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Digital Underground's Shock G, Legend Behind 'The Humpty Dance' Dead At 57

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The hip-hop artist Shock G, leader of the group Digital Underground, has died. He was 57 years old. He was born Greg Jacobs, though you may know him better by an alter ego.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HUMPTY DANCE")

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND: (Rapping) So just let me introduce myself. My name is Humpty, pronounced with an umpty (ph). Yo, ladies.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

"The Humpty Dance" was Digital Underground's big hit in 1990. Around that time, a young Tupac Shakur joined the crew as a backup dancer. Shock G recognized he had vocal talent and started getting him to make guest appearances on tracks.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAME SONG")

TUPAC SHAKUR: (Rapping) Now I clown around when I hang around with the Underground. Girls who used to frown say, I'm down, when I come around, gas me. And when they pass me, they used to diss me, harass me. But now they ask me if they can kiss me. Get some fame. People change.

KELLY: Shock G later helped to produce Tupac's debut album and, after that, his breakout single, "I Get Around."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I GET AROUND")

SHAKUR: (Rapping) When will you learn you can't tie me down, baby doll? Check it out. I get around. What you mean you don't know? Round and round, round we go. I get around.

DANYEL SMITH: The thing about Shock and Pac was this - they both had a lot of absence in their lives, I think, from just, like, family. And so they just bonded very quickly for that reason, I think.

SHAPIRO: That's music journalist Danyel Smith, author and host of the show "Black Girl Songbook." She remembers interviewing Shock G and the whole Digital Underground crew in Oakland, Calif.

SMITH: And in a way that things went back then in the Bay Area, we were also just a group of young people with common interests, and we all became very good friends.

SHAPIRO: As a musician, Shock G was deeply indebted to the sound of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. He once said Digital Underground is where Parliament left off. Danyel Smith remembers her friend Shock G as intensely creative, always working behind a locked door but also the center of every party.

SMITH: Shock was a genius of bass. Like, he just - he knew how to make it. He knew how to manipulate it. And he knew how it would make everybody feel. It's - he was just a genius of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KNEE DEEP (DEEP AS A MUTHA FUNKER REMIX)")

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND: (Singing) She tried to work me. It did not work - see? - 'cause Humpty Hump's about to go berserk. Yeah, she tried to jerk me. Shock G said no. So let me, let me floss 'cause here we, here we go.

KELLY: Shock G died yesterday in Tampa, Fla. As of yet, there's no cause of death given.

SHAPIRO: Jimi Dright, known as Chopmaster J, co-founded Digital Underground with Shock G in 1987. Yesterday he wrote on Instagram, 34 years ago almost to the day, we had a wild idea we could be a hip-hop band and take on the world. Through it all, the dream became a reality.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIGITAL UNDERGROUND SONG, "THE HUMPTY DANCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.