Digital Underground is riding high into the digital revolution with the highly anticipated album Cuz a D.U. Party Don’t Stop. This historic album will be the final project released by the multi-platinum Digital Underground crew, ending their twenty-year run of original, highly successful and innovative hip-hop music. A bona fide pioneer, Shock G and his fascinating character Humpty Hump have been saving some of their best work for last, ending the D.U. era with a historical album that displays the final artistic expression of a group who changed the face of hip-hop forever.
In his true whimsical fashion, Shock G’s candid personality sets the tone for a conversation that is sure to be remembered as he openly shares with Dubcnn about producing Tupac, drugs, cosmetic surgery, escaping police and his experience working with George Clinton.
Take a journey to the underground with Dubcnn and spend a few moments with a legend – the madly eccentric, yet highly sophisticated, wonderfully colorful, yet surprisingly transparent, very hilarious and all too serious. The bold, bright and beautiful Shock G…
Interview was done in June 2008
Questions Asked By: Jonathan Hay and Chad Kiser
Digital Underground– The Dubcnn Shock G Interview
By Jonathan Hay and Chad Kiser
Shock G: Thanx for the opportunity to speak, a blessing, I’m grateful
Dubcnn: Cuz A D.U. Party Don’t Stop…is this really the last album from the illustrious Digital Underground click?
Dubcnn: Are you and Money B working on solo projects to follow-up?
Can’t speak on Mun, but I’m not. I’m in the middle of writing 2 books. One’s about producing Tupac, the other’s about crazy tour stories, all the juicy highlights.
Dubcnn: Obviously, Parlaiment-Funkadelic has had a tremendous influence on you and the Digital Underground sound…
George was the Tupac, the Dr. Dre, and the Talib Kweli of my generation, except all in one person. Imagine if not only did Pac live, but he was also Dr. Dre AND Talib Kweli? That’s what it was like to grow up on George. Parliament was like a fusion of NWA, Wu-Tang Clan, and Digital Underground all in one group. And Funkadelic was like Living Legends or Heiro mixed with Thug Life. And George was the RZA of the whole sitch, like Dr. Dre, except in addition to being the producer; he was also the hottest writer & vocalist in the camp by many fans opinion.
George Clinton is an extraterrestrial, I don’t believe he’s even from this planet, I think he’s from the 12th planet, a.k.a. Planet-X, or planet Nibiru. Nibiru is where many of the original Egyptians are from, who designed & built the pyramids.
Dubcnn: What was the experience like for you to personally work with George Clinton?
It was like being a Jedi and working with Yoda, or Obi Won Kenobe actually. Flavor Flav is the Yoda. Meaning, there’s a lot more going on with him than meets the eye.
Dubcnn: You produced on a couple of 2Pac’s best works, like 2Pacalypse Now and Me Against The World. What is the one thing about ‘Pac that you miss?
His physical life.
Dubcnn: I heard a rumor that back in the day somebody broke into the studio and stole a bunch of 2Pac reels. What’s the story on that?
If u mean during his Death-Row period, I have no idea. If u mean his TNT/Interscope days, it was a non-related studio robbery in which his masters were included with everyone else’s. We all (Club Nouveau, En Vogue, D.U., Gold Money, Pac, Raw Fusion, & Funky Aztecs) lost masters. The studio, Starlight Sound in Richmond California, was shut down with that notorious 2-man shotgun robbery.
Dubcnn: With all the debate between Death Row & Afeni for the rights to 2Pac’s masters, what unreleased material have you been sitting on?
I have nothing. As a hired producer always working under someone else’s budget, I always turned in the finished mixes to whatever company paid for the session, including the digital underground tapes. So I ain’t got shiiiioot but my balls, my ears, and my mixing ability.
And I’m still for hire. U want some shit mixed right? U need a track brought to it’s highest potential? I’m your dude. I mixed So Many Tears, I Get Around, Words of Wisdom, Rebel of the Underground, and all the D.U. albums & singles. Get at me.
Dubcnn: What were your thoughts when Hyphy started taking over the Bay?
They finally found a word to capture it, cause the bay BEEN gettin sidewayz and actin a fool, ever since I first arrived there in the mid 80s. There was always the sideshow at Eastmont Mall, in the MacDonalds parking lot. Huge crowd, smoke everywhere, swap meet/auto-auction cars gettin bapped up, and then abandoned; huge fashion show/old school car show around lake Merrit on Sundays as far back as 86.
The D.U. song “Gutfest” was really about the Festival at the Lake. N-ggas gettin high & drunk as f-ck and then hoo’ridin all over the place just ta celebrate life. Hyphy is the new refined personal version of it, all wrapped up & concentrated down to 1 or 2 people even, wherever whenever, instead of always a crowd, and just those set times & places.
One thing I was always proud of Oakland for, from a technology & bravery standpoint, was this:
As a form of self-expression, and to let off steam, NY evolved DJ’n & breakdancin, LA evolved surfin & x-games on bikes & skateboards, but in the Town? We swing the big toys…cars. More expensive, more risk, more danger, but still became a sport, and now it’s worldwide. Ya gotta give it up to the bay for evolving a game that requires u to ruin an automobile! ..just like scratching ruins records. Instead of findin a spot to put the cardboard down for windmills, we find a good intersection ta whip a few loud & smokey donuts! Leave a few black circles on the pavement, ya smell me? That’s not givin a fuuuuuck! Ha ha that’s breakdancin wit an automobile.
One could argue that gangbangin is “not givin a f-ck” the most, but that requires ruining somebody else’s life. None of the other art forms I mentioned ruin anything but machinery & inanimate objects. We swing them cars to feel good, to flex power, courage, & skill, but also to give a good show for the onlookers. It’s all love. LA’s low-rider’s is like the high-fashion stunna/flossmode variation on it.
And now we even ghostridin the whips from outside the car-door! Watch this fool here run himself over [see YouTube video]
Dubcnn: Digital Underground was able to gain mainstream attention at a time when West Coast music wasn’t getting much recognition. What do you attribute to D.U.’s success at that time?
Luck. Timing. And probably the fact that we had a few members from the south & the east, so we didn’t sound totally west coast at a time when everything accepted already was east coast. Even NWA used to use an east coast production model until Dre later found a sound that was truly his own.
Dubcnn: We’ve seen Eminem & D12 with their multiple personalities and The Roots doing their thing with the live instrumentation. Do you feel that you get the respect you deserve for what you have contributed to Hip-Hop, as far as musically and creatively?
Maybe not in the media or in the “hip-hop magazines”, but we definitely get it out in the world and from the other artists. That’s good enough for me. The Source & VH1, and Vibe, they’ll catch up later hopefully. One thing about many of those magazines, a lot of them are run by sisters. They don’t like D.U.’s open door policy to women of all races, looks & sizes. We’re not the only ones indulging, we just don’t hide it like some acts do, instead we promote unity amongst the races & nationalities. So we pay for it sometimes. If I walk on stage with 1 sister, 1 blonde, 1 asian mommy, and one senorita; all the sistas notice is the “white girl”. But it’s all good. It’s all the same song ta me.
Dubcnn: You have worked with some of biggest names in music; is there anybody left out there that you would like to work with that you haven’t already?
Yeah, everybody out there. I like Snoop, Lauren Hill, RZA, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, Rage Against the Machine, Keyshia Cole, Diddy, Macy Gray, Madonna, everybody. And all the unknown local artists around the world as well. There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there, doesn’t gotta be huge.
Here’s the newest dudes I’m feelin, Panacea, from DC..
Dubcnn: What does the West Coast need to do to get back on top?
Man, we’re all on this little rock together, flyin around the sun. Especially wit the internet now, the whole world’s becoming one big city. People are connecting with other people around the world who share the same interests. Trippin on “coasts” & “turf” is like some caveman shit these dayz.
Dubcnn: Where do you see the hip-hop culture going in the next 5 years?
Ha ha ha, naw, just playin. More space in the music, more variety in the topics & deliveries. More acceptances of individuals who don’t fit the traditional “hip hop” street-cred image. Everything that’s existed will still exist (just like jazz or rock so far) but more new variations will be accepted & respected. Hip-hop goes classical, hip-hop goes country, hip-hop goes acid house/D&B, coming soon!
Dubcnn: You co-produced “Tellin Time,” the bonus track on the single “We´re All In The Same Gang” with Dr. Dre. Can you tell us about working with Dre?
Dre don’t talk or joke much in the studio, he just gets it done, while the rest of us are partyin & goofin off. I did the piano on that. I also did the humpty-bass part on the A side.
Dubcnn: Do you have any memories from working with the West Coast all-stars on “We’re All In The Same Gang” that you’d like to share?
Did too much ecstasy in the 90s, I don’t remember nuthin. BUT, fortunately I can pop a pill and the memories come right back. I’m gonna pop a pill somewhere during this book I’m writing, so stay tuned for all the 90s highlights in my exclusive book, tentatively titled.. “All Around the World”.
Dubcnn: Let’s go back to the basement…I remember as a kid going to your concert in Louisville, KY and Digital Underground was on a monumental tour with Public Enemy, Heavy D & The Boys, Chill Rob G, Kid & Play, Queen Latifah, etc. I think Tupac was part of your stage show then, too. That show impacted my life. What is your all-time favorite Digital Underground show to date and why?
My favorite D.U. show from that era was the time we had to jump straight into the crowd from center stage and escape thru the audience to evade the police. They were trying to arrest us for “lewd acts” on stage and “foul language” or whatever, somewhere down in the Bible belt, but we got away thru the crowd! Well, we all did except for Tupac. Ha ha, Pac ran up high into the bleachers but unfortunately, the big spotlight that shines from the back of the arena, thought it was part of the show and followed him all the way up to the top row. So it kept him on blast, and the cops went straight to him. We had to bail him out that morning.
The next day the paper said “Humpty arrested” even though I had got away. See, the paparazzi, they always go for the biggest name in any entourage whenever something happens; so being that it was 1990, they didn’t know who Pac was yet, and they said Humpty instead. Just like that Marin County incident, when the paper wrote “Tupac Questioned in Shooting” when they knew damn well Pac wasn’t the shooter that day. But without Pac, they didn’t have a story.
Dubcnn: Will Digital Underground be touring to promote the new album?
Unfortunately not, we disbanded in March of this year. No beef, no problems or nothing, just a pre-planned break point. We all agreed in October of last year to finally move on in 2008 after our last show. 08 marks our 20-year anniversary, so it’s not a retirement, it’s a graduation.
A victory progression to our next challenges in life.
Dubcnn: How did your relationship emerge with Jake Records?
We met Jake CEO Scott Thomas thru “The Noses”. They’re a natural self-manifested official “D.U. Hype Squad”, a 6-man Humpty-nose wearing crew that jumps thru the audience at shows, and keeps the D-Flow chat boards alive at ShockG.com. The Noses introduced Scott & I online last year and it was love at first “write”.
Dubcnn: Before Jake Records, did you ever feel creatively misunderstood for your work?
All the time Tip. Even now with all the love from Jake, and Rhino, and Entertainment Artists Nashville (our booking agents), and all the internet press, I still occasionally feel like some isolated mad scientist, but that’s just part of being an artist I hope. I know I’m weird, and the older I get, the weirder I get. But I’m in my 40s now, a vegetarian yogist partyaholic with multiple personalities. So I can’t expect to fit in too much.
Dubcnn: With such a long career filled with music of integrity, what is the one thing you are still out to accomplish?
Humility. I talk too much in my opinion. Sometimes I wish I could just chill. I hate that I have so much to say sometimes. I always ask myself.. why do I care so much? Who gives a fuck, just shut the f-ck up!! Ha Ha
Dubcnn: Your song “No Nose Job” off the classic Sons of the P album is so relevant today. What do you feel about all these makeovers, cosmetic surgeries and the overall American obsession with image?
Young ladies, please think twice about those breast jobs, I know so many women who wish they could take it back. But u can’t. Their just like tattoos, u can grow into a different mindset, and wish u had waited. My upper front four teeth are porcelain veneers so I can’t talk. My real front teeth were smaller, more like Redmans or Eddie Murphy’s. But here I was in the industry, facing video time, and needed straight teeth immediately. I didn’t have 2-years for braces, it was D.U. time, let’s go!!
I’ve changed my opinion since “No Nose Job”. There’s nothing morally wrong about any of it, it’s all opinion & taste. There’s no difference in cosmetic surgery and say eye makeup, hair-color, or jewellery, it’s all just fashion. Your body’s just your hardware, but your soul & personality is your memory & operational software. Who cares what size or color the physical computer is, as long as u agree with the programming.
By the way, I just had the letter “G” in diamonds attached to my liver. It’s not for anybody else to see except the coroner, so at the autopsy he can say.. “Yo, this cat was a fly muthafucka! Look at his liver.”
Dubcnn: Take us back behind the creation of the Body Hat Syndrome — what is the main artistic statement you wanted to make with this brilliant and conceptual album?
It’s not just AIDS we gotta worry about, it’s also FADES, Falsely Acquired Diluted Education Syndrome. Meaning, most of what u hear on TV and in the news, and in the school textbooks, it’s all a jaded half-true maze of deception, intended to keep us all obedient consumers, and to therefore maintain the current balance of power & wealth. Most people know to wear a condom to protect their groin, but few rock their “Body Hats” to protect the rest of you. What about mental condoms for our ears & eyes, ‘cuz people are trying to screw us daily!
Dubcnn: I know that you have spoken before about your personal drug use, you dabbled with drugs for more of a creative mind-opening experience for personal and musical elevation — my question is, do you still experiment?
Yes, but the experiments have slowed down considerably due to lack of new resource material. Basically, I’m running out of new stuff to try! I’m not interested in sitting in one place and abusing the same thing over & over, I’m trying to visit new places of thought, feeling & experience. By the way, it’s not what u use that matters most, it’s what u abuse. The right amount of aspirin will relieve a headache, the wrong amount will kill u. Same concept with hard drugs. And if u need it regularly, you’re just a typical addict, weather it be tobacco, sugar, caffeine, animal fat, weed, or cocaine. Anyone interested in this subject, please read my essay entitled: “MEAT & CRACK vs. HEROIN & METH; Who’s the Biggest Killer?” on my MySpace blog section.
Dubcnn: As a graphic illustrator and artist, what is your favorite drawing you have created? Let’s go deeper, if you could leave behind only one of your non-musical works of art, what piece would you choose to represent your legacy?
The 12-page comic booklet that came inside the Body Hat CD packaging. Not the poster pullout, there was an additional booklet that came with it. That was my most detailed & time-consuming piece. And the likenesses were dead on it. I drew Pac, Saafir, myself, Money-B, everybody in the click is in there, even Atron Gregory. He was my first manager, Pacs too. The originals were a beast, each page was a huge poster. I never saw the originals again after Tommy Boy had them printed & shrunk down into a booklet.
If not that, then the Same Song story boards. They look just like the video, almost exactly, even though they were made first.
Dubcnn: In the field of journalism, whom do you look up to as a writer?
I like Nelson George’s articles and his book “Death of Rhythm & Blues”. Ricky Vincent too, he wrote History of Funk. I’ve been moved by the work of many more writers besides them, but who remembers the author’s names of every good article, ya know?
I really enjoyed the Bob Zmuda book about the life of Andy Kaufman the comedian. That’s how I hope my Tupac book turns out, exciting & interesting like that. The best books to me are when u forget you’re even reading, until you look up & realize 60 pages just blew by.
Dubcnn: Any last words for our readers?
Yes..Always protect your dreams; eventually they will protect you. Peace, luv, & Humptiness still!!