Stop what you’re doin, ‘cause we’re about to ruin your day with the news that Oakland rapper and Digital Underground frontman Shock G passed away Thursday.
You may have learned of him through his alter-ego Humpty Hump, or perhaps as a graffiti artist and album cover designer known as Rackadelic, or merely as Shock G, lead rapper for the groundbreaking Oakland collective Digital Underground and co-producer of 2Pac’s breakout debut album 2Pacalypse Now, as well as tracks for Prince and Dr. Dre. These numerous alteregos were all Gregory Edward Jacobs, a breakout Oakland DJ, engineer and rapper who was tragically found dead in a Tampa, Florida hotel room Thursday. He was 57.
Shock G was not an Oakland native, he was born in New York City, and grew up in Florida. But he moved to Oakland in the late 1980s and formed Digital Underground with a couple of characters known as Chopmaster J and Kenny-K, and the cast of the group would expand. They signed with Tommy Boy records in 1989 and had a minor hit with the single “Doowutchyalike” (a track on which Shock G played a lengthy piano solo, an unusual feature in rap songs of the day).
But Digital Underground would become an overnight, international sensation with the 1990 albun Sex Packets and the smash hit “Humpty Dance.” They created their own lane of Parliament/Funkadelic-style silliness with rich and layered musical production, a contrast to the era’s confrontational gangsta rap of 2 Live Crew and Public Enemy, and the Billboard-friendly sellout sounds of Kid ‘n Play and MC Hammer.
The group added an aspiring rapper named 2Pac to their roster in 1991, and Shock G appeared on Tupac Shakur’s first hit “I Get Around,” and co-produced the album on which the track appeared.
Shock G would become a staple on Yo MTV Raps, and would make frequent TV and movie cameo as Humpty Hump through the early 1990s. To this day, local DJ sets make frequent use of the Luniz “I Got 5 on It” remix that also includes Shock G, and other Oakland stars like E-40 and Richie Rich.
Jacobs’ cause of death has not been determined, but his death was confirmed Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Image: “Humpty Dance,” Tommy Boy Records