Digital Underground

Digital Underground

Digital Underground was an alternative hip hop group from Oakland, California. Their personnel changed and rotated with each album and tour.

Digital Underground's leader and mainstay was Greg "Shock G" Jacobs (also known as Humpty Hump); Shock G formed the group in 1987 with Jimi "Chopmaster J" Dright of Berkeley, California, and Tampa hip-hop radio deejay Kenneth "Kenny-K" Waters. Heavily influenced by the various funk bands of the 1970s, Digital Underground sampled such music frequently, which became a defining element of West Coast rap. As "Rackadelic", Jacobs designed album covers and cartoon-laced liner notes, in homage to Parliament-Funkadelic album designs. Digital Underground is also notable for launching the career of member Tupac Shakur, as well as spinning off side projects and solo acts including Raw Fusion, Saafir, and singer Mystic.

Sex Packets, the group's debut album, was released in the spring of 1990 following the success of its two lead off singles. First came "Doowutchyalike," a moderate club hit, followed by the more successful song "The Humpty Dance", a humorous dance number that reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, #7 on the R&B charts, and #1 on the Billboard Rap Singles chart. It was rapped by Shock G's alter ego Humpty Hump, and featured a drum track with over 50 confirmed usages in other songs. Sex Packets features P-Funk samples, jazz-influenced interludes, and a combination of samples and live instrumentation, earning it positive reviews and platinum sales.

This Is an EP Release is the RIAA Gold certified EP that came out on January 15, 1991. The songs, "Tie the Knot" and "Same Song" were featured in the film Nothing But Trouble starring Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, and John Candy. "Tie The Knot," features jazzy piano tracks and a comedic interpretation of "Bridal Chorus". "Same Song" has an organ solo and improvised organ bits throughout the song, making it one of hip hop's first singles to successfully integrate live instrumentation with music samples. Tupac Shakur made his debut on the latter song and portrayed an African king in the video. Tupac also can be heard joking around on the remixed version of "The Way We Swing" as a background vocalist, adding humorous ad-libs between the verses. Tupac first began to appear on stage with the group as one of its dancers and "hype men".

The second studio album, Sons of the P came out in October of 1991 and featured two singles, "No Nose Job" and "Kiss You Back", the latter of which featured multi-layered choruses and background vocals sung by Boni Boyer, who briefly worked with Digital Underground shortly after her stint with Prince's Sign of the Times/Love Sexy band. Despite the fact that a choir of singers were portrayed in the video, the actual studio singing was exclusively Boni on all tracks, excluding the male voices. It has been mistakenly reported that "Kiss You Back" was co-written and co-performed by George Clinton, but his name appears in the writers credit due to a sample of "(Not Just) Knee Deep" by Funkadelic being used. He did, however, actively participate in the writing and recording of the title track "Sons of the P", which he also contributed vocals to, and which marked one of the earliest studio guest appearances by Clinton on a Hip Hop release, which is preceded only by Kurtis Blow's "Magilla Gorilla" released in 1986. Both the album and the "Kiss You Back" single were each certified Gold by the RIAA.

The Body-Hat Syndrome was their third studio album released in 1993. The lead single was "The Return of the Crazy One," and its accompanying X-rated video, which was reworked for public consumption, gained positive feedback. The album's second single, an anti-racism cultural awareness politico called "Wussup Wit the Luv," featured a solo from Funkadelic guitarist Michael Hampton, as well as a verse and video appearance from Tupac Shakur. This would be the last time Tupac appeared on any Digital Underground release, while lead rappers Saafir and Clee were added to the band's line-up. This album also features "The Humpty Dance Awards", the group's humorous shout-out to the artists who sampled the Humpty Dance prior to 1993.  

Future Rhythm, the group's fifth album, would be the band's first independent release, and it spawned two songs that were featured in the Wayans brothers' film Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. The songs are "Food Fight", which featured Del the Funky Homosapien, and "We Got More" with Luniz. The latter is featured twice on the soundtrack: once as a full song, and once as an intro edited to the beginning of "Winter Wars" by Ghostface Killah. The album also contains an early performance from rapper Sly Boogy, while he was still a member of the Black Spooks, who appeared on the song "Fool Get a Clue."

In 1998, eight years after the group's first release, Digital Underground released Who Got the Gravy?, which reached #91 on the Top 200 R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. The album intentionally featured several East Coast rappers at a time when the East vs. West rivalry was active, in an attempt to both ignore and ridicule it. The guests included New York City natives Big PunBiz Markie and KRS-One, and introduced Whuteva and Stylez, while also introducing west coast bay area newcomers Esinchill and female emcee Mystic.

Digital Underground's final studio album, ..Cuz a D.U. Party Don't Stop!, was released on May 20, 2008, although a substantial portion of it was recorded at a live show from 2005. Shortly before its release, the group embarked on an indefinite hiatus. Money-B has stated that Shock G expressed interest in writing a book and exploring music that they latter would deem unfit for the Digital Underground name. On May 18, 2010, The Greenlight EP was released, which features some previously unreleased Digital Underground tracks.

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