Digital Underground Biography

This rap crew was among the genre’s most faithful advocates of the style of funk created by the likes of Parliament and Funkadelic. The unit was formed in the mid-80s in Oakland, California by Shock-G (Gregory E. Jacobs, 25 August 1963, USA; keyboards/vocals) and Chopmaster J (samples/percussion). Other key members included DJ Fuze (b. David Elliot, 8 October 1970, Syracuse, New York, USA). Shock-G subsequently introduced his alter-ego, Eddie ‘Humpty Hump’ Humphrey, and Money B (b. Ron Brooks). According to Digital Underground legend, back in 1987 Humphrey sustained severe burns in a freak kitchen accident. He was forced to continue his rapping career with the addition of a false nose. Instead of hiding the event surreptitiously, however, Humphrey chose a joke nose, leading to much merriment and a series of tribute records. Among these were ‘the ‘Humpty Dance’ routine, wherein the protagonist extols his ability to still, despite such deformity, get his snout into the object of his desire’s pants. Typically, there was a good-natured verve to the recording that militated against any possible offence.

Digital Underground’s staple diet of P-Funk and Funkadelic samples is evident on most of their recordings, including a concept debut album (1990’s Sex Packets). The subtext was the ruse of a mad scientist marketing a drug that caused the recipients to have wet dreams. Shock-G/Humpty Hump adopted the characters of two dealers, and despite the threadbare plot it actually managed to exceed its comic potential. Alongside the samples it also introduced live piano and musicians, which were also in evidence on the follow-up, This Is An EP Release. The latter included two tracks from the dreadful Nothing But Trouble movie in which Digital Underground appeared. However, The Body-Hat Syndrome, its name alluding to prophylactics, paid simply too many compliments to the P-Funk coalition, ending up sounding highly derivative. 2Pac (b. Parish Lesane Crooks, 16 June 1971, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, d. 13 September 1996, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA), formerly a full-time member, joined for a few verses on ‘Wussup Wit The Luv’, complaining about drug dealers selling to children, a rare outbreak of moral responsibility. There were three newcomers for The Body-Hat Syndrome : DJ Jay Z, Clee and Saafir (aka the Saucy Nomad). The album also came with an invitation to vote in the Humpty Dance Awards, run by their fan club. In the grim world of hardcore rap Digital Underground offered a welcome release from corpses and curses. Money B and DJ Fuze also recorded two albums as Raw Fusion.

Following their move from Tommy Boy Records the unit signed with a smaller label, Critique, and issued Future Rhythm after a three-year gap in 1996. Despite having been eclipsed commercially by a new generation of hip-hop crews, the vibrant Who Got The Gravy? proved Digital Underground still had the capability to create some memorable music. Following its release the members of Digital Underground returned to their various solo projects.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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