Rapper and producer Shock G, also known as Humpty Hump of the Bay Area hip-hop crew Digital Underground, has died at age 57. The news was first announced by his Digital Underground bandmate Chopmaster J, who posted Thursday evening on Instagram: “34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip hop band and take on the world through it all the dream became a reality and the reality became a nightmare for some. And now he’s awaken from the fame long live shock G Aka Humpty Hump and Rest In Peace my Brotha Greg Jacobs!!!”
Shock G’s father, Edward Racker, later confirmed the news to TMZ, saying the rapper was found dead Thursday in a hotel room in Tampa, Fla. No cause of death was revealed, but Racker said there were no signs of trauma and that authorities will conduct an autopsy.
Although hardcore gangsta rap was on the rise when Digital Underground first hit the scene in the late ’80s, they made their own mark with their psychedelic, P-Funk-inspired party jams and high-concept, high-camp image — led by the charismatic Shock G and his many outrageous alter egos. Shock G was also known as MC Blowfish, Icey-Michael Boston, the Computer Woman, ButtaFly, and Peanut Hakeem, but it was his most famous character, the prosthetic-nosed, plaid-suited, Groucho-spectacled, Burger King bathroom-frequenting Humpty Hump, that turned Digital Underground into MTV superstars.
Shock G was born Gregory Jacobs on Aug. 25, 1963, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He started off as a drummer and later taught himself to play piano, but in the late ‘70s he became fascinated with the burgeoning hip-hop art form and began experimenting with turntables while living in Queens. After a move to Tampa while still in his teens, he formed a mobile DJ crew called the Master Blasters and became an on-air personality for WTMP, although he was later fired by that R&B radio station for playing the 15-minute version of Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Jacobs, who had dropped out of high school while living in Florida, eventually resumed his education and met a musician named Kenneth “Kenny-K” Waters while attending Hillsborough Community College. The two started collaborating, and after another move to Oakland, Calif., they formed Digital Underground with Jimi “Chopmaster J” Dright in 1987.
Digital Underground’s first single, “Underwater Rimes,” topped the pop chart in the Netherlands in 1988; the group signed to Tommy Boy Records a year later and scored a respectable U.S. hit with “Doowutchyalike,” which went to No. 29 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and No. 19 Hot Rap Singles chart despite getting almost no radio airplay. That single did receive support from MTV, placing 40th on the cable network’s top 100 music videos of 1989 list, but it was another single from the group’s 1990 debut album, Sex Packets, that established them as platinum-selling sensations.
Digital Underground’s funky, Sly and the Family Stone- and Parliament-sampling “The Humpty Dance” peaked at No. 11 on Billboard’s Hot 100, No. 7 on the R&B chart, and No. 1 on the Billboard Rap Singles chart. It also went on to become one of the most sampled hip-hop songs of all time; some of the artists who have sampled it over the years include ABC, Gang Starr, Guy, Heavy-D & the Boys, Ice Cube, Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, Public Enemy, Redman, Sade, Will Smith, the Spice Girls, TLC, and 2Pac. A young, unknown Tupac Shakur actually made a brief appearance in the “Humpty Dance” video and got his start in the music business as Digital Underground’s roadie and backup dancer, making his recording debut on the Digital Underground single “Same Song” in 1991.
In addition to his work with Digital Underground, as a solo recording artist, and as a guest rapper on tracks by everyone from George Clinton to Too $hort, Jacobs was a successful music producer. He produced Tupac Shakur’s “I Get Around” and “So Many Tears” in 1993 and 1995, respectively, and co-produced 2Pac’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now. Jacobs’s production and remixing discography also included work for Bobby Brown, Dr. Dre, KRS-One, Monie Love, Murs, Prince, and Sir Mix-a-Lot.