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Shock G, ‘Humpty Hump’ of Digital Underground, dies at 57

Shock G, producer and frontman of the 1990s hip-hop group Digital Underground and widely known for his alter-ego “Humpty Hump,” has died, according to a statement from his family. The artist, whose real name was Gregory Jacobs, was 57; no cause of death has been confirmed.

“Our son, brother and friend, Gregory Jacobs, also known as Shock G, suddenly passed away today,” his family wrote in a statement. “The cause of death is currently unknown. We truly, truly appreciate all the outpouring of love and concern. Please keep us in your prayers at this very difficult time.”

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Via hits like “The Humpy Dance,” Digital Underground were leaders of the Bay Area hip-hop scene of the late ’80s and early 1990s. But their catalog also marked the recorded debut of Tupac Shakur, who was briefly a member of the group before the release of his 1991 solo album. He is featured on “Same Song” from the “This Is an EP Release” EP.

Chopmaster J wrote: “34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea: We can be a hip hop band and take on the world,” he captioned an old photo of Shock G. “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!!!”

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Born in Brooklyn, Jacobs bounced between New York and Tampa, Florida, as a child. An acolyte of both funk and early hip-hop, Jacobs had a brief stint as a radio DJ while still in high school, and developed a proficiency with a variety of instruments - keyboard, turntables, drums - during an itinerant young adulthood which saw him drift across the country working odd jobs. Returning home to Tampa, he studied music theory at community college, and eventually moved west to Oakland, Calif.

It was there that Shock G and Chopmaster J formed Digital Underground with Kenny K in the late 1980s. The group broke through in 1989 with singles “Doowhutchyalike” and “The Humpty Dance,” the video for which featured Shock G in his Humpty guise, adopting a blubbery, cartoonish voice and performing with a fake nose and glasses. Humpty was merely one of Shock G’s multiple on-record alter-egos, though he was so fully developed that many of the group’s early listeners were unaware that Shock G and Humpty Hump were the same person.

While Parliament-Funkadelic would be sampled countless times during hip-hop’s golden era, few hip-hop outfits embodied George Clinton’s extraterrestrial strangeness and cracked humor as thoroughly as Digital Underground. With outré costumes, bizarre sci-fi concepts and an elaborate stage show, the group combined serious musical chops with a deeply unserious worldview, and their debut full-length, 1990′s loose concept album “Sex Packets,” was very much of a piece with De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” and the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” from the previous year - three hip-hop records whose freewheeling humor initially obscured just how musically innovative and adventurous they were. Largely on the strength of the two Humpty singles, “Sex Packets” went platinum, and its success saw the group make appearances on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” “Drexell’s Class,” and the Chevy Chase-Demi Moore comedy “Nothing But Trouble.”

Digital Underground never equaled the success of “Sex Packets,” though their second release, “This Is Not an EP Release,” would have just as firm a place in the history books for featuring the first appearance of a young Tupac Shakur. Initially joining the group as a dancer and roadie, Shakur notched his first appearance on record with the final verse of Digital Underground’s “Same Song.” Though his time with the group was short, Shakur would call on Shock G to produce and perform on tracks throughout his early solo career, including his first major hit, “I Get Around.”

Digital Underground’s second full-length, “Sons of the P,” met with less success, and while the group continued into the ’00s, its moment had largely passed. The group’s most recent release, a live album, dropped in 2008. However, Shock G was extremely active as a producer, working with Dr. Dre, Bobby Brown, Luniz, Murs and others, as well as touring with his hero George Clinton.

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