morgan and Moka Only rose to #1 on RapAttack Top 40 charts for the week of October 17, 2011. The track is from the new CD titled "Futuristic Sci-Fi" released by Soulspasm / Fat Beats. - RapAttackLives.com


"Doodlebug Ft. D.O.R. – Futuristic Sci-Fi Soulspazm: 2011"

If I say ‘Doodlebug from Digable Planets,’ do your ears perk up? Thought so.

On this go-round, the kid from DP teamed up with DJ Alex J. of D.O.R. to bring us Futuristic Sci-Fi, an 18-track album (give or take an interlude or bonus track), that’s refreshingly different production-wise and lyrically tangible.

The album’s concept is based off an old Star Trek: Voyager episode (no bullshit) where the team of trekkers travels back in time. So, in effect, the album attempts – and achieves – to be a throwback to times when rap was primarily about breaking, DJ-ing and street art.

Jumping off with “I’ll Be Right Here” and its layers of different tempo’d beat elements and soul samples, Doodlebug and some friends recant memories of Hip-Hop’s past, how it touched their lives and where it’s heading, among other topics in a subtle posse cut. More reminiscing is laid out on “Changing the Game”, with more soul sampling, some scratching and a quick drum loop.

Contrasting that, other tracks like the groovy “Outtaspacefunkadelic” and “Get Up”, with its hypnotic hook, are tracks primarily about spitting random, sick lines. And it’s that difference in substance and style with both the beats and rhymes that keeps the album moving and your ears tuned in.

But, that’s not to say the album doesn’t have a few speed bumps. The sing-songy hook on “Sweet Music”, for instance, sounds like an adlib from someone with a bit of vocal training. Other bangers include the motivational tribute to pushing forward amid difficulty “Shine,” the lovesick “I Never” and the quick-kick of the drums, subliminal keys and centering content of “Twilight.”

Overall, Futuristic Sci-Fi likely won’t resonate with fans of the flashy, show-off sounds of the dominant radio raps these days. But, that’s the point. Instead, Doodlebug and DJ Alex J. have given us a record that’s full of new verses and varied beats that still feels as familiar and comfortable as that old hoodie you’d never throw away. - PotHolesInMyBlog.com


"Music Picks: Cee Knowledge and the Cosmic Funk Allstars, The Rotation"

He stole the show on Kuf Knotz' Boombox Logic last year, contributing his suave voice and a solid verse to the song "Soul Music." But it's not like Cee Knowledge took his first step back into hip-hop with that guest spot — he never really left. The Philly native formerly known as Doodlebug from Digable Planets (or Craig Irving, depending on how well you know him) has been busy with his current outfit, The Cosmic Funk Allstars, since the early '00s, dishing thought-provoking rhymes and spaced-out instrumentals on a series of independently released mix tapes. The blend is reminiscent of early Roots or late Tribe, and Cee's voice is tasty as ever, so don't feel bad if you're late to the party; it's just getting started. - Philadelphia City Paper


"TRUE GRIT: SOHH.COM Top 20 HIP HOP CONTEST"

Straight out of Philadelphia comes Cee Knowledge & The Cosmic Funk All Stars. Now don't get your boots stuck in the mud, just because they rep the "City of Brotherly Love" doesn't mean this seven-member rowdy bunch won't hesitate to slice and dice the microphone at any given time. Coming together like a rodeo square dance, the crew consists of Kai Chi, Indian Black, Reality along with drummer Gary Dann, bass player Mitch Beer, guitarist Adam 12 and DJ Soulbuck. The band is fronted by Cee Knowledge, also known as Doodlebug from Grammy-winning rap trio Digable Planets.
These good ol' fellas aren't overnight creations either. Having made a name for themselves on the underground level since 2001 with mixtapes and touring all over the country, this gritty bunch has the social game on lock with over 4,300 Myspace fans and 1,600-plus Facebook supporters as well. We like these boys not only because they pack shows on a monthly basis with hundreds of fans, but because their fan demographic spans from the 18-year-old headbanger to the older, music grit connoisseurs.
While their grit is slowly unraveled on tracks like "Grown Folks" and "Changing Da Game", it's their assault on records like "Butcher Shop" that really proves why they're gutting anything that gets in their path. "Slice and dice with Kreugger claw/but still nice with the Ruger, y'all/ Murk any motherf*cker that try me/Get slapped up/Kidnapped in the truck/The wigs get pushed, back the f*ck up/Screwed and chopped in the butcher shop/Welcome to the underworld where there ain't no cops but sex, drugs and violence -- razor blades on the back of my mic, you might lose your life if your rhyme ain't right." Shook yet?
Repping their Seven N A Crescent Productions, Cee Knowledge & The Cosmic Funk All Stars show that rap posses are still relevant in a time when many artists go for self and try to make a silver dollar off the strength of their name alone. Cats spitting blade-sharp rhymes to a live, edgy instrumentals -- that's gritty to us.
While we will continue to love Philly city slickers like State Property and The Roots, in 2011 and onward, this collective has us lassoed in!
- SOHH.COM


Discography

2014 "To Life, Love & Loot"

2011 "Futuristic Sci-Fi"

2009 "The Intifadah (The Uprising)"

2002 "Return of the Cosmic Funk"

2000 "Live From the 7th Dimension (Vol.1)"

Photos

Bio

Straight out of Philadelphia comes Cee Knowledge & The Cosmic Funk Orchestra. Now don't get your boots stuck in the mud, just because they rep the "City of Brotherly Love" doesn't mean this nine-member rowdy bunch won't hesitate to slice and dice the microphone at any given time. Coming together like a rodeo square dance, the crew consists of Cee Know the Doodlebug, Kai Chi, Indian Black, Reality along with Sabri Majid, Dj SoulBuck, Dj Alex J, Adam 12 on Guitars and the Galactic Singer Eddy Kane. Repping their Seven N A Crescent Productions, Cee Knowledge & The Cosmic Funk Orchestra show that rap posses are still relevant in a time when many artists go for self and try to make a silver dollar off the strength of their name alone. Cats spitting blade-sharp rhymes to  live, edgy instrumentals. CFO released "The Intifadah" in 2009, "Futuristic Sci Fi" in 2011, "The Expendables" in 2012 available on BandCamp.com, and "To Life, Love & Loot" in 2014.