NEW YORK -- The beat was thumping. The rap was flowing. And
Shock-G was right in on it all.
At Battery Recording Studio in Chelsea, Shock-G sat snapping his fingers to the
title track off Digital Underground's upcoming album, Who Got The
Gravy. He nodded his head, giving his approval to the album's opening rap
from Truck Turner.
Been a long time -- G -- you shouldn't have left you/
Without a heady beat you can step to/
Ever since the days when the "Humpty Dance" left you ...
By the look on his face, it was clear that the words for this particular version of
the tune had struck something deep within the rap artist.
"Call it a comeback for Digital Underground," he said.
"I just wanted to keep this light and fun."
Shock-G (a.k.a. Gregory E. Jacobs) and "Humpty Hump," his false-nose-
wearing, suave and stuttering persona, are back, joined by guest rappers KRS-
One, Biz Markie, Big Punisher, Money-B, Clee and others on Digital
Underground's return to the music scene with their fifth album, to be released
Aug. 16 on Jake Records.
The P-Funk-inspired posse of Digital Underground, with a lineup that at
one time consisted of DJ Fuze, Money-B Chopmaster J and the late Tupac
Shakur, peaked in 1990 with their platinum release Sex Packets. The
band had kids dancing with the funky "Doowutchyalike" and earned a Grammy
nomination for the single "Humpty Dance."
While Digital Underground followed up with 1991's Sons of The P and
1993's Body-Hat Rhythm, by the time they released 1996's Future
Rhythm, the band had lost its footing on the charts, as well as its
popularity with fans.
And 28-year-old Shock-G has a pretty good reason why.
"Three years ago, it was serious ghetto music -- Biggie, Tupac and Ice Cube,"
says Shock-G, speaking after wrapping up the studio session. "There really
wasn't much for us. We were all about having fun, having a party."
In the last two years, the Sacramento, Calif.-based Digital Underground, for
which Shock-G has been the most consistent member, has been on
the tour circuit, performing with Oakland, Calif., rap duo the Luniz and Bone
Thugs-N-Harmony. The low-budget tours, usually reserved for up and
coming bands, not platinum artists, included a broken-down tour bus and bad
motels -- a "humbling" experience according to Shock-G.
Produced by Gary Katz (Steely Dan), DJ Jay-Z and Shock-G, the 11 tracks on
Who Got The Gravy include raps by Big Punisher and Shock-G
on "The Mission," while "The Odd Couple" has clown princes Biz Markie and
Humpty Hump trading friendly barbs, railing on each other's style and dissing
each other's mother. Continuing his knack for trying on musical personas,
Shock-G introduces his latest -- a lawyer based on O.J. Simpson's flamboyant
and outspoken attorney Johnny Cochran -- on "Peanut Hakeem."
Ironically, it was through murdered rapper Tupac, a member of Digital
Underground in the late '80s, that Digital Underground's album Who Got
The Gravy came to life, when, last summer, Shock-G was called into the
studio by producer Gary Katz, a founder of Jake Records, and Tupac's
mother, Afeni Shakur, to help produce unreleased Tupac tracks.
"Tupac's mother wanted some authenticity brought to the tracks," Katz said.
"That's why she wanted Shock-G to help, 'cause G was there in the beginning."
Although there is no word on what, if anything, will be done with the Tupac
tracks, Katz said, last summer's production sessions of Tupac's work led to the
producer and Shock-G teaming up to work on Who Got The Gravy.
Recounting his days with Tupac, Shock-G says he lost touch with the rapper
when Tupac left Digital Underground to record under the name 2Pac,
releasing 2Pacalypse Now (1991) and a string of successful rap albums.
The 25-year-old rapper was shot in a car on the Las Vegas strip on Sept.
7, 1996, and died from his wounds six days later.
"I didn't really know him anymore," said Shock-G, who has recently been
reading a Tupac autobiography, penned by Tupac's bodyguard, to help him
learn more about his old friend.
"I'd see him, but he was different: the trends, the clothes, the whole
lifestyle," Shock-G said. "But I know Tupac wasn't really happy here -- I
think he is in a better place now ... and he did a lot of living in his 25
years, more than a lot of people will do in 80 years."
Shock-G also is puzzled over the media attention that the hip-hop feud
between LL Cool J and Canibus is getting. The battle of raps kicked off
when rapper Canibus made jabs at LL Cool J on Canibus' song
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Canibus/LP_Version.ram">"2nd Round K.O."
K.O."(RealAudio excerpt), and LL promptly retaliated, dissing Canibus
on the track
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/LL_Cool_J/The_Ripper_Strikes_Back.ram ">"The Ripper Strikes Back"
">"The Ripper Strikes Back"(RealAudio excerpt). At a recent online
chat, Canibus accused LL Cool J of taking steroids and referred to LL
with words such as "faggit ass."
"Hands down, Canibus could beat LL in an underground rap set, but LL could
shut down Canibus in terms of the whole magnitude of [LL's] entire career,"
Shock-G said. "And the Canibus record may be getting too much attention in
light of the LL feud, rather than Canibus building a nice fanbase on his