When the history books are written, it seems almost criminal that when it comes to hip-hop, almost none will mention the name “Shock G.” Born in 1963, Shock is now a veteran of rap music but unlike other genres, it seems the longer you make music the more likely you are to be forgotten. This is a world of ten minutes of fame and fast-food music. How many of the new generation, emmerced in the world of the internet, are aware of the emcees who paved the way for modern hip-hop? Sadly not many. Lil B’s “Ellen Degeneres” has over one million views online whilst many Shock G. videos would be lucky to recieve half that.
To best understand Shock’s impact, it’s important to go back to the start. Born Gregory Jacobs, he grew up most his young life in New York, from childhood he showed a multi-talented gift for music. Not only could he rap but he showed a passion for the drums, playing the piano and creating art. Perhaps this is how he later confused people into thinking he was three seperate artists. But before the fame, it was a friend who suggested the name Shah-G and this was later changed to Shock. He then got his first break as a DJ on radio and playing the piano for different groups. None of which paid the bills long term.
After moving around a lot, he settled in Oakland, California. There he met two artists Jimi Dright and Ken Waters, the talented trio created ‘The Digital Underground’, which became popular on the West Coast party scene. By 1989 they were signed to ‘Tommy Boy’ records, home to De La Soul and Naughty by Nature. This was when things really took off for Shock and his friends. His brand of wacky visuals and party music was much loved, and in 1990 their debut album ‘Sex Packets’ went Platinum. They scored their biggest hit with ‘Humpty Dance’.
A chance meeting brought a young Tupac Shakur on board, working as a roadie for ‘The Digital Underground’. Right away Shock G. noticed this guy had something different. His raps were political and emotionally charged, the time was right to include Pac on a single. In 1991 they opened the world to one of the biggest selling artists of all time when 2Pac appeared on ‘Same Song’. His small verse may not have turned heads straight away but it convinced execs to give him further exposure. Shock G. co-produced 2Pac’s first album “2Pacalypse Now”, appearing on “Trapped” and providing the beat for ‘Words Of Wisdom’.
This period of time was the most succesful for the group. On 2Pac’s second album “Strictly 4 My Niggaz”, Shock produced “I Get Around” even appearing in the video. By 1993 Digital Underground had 3 albums and an E.P. to their name all of which were succesful. They may not of had the respect of other major hip-hop groups but they did manage to forge there own mark on hip-hop which provided fans with an alternative to the percieved norm.
Shock had a vision to expand the group’s lyrical content to include songs in a similar vain to Tupac’s political work. This was not shared by the label execs who wanted to hear more party music and a new song like ‘Humpty Dance’. It would be three years before we’d hear from them again. The last song to feature Tupac was “Wussup With The Luv” it is a strong indicator of the direction the group wanted to take.
When Digital Underground returned in 1996, hip-hop in many ways had moved on. They released two independent albums “Future Rhythm” & “Who Got The Gravy” which sold modestly yet featured guests like Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Luniz, Big Pun and KRS-One. Fading back into relative obscurity Shock ran into financial troubles but would later be picked up by Murs, this along with an excellent solo-album in 2004 “Fear Of A Mixed Planet” would be Shocks main legacy this decade.
Shock G. is famous for his kindness to fans. I reached out to Nicky Babs to tell the story of the time they met and he was kind enough to send this back to me:
“I met Shock at a concert that he did in Chico, CA back in 2000. I originally just wanted him to sign a cassette single of the Humpty Dance that I had, but when he came out to sign it for me he invited me backstage and offered me a beer. Totally laid back guy. The backstage area was full, the band was there and some girls, but Shock gave me his undivided attention as we sat in a small room that was covered in signatures from all of the artists who had played the venue before (The Brick Works). I told him that I was a fan since day one of both Digital Underground and 2Pac.
I told him that he deserved more credit/love from the hip-hop community for keeping funk in hip-hop alive, and I asked him if he had heard of the Living Legends. I think he said no about the Legends, which is funny considering he later hooked up with Murs for Risky Business (he even has a Murs tattoo). I told him that I was a HUGE 2Pac fan, and I explained that I wanted to know about him from his perspective since they were close. Man, he didn’t even hesitate to share with me. I remember how grateful I was for that because he must get that type of stuff all the time.
He told me how wild Pac was and how he had so much heart (stuff we already know, but still cool to hear from him). I asked him how his name was listed on the credits for “So Many Tears”, arguably my favorite Pac song of all time. I knew Shock wasn’t on the song, but I didn’t know that he made the beat, as he was telling me. He told me the first time that he played that beat for Pac, that Pac just went nuts over how tight it was, and he was anxious to rap over it. While he was telling me this you could tell that he was really thinking about it, that moment, and not just giving me an answer.
We must have sat talking about it all for nearly an hour. That’s an hour post show with groupies in the place, and Shock gave his time to a true fan. Hands down coolest famous person I’ve ever met. I wound up telling him that I was leaving just because it was so perfect, I didn’t want to push it. I can’t remember all the details since it’s been a decade, but I remember these things. This was pre-camera phone, so I didn’t get a picture with Shock, but he did autograph that cassette single for me. I’ve been thinking of framing it.” – Nicky