Folks, the early ‘90s were a much simpler, more innocent time. It was a time in which you could believe that Shock G, the mastermind behind Oakland-based funk/rap collective Digital Underground and Humpty Hump, the outfit’s Groucho-nosed comedian, were two different people. At least I believed they were two different people. What can I say? I was 13 and maybe a little sheltered from the world. But…how the hell were they able to get both guys on camera in the videos at the same time? Oh, if I could pat my teenage self on the head and tut-tut. The things I had to learn…
Anyway, if you know Digital Underground at all, you know two things about them: one is that Tupac got his initial start in the music industry as a member of the group. The other thing is “The Humpty Dance”. Back in the days when it was hard for hip-hop records to get on Black radio, much less pop radio, “Humpty” was the rare track that smashed into the top 40 (hell, it almost hit the Top 10, which was then almost unheard of) without losing a bit of its bona fides. DU was one of the first West Coast outfits that wasn’t greeted with a raised eyebrow by New York rap fans; quite possibly because Shock himself (born Greg Jacobs) hailed from Queens before heading West as a teenager.
“Humpty” gets its juice from a fat Parliament sample (from “Let’s Play House”) and hilarious/ribald lyrics. “The Humpty Dance” has more quotables per minute than just about every other rap song ever made. There’s the “fat girl” line, the line about getting busy in a Burger King bathroom, the line about looking like MC Hammer on crack, hip-hop’s first-ever shout out to Samoans…it could’ve been a novelty record, but Shock/Humpty had flow and musical chops in addition to cred from “legit” hip-hoppers.
It’s all part of the song that got the real hip-hop heads, frat boys and girls, and even a few grandmas and grandpas attempting to do Humpty/Shock’s “crazy, wack, funky” dance.