Doin’ tha Humpty Hump, again and again
An angle not normally explored during the traditional stories celebrating the return of 1990s hip-hop stars Digital Underground – who bring their very much up-to-date oldies act to 8150 tonight – is the group’s intertwined history with the late 2Pac Shakur, one of the most notable casualties of ongoing East Coast-West Coast rap rivalries.
Nearly everyone who visited dance clubs in the pre-Nirvana days remembers doing “The Humpty Dance,” DU’s breakthrough 1990 hit. You’ll probably remember the group as a light and lively alternative to the more aggressive sounds coming out of Southern California at the time, a giddy and happily sex-crazed ensemble who mixed Parliament-Funkadelic’s musical absurdities with some bumpin’ beats.
And of course you’ll remember the split-personality antics of the group’s leader, Shock-G – a strange and multi-talented individual whose best known alter ego was the fake nose-toting, Groucho Marx-style bon vivant called Humpty Hump.
It’s less well-known that Digital Underground was essentially the starting ground for the late 2Pac, a performer whose legacy seemed to grow immeasurably after being gunned down in Las Vegas (not to mention his musical output, with innumerable posthumous releases continuing to hit the record store racks).
Digital Underground got its start in 1987 in Oakland when transplanted East Coaster Shock-G (Greg Jacobs) teamed with Chopmaster J to record the single “Underwater Rimes,” which became a No. 1 hit in the Netherlands.
The group signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989, expanding its membership to include DJ Fuze, Money-B and Schmoovy-Schmoov, and hit the charts with the single “Doowutchyalike.” 1990’s CD “Sex Packets” was hugely successful – with “The Humpty Dance” getting huge airplay, even on MTV.
That period also marked the release of 1991’s “This is an EP Release,” the first to feature 2Pac’s vocals. The young performer had gotten his start with the band as a roadie and dancer but was eventually brought on board as a full-fledged player, initially signed to the group’s label as a rapper (little-known fact: 2Pac’s earliest stage name was MC New York).
2Pac continued to work with Digital Underground through the early 1990s, although the group’s 1991 album “Sons of the P” didn’t enjoy quite the same success as its predecessor. 1993’s “The Body-Hat Syndrome” found the group relegated to semi-obscurity; several CDs have followed in the decade since but nothing’s ever quite matched the success of “The Humpty Dance.”
That said, Shock-G continues to work the circuit and provides one of the most energetic and full-fledged classic hip-hop shows around. A DVD of Digital Underground’s finest moments was released this year and Shock’s website, http://www.shockg.com, provides loads of insight into the band’s history, Shock’s own wit and wisdom and even video segments hosted by the late 2Pac himself.
Digital Underground plays at 8150 tonight at 10 p.m.
The Humpty Dance
what: Digital Underground with openers, The Alkoholics
when: Today, 10 p.m.
where: 8150, Vail
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