February 27, 2024
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A Tribute to the late Shock G of Digital Underground [by Michael Hodge]

Our homie Hodge occasionally gets inspired to write an editorial for Faygoluvers, and unfortunately his latest is due to the tragic loss of a hip hop legend: Shock G.

Hodge had a personal relationship with Shock, and offers an interesting perspective due to that friendship, and his vast knowledge of the music industry.  Check out what Hodge sent in below:

Was the world gifted a truly universal musician…without being fully aware? Well, even that bold claim doesn’t quite do this man justice, because he was so much more than a pigeonholed musician. Really, he was a deeply underrated humanitarian, but in the least assertive sense. Gifted with a knack for delivering his anecdotes in the broadest spectrum of ways, and none shy on humor or far-sightedness about the absurdity, or just human nature that’s got us doin what we do and goin in whichever way our compass takes us. Was he brilliant at his best? Check. Flawed at his finest? Again check. But was he always on a path to be his most authentic self, even if that “self” contained a whole roster of varying personas. If that last comment was confusing, there’s a whole back-catalog just begging for your attention. Don’t be expecting anything like what his protégé Tupac Shakur showcased to the masses. Digital Underground was a whole different animal. Its genre-bending content could never be epitomized by just one descriptor. It was a cavalcade of lunacy, with a generous slathering of party scene, a curveball of introspection, and a hyperactive level of eroticism. Maybe try envisioning the free-spirit of a hippie, but with a fashion-forward sense of style, and with the sharpest sense of humor.  Street smart to the core, but could also provide a thorough walkthrough of history’s greatest rockers/blues/jazz players, mainstream OR underground. That was what Shock-G strived for, or better yet, just gravitated towards.

It’s hard to put into words the sense of loss I’ve felt sense the news of his untimely passing last Thursday. Maybe it’s because the typical grief I’d feel following the news of any great’s passing, was instead heavily layered with a sense of wonderment or even maybe bewilderment. That’s because when I learn of someone’s passing, especially an entertainer, I instantly tend to analyze their body of work. Shock’s resume is as diverse as any person I could even fathom. Aside from his multiplatinum status as an emcee, you quickly remember that (just as Prince famously did), Shock produced ALL the music of his group. That wasn’t the byproduct of years’ worth of strict musical lessons either. This man was self-taught in the arts of- instrumentation (especially piano, drums, and turntables), mixing, engineering, sampling, and even the lost art of scoring. If that already wasn’t enough hats to wear, he was also an exceptional cartoonist, responsible for the creation of art used for all of his group’s album covers/jackets, promotional materials, merchandise, etc. Another talent that he explored later on in his career was that of a comedian. Not long after Digital Underground disbanded, Shock began to take a new comedian/variety hour act on the road. While somewhat of a strange departure for such an esteemed name in hip hop, he not only knocked it out the park, but did so with ease.

Now, it’s no secret that often times within a group’s arrangement, strong personalities will begin to find creative differences, making it almost a chore to manifest these successful joint endeavors. Now imagine if that harmony seemed a bit fractured on a track. That friction usually bleeds through, but also makes me pay even closer attention, because things just got more interesting right? How brilliant would it be though, if this friction that captured our attention was not only by design, but was the product of the multiple personalities created (and voiced) by one man, aka Shock-G(enius). For example, on a guest feature (“Freaky Pumps”) for former Pharcyde member Fatlip, Shock-G could be heard goin line for line with his polar opposite brother Humpty Hump, over a disagreement about how to tip a stripper- “We up inside the strip club. Droppin bill after bill after bill after bill. I’m mad at you. Yo, for real? Yeah. Cause you went up in your sock again. True. But these ain’t Jackson’s or Hamiltons, I give them Washingtons. Well, both of ya’ll are dumb, Hump gives them none….”.  This example wasn’t just an isolated occurrence either, this was a way of life that was housed within all D.U. albums. And oh yeah, it wasn’t just Shock-G & Humpty Hump battling for real estate on the tracks, Shock (Greg Jacobs) invented over a half dozen personalities to accompany whatever concept the track called for. Other than Kool Keith, who really doesn’t present his multiple personas within a single song, nobody has pulled this off before, and probably never really will.

Before I lose myself in some long winded spiel about the man’s worth as a boundary breaking force within the music business, let me attempt to explain the personal connection I had with Shock-G, and maybe that will provide a bit more clarity as to why I feel so strongly about his contributions. Digital Underground’s stand-out track will forever be immortalized as “The Humpy Dance” no doubt. But, that track came out a bit too early to sync up with my life at the time. It was their third LP, The Body Hat Syndrome, that provided the soundtrack to my youth! This album is a masterpiece of liberating, feral, conscious, and, well, “in-heat” madness. And at the core of our teenage or early twenties, isn’t that basically the same punch bowl of everything we’ve got goin on inside us anyways? It was a perfect pairing, at least for me anyways.

Fast forward to 2003, when I finally had the opportunity to catch Digital Underground on tour. It was so important to me to witness some of this magic I’d heard on wax all these years, but in real time, to more or less prove to myself that this greatness was truly organic, and not just some sort of studio sorcery at its finest. These guys did not disappoint. They pulled out all the hits, spanning across 5 albums. They even brought out The Luniz as a special surprise, and c’mon who couldn’t be excited to hear “I got 5 on it” live and in person!?!

After the concert I had the good fortune to meet this rather reserved guy named Greg. Of course I knew right away that it was Shock-G in the flesh. However, his vibe was so polite and appreciative of the support through the years. Not a hint of being too cool or rambunctious, like his two main personas. Being a self-appointed musicologist of sorts, I started to dig deep into the creative process that birthed some of these gems they’ve given us. It was when I mentioned my fondness for “The Body Hat Syndrome” that Shock’s face lit-up with pride and excitement. Fellow group members Money-B and Clee were standing around at that point, and being the collective crew that made up this album, they all reminisced about how fun it was to create this chaotic work of genius. Of course, in my naïve mind, I figured that a masterpiece of this caliber would have taken months or maybe years to culminate into the finished product. Nope. Shock told me with a huge smile on his face, that it only required about 2 weeks to make from start to finish, and that the main source of motivating juices was “all fueled by shrooms”. This was a surprise to me, because aside from the insanity of tracks like “jerkit circus” or “do you like it dirty”, this album explored some profoundly deep concepts. Tracks like the prophetic song “wassup with the love” (featuring Tupac Shakur), would become a spitting image of modern society’s struggles with police brutality against minorities. But as Shock mentioned throughout the years, the drugs “used, but NOT abused”, only heightened his levels of creativity or depth of a subject matter. I can’t really argue that. I doubt the album would be as indescribable if a sober mind created it. I don’t even know how I should feel about that tbh.

While still on the topic of that first encounter with the Digital Underground crew, get this, when I presented a copy of their “Greatest Hits” album (put out by Tommy Boy Records), none of them had even seen it, or really even knew that it had been officially released. This blew my mind, because as contributors of this accumulative piece of their musical lineage, things like a professional courtesy apparently did not exist once labels were departed. Shock leaned in and asked me if the arrangement of tracks seemed decent, or if any replay value even existed or not, and he was being serious. His face appeared somber, almost like he was bracing for a harsh review. I was just a bit puzzled that he didn’t seem to recognize the magnitude of what he’d accomplished through the years. But as I’d come to find out over time, his stage confidence and bravado of his personas that defined the Characters of Shock-G and Humpty Hump, were a far departure from the humble artist who would most often reside within his vessel. And oh yeah, Clee and Numskull (of the Luniz fame), were also stunned to see a copy of another album that they assumed had been shelved by the label. I felt a little bad for them, as it appeared as if their label was pulling a fast one, by making them assume a project was D.O.A., while all the while they were selling it under the radar of the artists. SMH.

During the tail-end of what ended up being a deep-dive convo into some of the most obscure musical interests you could imagine, I provided Shock with the framework of an interview I hoped to conduct with him someday. I could tell by his initial gracious, but skeptical expression, that he thought he’d be looking at another in a long list of “Humpty” fueled inquiries. As a student of his back catalog, this distinction became evident as he skimmed through. His expression quickly changed to one of urgency as we traded contacts. I already felt a sense of relief of having crafted these questions to depict the legacy of an unsung great, because upon first impression, Shock seemed a bit self-aware, when asked about most any of his achievements. It was almost like he was trying his hardest to resist the urge to scan for backhanded praise or sarcasm. That was a bit disheartening, because as a firm fan of his work, nobody, especially its creator, should second guess what he’s contributed. But, on the same hand, it was very humanizing to see that he was a creature of the same insecurities as the rest of us.

In less than a day after I provided him with the interview questions, I got an email back with some of the most profound responses I could’ve hoped for. He went into the most colorful detail about factoids like: having an impromptu set during a massive music festival (courtesy of Erykah Badu), or discovering a young female emcee by the name of Mystic, and giving her a platform to flourish far beyond the confines that D.U. could provide (2001 Grammy nominee). I posted the interview front and center on a now defunct, but at one time, very high traffic (32K hits a day) entertainment website. This interview also happened to occur in that awkward phase for a musician, where their public image fell into that “what have you done for me lately” stage, versus the a few years further down the road “nostalgic, we miss you/need you back” stage. I could sense that the effort was much appreciated, and that the lack of cliché Humpty or 2Pac focus was a welcomed departure from the norm, as Shock and I would stay in touch for the next seven years.

The next time I got to meet up with Shock was during a tour that he served as musical director for. This tour was headlined by future Strange Music signee Murs and featured a talented lineup of RJD2 and Living Legend’s own Scarub. As I made my way towards the Venue, I saw Shock near his tour bus and went to say hello. It was pretty dark under the night sky, but as soon as Shock heard it was me he became ecstatic. That’s sorta when I realized just how meaningful that first interview was to him, because although we’d become pen pals by this point, the way he then introduced me to all members on that tour was just so upbeat and welcoming. He went out of his way to make sure I landed an interview with Murs as well. He thought that the world was truly owed more awareness of just how talented Murs is. Murs and I actually chatted quite a bit later that night, but not about music, we totally clicked over our fondness of Pro Wrestling. Get this, when John Cena once hurt his knee from getting tossed out of the Rumble by Big Show, Murs saw this “live” during the ppv and instantly texted Cena about his injury…to which Cena hollered back right away. How cool is that! But yeah, Shock was absolutely right, Murs is a great musician as well. And as for Scarub (Living Legends), sooooo underrated. In fact, and after hearing him perform “live” on this tour, he was one of my first suggestions for another close friend’s (Myzery’s) collaboration “must have” list (which actually did happen, just not for like another 16 years), lol.  That whole vintage label DexJux crew was just a powerhouse of amazing talent. That was such a great era to be an underground hip hop fan.

It was almost show time. Near the door to the venue, Shock was approached by a young man who was at first awe struck to meet “Tupac’s mentor”. This young man, who told us that he went by the handle “Flames”, was an aspiring emcee. He asked Shock for pointers, and a whole gambit of questions about the business, and of course about Pac. Seeing this kid’s age (17 at the most), I half assumed that Shock would just give him some generic advice, a dap, and be on his way for mic check. I was very wrong. Shock dedicated an intense amount of concentration to what the kid was saying, and more importantly what he was meaning to say. He then asked if everyone wouldn’t mind giving him some space. Once separated from the crowd, Shock had Flames perform a few of his best prepared verses for him. He didn’t listen with any spring-loaded “I’ve seen the best, I’ve heard the best, and you’re just…” type of comments. Instead he nourished every positive fiber he could detect in that young man’s craft. It was a moving gesture, but not nearly as touching as what happened next.

Following this impromptu talent showcase, Shock told the kid that he was going to offer him something, but that the price was serious. He offered him a chance to perform as a live “guest spot” during his set. Shock said that he would pause the performance, and introduce Flames to his hometown crowd. Flames would have that opportunity to bring his A-game. The cost, as Shock put it, would be that Flames reserve all of his focus into this moment, as most peers are snakes in disguise, and chances like this would be few and far between. Although, Flames attempted to downplay the gesture, I watched as his eyes began to well up. I myself have been to way too many concerts for any straight-edge guy, with the bulk of them probably being hip hop shows. This gesture was a first for me. To help put this into even greater perspective; Shock was the musical director of this tour. Meaning, the man that made sure everything ran smoothly. Yes, Shock did have a small surprise set of his own built into the show, but to offer up a portion of that borrowed time, and to an unknown name, and just to give this kid a 1st time chance to shine…just unreal compassion right there!

Of course the plan didn’t go down as scheduled. About a half an hour after the venue’s doors opened, a big commotion broke out near the bar. Shock took notice and ditched his sound check routine to see what the deal was. Of course, Flames was the cause. By this point the bouncers had just shoved him out the door. Shock went outside to check on the kid, who was an absolute d*ck to him at first. It became clear that Flames was attempting to buy alcohol, but with a fake ID. Again, assuming that Shock would finally write all of this mess off as just too much of a headache and be done with the matter, I was dead wrong. Shock went into full jedi mind trick mode with the bouncers. They were steadfast at first, but Shock broke the tension by reminding them that sometimes people just need a shot to be something more than a failure. Still, too much reluctance to let Flames back inside the venue. It wasn’t until Shock gathered a large crowd and proclaimed to everyone, that “if this young cat” did anything else to disrupt the club, Shock would personally pay the venue’s liquor license fines. Finally, it was this huge gesture that struck a chord with the club’s manager, not that he hoped the kid would break the condition, but that somebody would do that for a complete stranger. The plan was finally back in affect.

I watched the show’s lineup come and go that night, intently waiting for Shock’s surprise, and wondering how this notoriously unforgiving crowd would respond to an unknown emcee eating up their time. Then, true to his word, Shock stopped his set, and invited Flames to the stage. Seconds turned to minutes. Shock called out for him a few more times, but to no avail. This young kid had apparently bailed on him. You could see that this really bothered Shock, but the show must go on, and on it did. A little while after the show I did ask him about that debacle. You could tell that he was still pretty disappointed. Not so much for the awkward moment he presented the crowd with, cause they’d get over it no doubt, but for the missed opportunity to repair a down trodden youngster’s self-esteem, or maybe even his life’s trajectory. You could tell that the whole thing really messed with his head and had him in a funk for a bit.

After the show, the night was still young,…well, to a creature of the night like Shock & Company at least. This was the frontman of Digital Underground, a Grammy nominated, world renowned group…and I wasn’t about to tap out early. Murs, Shock, Scarub and myself decided to find a spot to eat. We ended up at this themed diner called “The Paper Moon” in Baltimore. It was decked out in action figure memorabilia. Pretty cool. Well, at least the aesthetics were. It became pretty apparent that at least one of the servers didn’t care for the company I was keeping. This seemed pretty telling, since he was a white dude and so am I…the only one of the group that was treated with any decency. After many light hearted attempts at humor (on Shock’s part) to get the server to engage with us, it was too obvious that this was no misidentified bias. It was at this point that Shock discretely engaged the diner’s manager off to the side. In what seemed like a very animated/productive discussion, resulted in the manager getting into position within ear shot of our table. When Shock now flagged down our server to politely inquire as to why our orders were never taken, our questions were never fielded, and our manners never matched, and if there was anything we had done as a collective to offend our server, the server attempted to go off on us. Well, for a matter of seconds, until the manager who was waiting within earshot rushed our table. Did the server deny or downplay his actions. Nope! He fully admitted his dislike of certain people, people who he claimed were always stiffing him or inventing drama. Result, fired on the spot. The rest of our stay was treated with the presidential service. The manager was overly apologetic and straight hooked us up by comp’ing our meals and treating us all with great respect. Funny though, you’d think that ugliness woulda cast a cloud of the rest of the night, but it actually somehow triggered this great sense of victory and camaraderie. I guess from sharing in the same moment, and getting a result that was actually fitting. It was also during this diner visit that Shock enlightened me of something I’d never forget. When the manager took our orders, I asked for the special, minus the bacon. Shock seemed relieved when I said that. I guess he assumed that I shared his vegan views. Really, I just don’t dig bacon (I know, I’m crazy). Knowing that others should be free to enjoy whatever they want (ref.”dowhatchalike”), and without judgment, Shock leaned in towards me, and in a super quiet tone, mentioned “Thank you for that. People love dogs and all. But if they knew that pigs were actually more emotional than dogs, maybe they’d think twice — you hear what I’m saying”. This was not spoken by the cool-calm-collected Shock-G from “Freaks of the Industry” fame, this was an authentic moment, spoken from a kind-hearted place within Greg Jacobs.

During a separate date on that tour, I met up with Shock again. This time, and before heading to the venue, we had to make a quick stop at the hotel to grab some equipment. It was here that I stumbled into a life lesson that I’ve always sorta reflected back on. Always eager to expand his own perspectives through other people’s distinctive nuances, Shock took the opportunity to do a deep dive into my history. When discussing my family and upbringing, Shock was excited to hear that, like himself, I have a stepparent from another race. While comparing notes to how this may have actually helped us flourish in areas where sole culture households could not embrace such unknowns to them, Murs overheard our discussion and joined in the conversation. Murs, coming from a place of preservation and good intentions, politely challenged this logic of interracial relationships, beyond its progressive appearance. Again, and I must stress this, Murs was in no way being a racist. He was simply questioning the preservation of sacred ethnic purity, if the gene pools keep getting diluted by others. I totally got where he was coming from, and so did Shock. However, and with the best example of grace and diplomacy that one could apply to such a complex subject, I watched Shock turn opposing viewpoints into a teachable moment. Well, at least it was for me for sure. To combat, or better yet, expand upon the sheltered views towards interracial relationships, Shock demonstrated the likelihood of interracial children inheriting the most beneficial gene’s…because they get the best from both worlds. And this was almost presented as being from a natural selection viewpoint. He summed it up by stating that in historical cases like Royal hierarchy, those couples generally looked alike, because the gene pools were so stagnant (to keep the royal fortunes within the fam). Those generations and the generations to come were riddled with medical concerns. But, for the welfare of a species, the most adept of us would be armed with genetics from parents who looked the furthest from one another as possible. A poignant example he gave was if one parent was from a cold climate region, but the other parents was from a tropical climate, that child would be gifted the genes to persevere in both conditions, making that generation and those to come more equipped to survive and thrive. And while that was very simplified way to prove a point, it all clicked, and made total sense. Now, as a father myself, and of a beautiful mixed baby, his words ring truer than ever whenever I look at her beautiful face, so full of rich culture and love.

During this same night, and as I was taking Murs, Scarub, and Shock back to the venue, I put on a playlist of some overlooked Digital Underground cuts. One of which was a rare cover of a song called “Strawberry Letter 22”. Shock’s expression immediately changed from lighthearted to nervous. In a desperate (almost fearful) sounding voice, he told me that Murs and Scarub shouldn’t hear that song, and asked what else was on the playlist. I said no problem, but wondered what was up? He told me that he’d be waaaay too embarrassed for them to hear him on this type of track. I’m guessing he was insecure about the track being too “sawft” or perhaps too mellow, for an audience of what he might have deemed as a more no-nonsense breed of rapper. I think my hunch was correct, because the track he pegged as more worthy of their attention, was a track called “No DNA” and was about accidentally killing a girl and disposing of the body. Again, another surprising show of insecurity regarding his own talents, and from a guy that was once hand picked by Prince himself to produce his music. Or maybe this fear of appearing sensitive or less than gangster had something to do with the personas he made famous? I mean the humpty character, was at least on paper, nearly everything Shock (or better yet Greg) wasn’t. Just a decade earlier, Shock was starring in a series of Nike commercials, in full Humpty mode, and with NBA G.O.A.T Michael Jordan. Humpty was at one point, and later reinforced by the overwhelming tv coverage of Shock’s passing, a beloved household name. His outlandish look, unrelenting gusto, over indulgence, and womanizing tendencies, landed Shock in all these situations of fame. The real life Shock, he was such a minimalist, he didn’t even own a tv or microwave. He just deemed them as excesses.

By the way, and not to try and claim any partial ownership of a pivotal moment in Shock-G’s discography, but I want you to remember that story about the discussion Shock had with Murs about interracial relationships. Now, up to this point Shock had begun to market his upcoming solo album with the working title of “Hallucinations”. If you grab a copy of his first and only solo album, and if you look deeply enough at the cover art, you can still see that the original title of “Hallucinations” is still there, just buried under the eventual title of “Fear of a Mixed Planet”. This could be just a coincidence, but that title change occurred almost immediately after the encounter I described earlier, in which Shock was passionate to explain to Murs why mixed children were often times granted the greatest blessing, by inheriting the strongest genetics from both parent’s ethnicities. Maybe that conversation sparked something in Shock’s psyche that drove him to re-package his whole album? If so, I’d feel forever grateful for being a part of the conversation that ignited this closer examination of opposing views. Btw, to see the album that I’m referring to, in its original state (“Hallucinations”), please see the attachments. Shock actually gave me that pre-master version of the album, complete with cover art, on that same night.

Click to enlarge!

But why did he give me such an invaluable project he hadn’t even turned in for release yet? Because he was always his own boss, and did what he felt was the righteous thing to do. I’m guessing that was a nod for either connecting with his unconventional spirit, or always trying to get the word out about his projects. He seemed to always pay his debts in ways he felt would be most meaningful to the recipient. Gutsy gamble though. I got an only copy of an album I could’ve leaked everywhere, but instead did with it exactly what he’d expected…appreciated it. In fact, in a grandiose example of how Shock paid tribute to people, he once mentioned to me that he got tattoos of artists names, who in his words, “risked their good reputations to be on a collaboration with him”. Again, not sure that an artist responsible for timeless top ten hits like “I got 5 on it” (collab with the Luniz), “I get around” (Tupac’s first smash single), and “The Humpty Dance”, would ever be considered anything but braggin rights to have on a track. In the wake of an artist’s passing, to be immensely praised by industry giants like- Ice Cube, Quest Love, Talib Kweli, and Fat Joe, and as nothing short of an influential genius, he definitely seemed a bit too hard on himself.

In fact, the President of Tommy Boy records (Tom Silverman) once proclaimed that “Shock-G is a genius, maybe the most talented artist I ever worked with”. But for whatever reason, Shock would often refute people’s claims of his talent by stating “really, I consider myself the whackest rapper”. And by the way, when Talib Kweli made the claim about Shock being an influence on every single aspect of the industry, that wasn’t just flattering lip service to the memory of a fallen peer. If Shock-G never spawned a raucous split personality like Humpty Hump, would Kool Keith have split off into his most successful endeavors of Dr. Octagon or Dr. Dooom? Would Eminem’s D12 have had the idea to have a crew of 6 representing a crew of a dozen? Even Garth Brooks, would he have risked his sales on creating his split personality Chris Gaines, allowing him to explore his Rock aspirations? I don’t think it’d be too far-fetched that Shock’s genius would seep over into Rock. After all, Pop/Rock Superstar Beck has stated that he was such a big fan of D.U.’s “Sex Packets” album, that he was inches from recording a cover of the entire album. Nineties breakout star Fiona Apple’s fandom of D.U. was so deep that she admitted to their album being her first rap purchase. I challenge anyone to listen to Twiztid’s track (circa Psychopathic era) “Star Dust” and tell me it’s not a carbon copy of Digital Underground’s hit single “Sex Packets”. The resemblance is just too uncanny to deny.

I know anything is possible, and it’s a huge world out there, but I think even the most well-versed hip hop heads would be hard pressed to find an emcee as diverse as Shock-G. And I’m not even taking any of his talents as a producer into consideration. Strictly song concepts. To better illustrate this point, here’s just a cross section of Shock’s back catalog- “Sun iz a Pimp” (yup, a song about appreciating the actual sun and what it does for us), “Cinnamon Waves” (a love letter to a long lost love, and congrats on her improved life without him), “Used 2 b a Sperm” (an analogy of how race wars, religious wars, and false desire’s cost so many their chance to truly live), “Underwater Rhymes” (the hilarious day-to-day adventures of being a fish in the deep blue sea), “Blue Sky’s” (appreciate the beauty of life, too much violence in the world), “Opinions” (playful exchange with peers over the ripple effect of naïve opinions), “Cyberteeth Tigers” (a funny analyzation of the meanings behind all types of smiles, whether friend or foe), “On One” (if you’re luck’s looking up, ride that wave out), “We’re all Killers” (everybody stop acting tough. Unlock your Kid Side), “Do you like it dirty” (a story of a kinky female cop, trading a ticket for a freaky encounter), “federal food fight” (yup, all the strategies needed to succeed at a high stakes food fight), “jerkit circus” (a safe way to avoid STD’s, by taking matters into your own hands, literally), “Future Rhythm” (the prophetic 1995 view of what the future/internet had in store for dating. Spot-on!), and “Walk Real Cool” (how to have swagger galore, despite any superficial flaws). And although I just went out of my way to provide proof of Shock’s propensity to explore so many lanes of expression, he did typically keep one critical aspect intact in nearly all examples of his work. Humor! If I was to produce a short list of emcee’s possessing a razor sharp sense of humor, my Mount Rushmore would look like this- Shock-G, Violent J (ICP), Brooks Buford (Rehab), and Fatlip (Pharcyde). But yeah, even amongst such a distinctive group of peers, I think Shock would still edge out the competition. C’mon with bars like “now if I am what I eat, I hope I’m not a big Cowchie…substitute the ow for the ooch”, and “If you miss me I’ll be layin in the cuts, wreckin big butts, scratchin my…knees, cause my homegirl’s cat gots fleas”, or “ever wonder what a girl’s a$$shole does while she’s getting ate out, probably passed out on the couch, drunk with tv on, laid out…he didn’t hear me pull the gate out”. And that’s the type of word play that was a common fixture throughout his albums. And while not necessarily attempting to be funny, I vividly remember a conversation with Shock, in which he was describing a major difference between men and women. He told me that if there was a cute girl working the line at a burger joint, most guys would still see her as hot and try to flirt with her. However, he said if the tables were turned, there’s no way in hell a woman would give that guy the time of day. Nope, they wouldn’t even weigh the notion, unless that man had some promise of success goin for him. I still think about that and laugh. For the most part, I think a simple survey would produce these exact same findings. Was he trying to say that men are dogs, or that women are instinctively ingrained for seek out a mate that will provide a more secure future? Who knows, but it was pretty spot-on! And I guess the comedy aspect of his music made total sense, as I’ve heard him state, on more occasions than one, that D.U. resonated different with its listeners. While in hip hop we’ve come to expect rappers voicing views as if they were providing news for/from the streets, his style was, in his own words- “more like Porky’s, Spring Break, or Comedy Central, than a CNN feed.”.

While his passing came far too soon, I’m relieved that during his lifetime examples of peers appreciation or the media’s acknowledgment of his impact was still very accessible to him. Around the time (2010) of an open letter Shock penned, proclaiming that he had graduated from the demands and disappointments of the rapper label that he was confined in, he mentioned that far too often he would be sought by a starving artist for a guest feature. And unable to turn down a favor from an admirer, or a person struggling (as he once had) to pursue his dream, he more often than not wouldn’t receive payment for his troubles. This was insane to me, as I have helped my close friend (Myzery) shape many collaborations, and hardly anybody would work under a “labor of love” banner anymore. Shock-G did, and apparently far too frequent to feel truly appreciated for his years of legendary contributions. At least if he kept his ear to the industry, he may have heard the deeply rooted love sent his way and imbedded within his peers lyrics. Peers like- Proof (D12), Wyclef, Keith Murray, Tech N9ne, Myzery, Rah Digga fFlipmode Squad), Royce the 5”9, N.O.R.E., Mobb Deep, J-Dilla, KMK, and Wolfpac have all either name dropped, referenced, or covered Shock’s material. ICP frontman Violent J not only referenced a Shock G/Humpty verse in a cover song (“I got 5 on it” remix), but Shock’s was the only verse on that posse-cut that was left fully intact and untampered with. I’m assuming as a respect thing. Heck, as recently as 2019 Super Producer and creator of the hit show “Verzuz”, Swizz Beats, stepped out as Humpty Hump for Halloween.

It wasn’t just his peers that would immortalize his name in their music either. To this day pop-culture hasn’t forgotten the imprint of Digital Underground’s legacy. For example, on the hit sitcom New Girl, the lead character’s had a discussion about Nick’s “sexy mix”, in which a D.U. song was the only track discussed. On Comedy Central’s flagship show Workaholics, when a pastor challenged as to what kind of a life the lead character Adam has led, he responded with the Humpty references, “My life is pretty dope actually. I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom”. Even into the year 2021, and just prior to his passing, top female comedian Leslie Jones had a standout scene in the blockbuster film “Coming 2 America”, in which she performed an Acapella version of “The Humpty Dance”.

Back to the 2000’s for a minute, and as the years passed since I first met Shock-G, our contact remained. But, with him touring less and less, and my new far more demanding schedule, we didn’t keep in touch as much. In fact, the very last time I talked to him (via email, as he lost his phone often), I remember that he was in desperate need of some contact information for Tech N9ne. With some fishing I was able to slide him that info, or I believe it was for Tech’s mgr Travis. I never did find out what that was all about or what came of it. I know Tech at least had familiarity with Shock. He referenced Shock’s verse from “I Get Around” on his single “Slacker”. They also used to run with the same Luniz crew. It would have been interesting to hear what type of music those two minds could have collaborated on.  Anyways, of course I would always email Shock through Hotmail back in the day. The least secure email service, like ever. Well, not hearing from Shock in a minute now, I tried to re-connect with him in 2010. It had been so long since I logged onto Hotmail, that my account was decommissioned and I lost his contact info. I did try to seek him out through the years, through peers, but to no avail. I had even been saving up a series of questions for him, in hopes of starting up our interview series again. I’m guessing it was just not to be.

It’s funny though, how some people we meet and end up knowing pretty much through most of our lives. We know them, are close to them, but many of those daily fixtures in my life, could not even begin to match up to the profound lessons I would decipher through my encounters with Shock-G aka Greg Jacobs. Just a special type of human being, with a larger capacity than most to enrich people’s perspective on those things that will, at some point…seem to matter the most. Before I wrap this memorial up, I’ve gotta share just one more example of what made Shock beyond special. If you search youtube, you might stumble across a certain video from around 2012, in which Shock-G is performing on stage. Everything seemed pretty normal. That is, up until the point where he jumps right off of the stage and into the crowd. He made an immediate path to a member of the audience. Some quick words are exchanged, and next thing you know, her sunglasses were commandeered. Wait, what?!? Yes, he interrupted his own set, to steal back a fan’s glasses, from another fan who had nabbed them. After returning said shades to the original owner, he proceeded to jump right back into his set.

What other Grammy nominated, platinum recording artist, who gifted the world with an unknown Tupac Shakur, entrusted to make music with/for such A-Listers as Prince, KRS-1, Big Pun, George Clinton, and Dr. Dre, do you know that would jump into a live crowd, to hunt down and return a fan’s stolen property to them? Simple, none. Shock-G, aka Humpty Hump, aka Piano Man, aka Rackadelic…aka Greg Jacobs, definitely left the world a better place then he found it. Fifty Seven years is a relatively short stay for a person, but 57 years packed with about 25 hours a day worth of living, what a life it truly was. Goodbye friend.

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