There is no surer way to turn out a house party in The Bay than throwing on some Digital Underground. Guaranteed — guys will have their biscuits grabbed. So today hurts. Especially from where I’m sitting. Bay Area legend Shock G has died at the painfully young age of 57.
The rapper, born Gregory Jacobs, who urged all to, respectfully, “Doowhutchyalike,” was found unresponsive in a hotel room in Tampa, Florida, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. No official cause of death has been announced but it was reported that he “had struggled with drug addiction for years.” Complex reports:
The hip-hop world has lost another legend.
On Thursday night, several outlets reported the death of 57-year-old Digital Underground member Shock G, birth name Gregory Jacobs. The details of his death have not been revealed; however, Digital Underground co-founder Chopmaster J confirmed the tragedy in an Instagram post.
Shock G’s father, Edward Racker, also confirmed his son’s death to TMZ, stating the cause of death remains unclear.
After moving to the Bay Area in the 1980s, Shock G and Chopmaster J formed Digital Underground with Kenny-K. The group dropped their debut studio album, Sex Packets, in 1990, and would go on to drop five more albums over the following 18 years, the most recent of which was 2008’s …Cuz a D.U. Party Don’t Stop!
Although Digital Underground had a number of hits throughout their decades-long run, their most commercially successful record was “The Humpty Dance,” which debuted in summer 1989. Shock G lead the single as his alter-ego “Humpty Hump,” who was introduced in “Doowutchyalike.”
In addition to providing vocals for Digital Underground, Shock G was also a prolific producer who worked with some of the biggest names in music: Dr. Dre, KRS-One, Bobby Brown, Money-B, and 2Pac. The latter artist appeared on Digital Underground’s 1990 track “Same Song,” which reportedly marked his first-ever verse on a major-label release.
Shock G was so much more than his goofy alter ego Humpty Hump might lead one to believe. The word genius gets thrown around a lot these days with little regard to actual merit, but Shock G’s contributions to hip-hop cannot be overstated. Yes, he introduced the world to 2Pac, but he did so much more than that. According to The New York Times:
Shock G’s musical instincts were forged by a childhood spent moving around the country. His mother worked as a television producer and his father worked as an executive in computer management. After the couple divorced, “I spent my biggest chunk of time in Tampa but I also lived in New York, Philly and California,” Shock G had told The Times. “I have always been into music and played in bands starting when I was 10 or 11.”
His grandmother, Gloria Ali, was a pianist and cabaret singer in Harlem in the 1950s. She taught him how to play “Round Midnight” on the piano. Then, as hip-hop began to gain traction in New York in the late 1970s, Shock G, who was living there at the time, recalled, “All of my friends and I sold our instruments to buy mixers and turntables.”
Shock G saw music as expansive, inclusive and experimental. “Funk can be rock, funk can be jazz and funk can be soul,” he told The Times. “Most people have a checklist of what makes a good pop song: it has to be three minutes long, it must have a repeatable chorus and it must have a catchy hook. That’s what makes music stale. We say ‘Do what feels good.’ If you like it for three minutes, then you’ll love it for 30.”
Here are some tributes to the man who was not only a king of consent (as in the beautifully sincere Kiss You Back) but also made me think twice about ever trying to use the bathroom at Burger King.
— MC HAMMER (@MCHammer) April 23, 2021
— E40 Terms & Conditions (@E40) April 23, 2021
Digital Underground hit the Apollo stage with bags over their heads claiming they were the “Unknown Rappers” from Beaumont, TX. They got booed mercilessly. Sandman even came out just as #ShockG and the crew revealed their faces. The crowd exploded
— Buddy X (@MikeTroy81) April 23, 2021
RIP Shock-G/Humpty Hump. I remember when NWA’s road manager Atron said he had a group called Digital Underground. He played DOWHATCHALIKE video & I went crazy. I had to sample DU on JACKIN FOR BEATS and WHO’S THE MACK. And nobody had a better stage show. A true Bay Area original. pic.twitter.com/skrOoM1Rsv
— Ice Cube (@icecube) April 23, 2021
2Pac as his star ⭐️ was rising telling me about how Shock G, R.I.P.OWER made it happen for him on the track, “Same Song”. Too many gone way too soon. pic.twitter.com/rvDPI5Gj0D
— FAB 5 FREDDY (@FABNEWYORK) April 23, 2021
Joy. That’s the word I keep coming back to when I think about Shock G and Digital Underground. His music celebrated the joy of hip-hop — its youth, energy, spirit of collaboration and reverence for the music that informs it. And the enthusiasm, silliness and wild abandon with which he made it is why a Digital Underground song sounds as fresh and fun today as it did 30 years ago. And that makes his death all the harder to bare. Rest easy now, Shock G. I hope there’s a Gutfest in Heaven.