Digital Underground’s Shock G passes at 57

Rapper and Digital Underground Founder Shock G

We have suddenly been hit recently with a spate of 90s hip hop stars passing. In the last two weeks we have lost DMX, Black Rob and now Grammy nominated Rapper and producer Shock G. Also known as Humpty Hump of the Bay Area hip-hop crew Digital Underground, the Hip Hop artist has passed away at age 57.

The news was first announced by his Digital Underground bandmate Chopmaster J, who posted Thursday evening on Instagram: “34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip hop band and take on the world through it all the dream became a reality and the reality became a nightmare for some. And now he’s awaken from the fame long live shock G Aka Humpty Hump and Rest In Peace my Brotha Greg Jacobs!!!” 

Shock G’s father, Edward Racker, later confirmed the news to TMZ, saying the rapper was found dead Thursday in a hotel room in Tampa, Fla. No cause of death was revealed, but Racker said there were no signs of trauma and that authorities will conduct an autopsy.

Digital Underground first hit the scene in the late ’80s and they made their own mark with their psychedelic, P-Funk-inspired party jams and high-concept, high-camp image, led by the charismatic Shock G and his many outrageous alter egos.

Shock G was also known as MC Blowfish, Icey-Michael Boston, the Computer Woman, ButtaFly, and Peanut Hakeem, among many others, but it was his most famous character, the plaid-suited, Groucho glasses and nose disguised, Burger King bathroom-frequenting Humpty Hump, that turned Digital Underground into superstars on MTV.

Born Gregory Jacobs on Aug. 25, 1963, in Brooklyn, N.Y.n he started off as a drummer and later taught himself to play piano. He settled in Tampa Florida, but after his parents divorced, he moved to Queens NY and began experimenting with turntables.

After moving back to Tampa after only two years, he formed a mobile DJ crew called the Master Blasters and became an on-air personality for WTMP.  Jacobs, who had dropped out of high school while living in Florida, eventually resumed his education and met a musician named Kenneth “Kenny-K” Waters while attending Hillsborough Community College.

The two started collaborating, and after another move to Oakland, California, they formed Digital Underground with Jimi “Chopmaster J” Dright in 1987.

Digital Underground’s first single, Underwater Rimes, topped the pop chart in the Netherlands in 1988.  The group signed to Tommy Boy Records a year later and scored a U.S. hit with Doowutchyalike, which went to No. 29 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and No. 19 Hot Rap Singles chart despite getting almost no radio airplay.

That single did receive support from MTV, placing 40th on the cable network’s top 100 music videos of 1989 list, but it was another single from the group’s 1990 debut album, Sex Packets, that established them as platinum-selling sensations.

The Humpty Dance which featured samples from Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100, No. 7 on the R&B chart, and No. 1 on the Billboard Rap Singles chart. It also went on to become one of the most sampled hip-hop songs of all time. 

Some of the artists who have sampled it over the years include ABC, Gang Starr, Guy, Heavy-D & the Boys, Ice Cube, Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, Public Enemy, Redman, Sade, Will Smith, the Spice Girls, TLC, and 2Pac.

A young, unknown Tupac Shakur actually made a brief appearance in the Humpty Dance video and got his start in the music business as Digital Underground’s roadie and backup dancer, making his recording debut on the Digital Underground single Same Song in 1991.

In addition to his work with Digital Underground, as a solo recording artist, and as a guest rapper on tracks by everyone from George Clinton to Too $hort, Jacobs was a successful music producer. He produced Tupac Shakur’s I Get Around  in 1993 and So Many Tears in 1995, and co-produced 2Pac’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.

He also co-wrote LL Cool J’s 1991 hit Mama Said Knock You Out. Jacobs’s production and remixing discography also included work for Bobby Brown, Dr. Dre, KRS-One, Monie Love, Murs, Prince, and Sir Mix-a-Lot.

Fellow Musicians React

As expected, news spread fast among the music industry. From Ice Cube to drummer Sheila E., tweets expressing their sadness and shock began to appear.