Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

R.I.P. Digital Underground's Shock G

Illustration for article titled R.I.P. Digital Underground's Shock G
Photo: Earl Gibson III (Getty Images)

Shock G has died. Also known to the world as Humpty (pronounced with an “umpty’), by his birth name Gregory Jacobs, or simply as the mastermind behind formative rap group Digital Underground, Shock G left his stamp on the world of music, both through his own songs, and through his extensive production work—most notably helping to launch the career of Digital Underground member Tupac Shakur. Per Variety, no cause of death has been released. Shock G was 57.

Advertisement

A musician from an early age, Jacobs was a versatile performer, as comfortable on the piano or the drumset as at the turntable or on the mic. After years of bouncing around first the East, and then the West, Coasts of America—a period that saw him work as a radio DJ, a music store employee, and more—Shock G finally landed in Oakland, where Digital Underground would eventually form. Teaming up with Chopmaster J and Kenny-K, and landing somewhere in the intersection between his beloved funk roots and the rising hip-hop movement, the band spent a few years hunting for label attention before finally introducing the world to their mix of technical precision and goofball energy, a blend that found its most extreme outlet in the form of Jacobs’ new persona: Humpty-Hump.

Affecting a nasal voice, Groucho glasses, and a brag that he “once got busy in a Burger King bathroom,” Humpty cut a figure simultaneously absurd and strangely confident, a blend that the world found itself unable to deny. (“The Humpty Dance,” the alter-ego’s signature track, and an ode to his ability to have sex despite looking like like Humpty Hump, would be Digital Underground’s most successful song ever, propelling the album Sex Packets to platinum status in the process.) As Digital Underground’s status rose, its roster expanded; most notably, Shakur joined the group shortly after Sex Packets landed; this is also how you get the bizarre trivia factoid that 2Pac’s first film performance was in Dan Aykroyd’s deeply troubled comedy Nothing But Trouble, which takes a break from its absurd and grotesque action for an impromptu Digital Underground performance. (The single, “Same Song,” became another hit for the group; meanwhile, as he often did, Shock G handed off Humpty duties to his little brother Kent Racker for the shoot so that he could perform as Shock G.)

Although Digital Underground would never hit the highs charted by “The Humpty Dance” again, the rapidly rotating group stayed together until 2008, always under Shock G’s lyrics, leadership, and enduring sense of musical humor. At the same time, Jacobs was also carving out his place as a producer, most notably through his collaborations with Shakur, which saw him co-develop breakout party anthem “I Get Around” in 1993, and contribute tracks to 2Pacaylpse Now and the double-platinum Me Against The World. Shock G also performed as a solo artist throughout this period, and with his long-time collaborator George Clinton (whose work helped inform so much of the Digital Underground’s early output), notably playing with Clinton and P-Funk at Woodstock 1999.

Shock G helped demonstrate to the world that hip-hop didn’t need to be a perpetually serious place, filling Digital Underground’s output with comedy and whimsy. (And also horniness: Man loved to brag about his exploits.) His death was announced on social media tonight by his former groupmate, Chopmaster J, who wrote on Instagram that, “34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip hop band and take on the world.”