“It really doesn’t matter, we can all get down” – Digital Underground
Last Friday morning I told my twenty-something-year-old co-worker that it was a sad day in the music world, and then I asked her did she knew who “Shock G” was? I didn’t really expect her to know, and she didn’t. That did allow me to recite the first verse of his most famous song, “The Humpty Dance.” Even then, she barely recognized the song. The only reason she did is because she has a five-year-old and they had seen the animated Disney movie “Sing” where apparently an alligator performs a short portion of “The Humpty Dance” during an auditions scene. I probably should have asked her mom instead.
Gregory Jacobs, aka “Shock G,” aka “Humpty Hump” passed away last Thursday night in L.A. at the age of 57. If you know me, or have read some of my posts in the past on this site, then you know of my affinity for rap music especially in the 80’s. For me, rap music was new and fun and interesting and exciting. Others didn’t really “get it” or understand it, but in the 80’s I voraciously consumed the likes of Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, and The Beastie Boys among many others.
As the 80’s were coming to a close though, rap music was dropping very political and raw lyrics as groups like N.W.A. and Public Enemy were stepping to the forefront speaking out against social injustices and what life was like for many growing up in the hood. A lot of this new “gangsta rap” I totally dug too, but I couldn’t really relate. After all, I was a suburban middle-class white kid living in Oklahoma.
I think that’s why I gravitated so hard towards a brand new group out of Oakland that burst onto the rap scene nationally in 1990. The group was Digital Underground and the album was “Sex Packets,” and it truly was unique. The album steered myself and those like me back into that fun arena; that danceable arena with cool grooves and clever lyrics, and it really started with Shock G’s alter ego Humpty Hump and the iconic song “The Humpty Dance.”
Many thought Humpty Hump and Shock G were two different people. Jacobs even created a fictional biography for Humpty Hump. The fictitious backstory was that Edward Ellington Humphrey III, former lead singer of “Smooth Eddie and the Humpers,” had become a rapper after burning his nose in a kitchen accident with a deep-fryer. The story was apparently even told by Casey Kasem on his then countdown show “Casey’s Top 40.” I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but if it is, it’s hilarious, and I would love to hear it one day. I wonder how mad Casey was when he found out, or if he ever found out, or if he even cared.
At most public appearances, Jacobs would show up as one person or the other, but at live shows and video shoots he would use a stand-in (he apparently has a brother that bears a similar resemblance), or camera tricks to maintain the illusion. I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure at first either if they were two different people or not.
It was “The Humpty Dance” that led me to purchase the D.U. cd, “Sex Packets,” my freshman year at St. Gregory’s College. I bought two subsequent cd’s after that as well in 1991 – “This is an E.P. Release” and “Sons of the P.” Ultimately, “Sex Packets” will forever be their crowning achievement, and if that’s all Shock G, Money B, and the rest of the Underground had ever done, it would have been enough in my books. But then they went and appeared in a Disney animated film as well so five-year-olds across the world (and their moms) would know about Humpty Hump.
“Now as the record spins around, you recognize this sound,
Well, it’s the Underground,
You know that we’re down with wutchyalike”
Most people have heard “The Humpty Dance” in one form or another, so here are five more of my favorite Digital Underground songs to check out if you have any interest in diving further into the Digital Underground catalog:
- “Same Song” – Probably my favorite D.U. song. Plus, it introduced us to one-time D.U. member Tupac Shakur. That’s right – Tupac makes his rapping debut on this tune… “Tupac, go ahead rock this…” The song was also oddly featured in the Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, and John Candy movie “Nothing But Trouble.” Favorite lyric: “Hypothetical, political, lyrical, miracle whip (same song). Just like butter, my rhymes are legit.”
- “Doowutchyalike” – the video is below and there is an extended version of this song that is worth checking out on Spotify or Apple or wherever you stream your music from, but whatever you think of the video, the song was for “… rich, poor, high, low, or upper-middle class, let’s all get together and have a few laughs, and doowhatewelike.”
- “Kiss You Back” – the best song from their ’91 album “Sons of the P.” You’ll be humming “Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop” in no time after one or two listens to this danceable track.
- “Freaks of the Industry” – what kind of self-respecting rap group doesn’t have a classic freaky sex song? D.U. brought the heat with this entertaining tale. Favorite lyric: “After the ride, put my clothes on and walk outside, and before anybody gets a chance to speak, I say, ‘Yo, don’t say nuttin’, I guess I’m just a freak!’“
- “Packet Man” – Another song from their “Sex Packets” album which was a concept album loosely based on “G.S.R.A.” (Genetic Suppression Relief Antidotes) intended for astronauts. I’ll let you go down that rabbit hole further should it peak your interest. Favorite lyric: “These are 40, these are 80, and this one here is 10. Just give me a hundred dollars, I’ll call it even. But don’t pull your money out yet, see. There’s one or two narcs in this area that sweat me.”
(Also check out 2Pac’s “I Get Around” from his second album “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” The song features Shock G and Money B)
Still questioning my fandom? Well, I present to you the NSU Redmen basketball media guide from 1992-93. Just check out the nickname I gave myself when I had to fill out the questionnaire for said media guide back in 1992. (I really didn’t think they’d print it, but they did…)
Maybe “The Humpty Dance” should be the featured video in this post, but Shock G was much more than just an alter-ego with a glasses and nose prop. Jacobs learned drums early in his life as well as bass, and taught himself to play piano too. He was creative and funny and talented (Jacobs drew the cartoonish covers you see on the album covers as well). He was also occasionally raunchy and raw, but he helped cultivate the early Oakland hip-hop/rap scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and he helped give us all a solid legacy of funky rap music to enjoy.
From their 1990 debut album, “Sex Packets,” here is their first hit song and accompanying video which was actually released in 1989.
“Just havin’ fun y’all, and if you think that it’s wrong, you got to admit, it’s a new type of song, Doowutchyalike…”
R.I.P. Shock G, and wherever you are, I hope you doowutchyalike.
Peace and Humptiness forever.
the 80’s, aka “The Packet Man”
P.S. As a bonus… For an awesome abbreviated version of “Packet Man,” check out this “Sesame Street” rendition…