“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Marcus Garvey
Every Thursday here on Quitetrillworldwide we are doing a throwback Thursday. We will pick a jam from the past in any genre and give you some info that you may not have known before about that artist.
There’s an old saying that goes something like this “you can’t love the fruit and hate the tree”. If that’s true Digital Underground is the hip hop equivalent of that saying. Parliament Funkadelic is one of the most sampled groups in history, their space age funk was part of the blueprint for the hip hop sound. It’s clearly obvious that Funkadelic was a heavy influence on Digital Underground, Their first notable single, the party jam Doowutchyalike, featured no fewer than three P-Funk samples, plus more from Chic, Prince and Vaughan Mason. They are hip hops answer to Funkadelic. Not just in the sound but in the whole aesthetic of the group, the dress, the characters (Humpty Hump and Shock G are the same person) all of which were a bit taboo at the time. There were very few groups that had the level of creativity and that had the guts to come out and say lets just have fun and party during the “gangster rap” era. A DU show was just a big party. DU was made up of 7 members (real members who played vital parts in the group DU was a hip hop band which was also rare during that time in hip hop.
Shock G, was the lead vocalist and straight man, sort of: a semi-parodic playa with a cool, insinuating delivery and ingenious, dirty, druggy rhymes. Shock had an alter-ego Humpty Hump, the joke-store nose-and-glasses outlandish, honking hybrid of Groucho Marx, Phil Silvers and Rudy Ray Moore. DU was also the foundation for Tupac Shakur who started out as a dancer for the crew. The first 2 albums they put out had the biggest impact on hip hop. Sex Packets is an extraordinary album, an hour-long pyrotechnic display of wit, imagination, sleaze, frantic and smooth beats. Underwater Rimes, for instance, is performed in the character of MC Blowfish, who sounds exactly as you’d hope: “Get out of here with that boat and a stick / Get out of line, I’ll call my homie, Moby-Dick.” Not ironically Sex Packets is also a satirical concept album about a street drug that induces the sensation of a real and specific sexual experience, making it about a dozen times more addictive than crack. Anyone who was of age during the time was out looking for these packets to see if they were real, they could have made millions off of them.
The following EP Sons of The P is dope nothing thereafter would quite match it. There were occasional corkers such as No Nose Job, Humpty’s defiant comedic rebuke to the saboteurs of black body image (a kind of Baby Got Back written with a sharp mind rather than a stiff dick). In my opinion this is the closest that they ever came to making a masterpiece, it just seemed more gritty even with songs like “Kiss You Back” which was clearly a radio single compared to the other material on the EP. It gets real with songs like “Good Thing We’re Rappin and Heartbeat Props”.
Simply put, few groups have had the creative effect on hip hop that the Underground has had.