In the process of mourning the genius known as Shock G, one of our contributing writers unearthed a thirteen-year-old unpublished interview with him that he had conducted. With his blessing, he has permitted us to share the interview in its original form.
The following is an unedited Q and A e-mail exchange between Mr. Todd Davis and Shock G from 2008 (part 1 of 3).
First things first, please introduce for me the members of Digital Underground…
Kenny-K (Kenneth Waters), Jimi Dright (a.k.a. Chopmaster J), M.C. Blowfish, Rackadelic (album cover cartoonist & banner graffist), DJ-Fuze (David Elliot), Piano Man (Micheal Boston), Money-B (Ron Books), Humpty Hump (Edward Ellington Humphrey III), and Shock-G (gregory e. jacobs)
Same as above, add..
“Big Money Odis” Brackens, Tupac Shakur, and Ramone “Pee Wee” Gooden.
lose Jimi Dright, and Kenny-K (R.I.P.).
SONS OF THE P:
Same as above, add..
Juan Carlos, Stewart “Shorty-B” Jordan, Roniece Levias, and Jeremy Jackson (a.k.a. J-Beatz; formally DJ-Jay-Z).
THE BODY HAT SYNDROME:
Same as above, add Saafir (a.k.a. Reggie Gibson), and Clee “Cleetis-Mack” Askew
lose Shorty-B and Roniece Levias.
Same as above, add Kim Morgan, Crazy-Horse (a.k.a. Shakeem Bocaj V), Erika Sulpacio, Eric “Kenya” Baker, Tony “Skatz” Parker, and Garrick Husbands (..a.k.a. Numskull of the Luniz).
lose Tupac (R.I.P.).
WHO GOT THE GRAVY?:
Same as above, add John Doe, Rasheeda Jones, Luchia Sykes, Mandolyn Ludlum (a.k.a. Mystic), Peanut Hakeem Anafu Washington (a.k.a. Frostbite Slim).
lose Erika Sulpacio
CUZ A d.u. PARTY DON’T STOP! :
Butta-Fly (a.k.a. Butler Flowers), B.I.N.C. (a.k.a. Best in Northern Cali), Eric “Kenya” Baker, Humpty Hump, Liz Suwandi, Money-B, Shockg (a.k.a. E7L), Young Fifth, 2Fly Eli, and DJ-NuStylez (a.k.a. Omari Edwards).
Above is also the most recent touring line up, 2004 to present.
1). Welcome back!! Musically, it’s been a few years since the masses last heard from you — Where have you been?? And, what exactly have you been up to since the release of your first, and only, solo LP, Fear of a Mixed Planet .
Um, in 04 I toured with Murs & Living Legends on the 04 Definitive Jux states & Canada tour, with the Perceptionists, C-Rayz Walz, and DJ RJD2. Over two months of straight dates, rarely a day off per week, 5 seperate groups on one tour bus! One hotel room per city for showers. It was brutal.
I went as Murs’s music conductor/DJ/live keyboardist. Most fun I’ve had on the road in years! At the end of the tour we went in the studio with the Perceptionists and recorded “Career Finders” for their Black Dialogue album.
Later that same year I went in the studio with Pacs adopted little brothers’ group.. The Havenotz and we recorded “And 2morrow” for the Tupac poetry album “Rose From Concrete; Volume 2”. Though they included the song, our version, with our production & mix, didn’t get used. It’s a beast of a recording though, and I’m hopefully gonna include it on my next compilation/best-of-as-producer album entitled “Shockwaves”, up next for release with Jake Records.
In 05 I visited Australia for the first time, on a 3-week tour with digital underground. Bloody awesome experience. Recorded a song with Brisbane Australian artists Soma Rasa while there. Played a huge outdoor festival with Kool Keith in Sydney. Attended the ’05 Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Also had a few “loggas wit the mites!” (..”lagers with the mates”)
In 06 I began collecting ideas and fragments for this latest d.u. album. It began with the live recording of the Frisco DNA show from a year earlier.
With digital underground I’ve spent atleast 4 months of each year touring, every year since 1996, over a thousand shows.
In between all that touring, I’ve been studying yoga, world history, and vegetarianism, and have been enjoying a beautiful home life in the hills of Topanga California, in a place that Afeni Shakur lent me the money to move into. The “Cherry Flava’d Email” I speak of on “Fear of a Mixed Planet” was the reply letter from her, letting me know “yes, I will help you”.
Thank you Afeni, I just don’t know how I would of kept my sanety through all this if it wasn’t for this little place in the mountains you made possible for me. Topangas good energy helped me get my focus, and re-connect to who I was before digital underground.
I grew up in the country mostly. I was the type of kid who swam in rivers & lakes, and who caught snakes & alligators with my bare hands. My dad’s got pictures of all that stuff, like me holding up six-feet rattlesnakes that I had just caught minutes before..
2). Although a solid effort, the project failed commercially?? Why do you feel it didn’t do as well as expected??
It did better than I expected! Ha, I didn’t think people were gonna get it at all. I was just lettin off steam, and expressing myself beyond the party-mentality of the average d.u. record.
I do love the digital underground scene, I always say we’re like the “Porkys” of hip-hop, like a non-stop musical college dorm party. But I had other things I wanted to share and “Mixed Planet” let me get some of that off my chest.
I was shocked by some of the responses to it. DJ Quick ran up to Money-B in LA somewhere and said “Shocks album is the shit! I bought 2 copies! I had ta give one to my cousin for his birthday!”
Every review has been generous so far. And we always hear it on the college stations and KPFAs of the world. And London & France are all over it, friends occasionally hit me from Paris to say they just heard Cinnamon Waves again on the air or at a party somewhere.
It wasn’t really a commercial album, what song could’ve possibly been marketed as a “commercial” single? It’s purpose, for me anyways, was to restore some balance in my musical output, and to do some songs for those friends & fans who know me beyond the Humpty & digital underground personas. Humpty, and Shock-G too really, are just two of many characters & roles I play in the studio. D.U. is just one project in a long life of jazz, blues, funk, rock, hi-energy, party rap, and political hip-hop, thru Pac, P-Funk, and other artists. There’s so much more to life for a musician than just one band, one genre, one radio station.
3). You are finally about to drop D.U.’s long overdue, eighth (counting This is an EP Release & The Lost Files), and LAST studio set, ..Cuz A D.U. Party Don’t Stop! — Why did you opt to title the record this??
I got that from the live shows, Money-B gets the crowd to shout that back at us.. “cuz a d.u. party don’t stop!!”
Plus that phrase kinda reflects our reality over the past 20 years, a nonstop party mayne!!
a). For someone who hasn’t heard it yet, what would you tell that person can be expected?? Are there any highlights; i.e., cameo appearances, favorite tracks, producers, etcetera??
It’s like a reunion album. Ya gotta hear it to appreciate it. We even brought back Ted Casey & Bill Thompson from Sex Packets; they were the TV hosts on “Gutfest 89”.
And it also showcases all the new rappers & producers we’ve recruited from the last few years of our travels.
The most hilarious performance on the album is a verse from newcomer emcee “BINC”, which is an acronym for “Best in Northern Cali”.
Ha ha, he ain’t short on ego.
And my cousin “ButtaFly” said some outrageous shit too! We used it as the intro.
b). Why did you actually decide to incorporate “LIVE” tracks on the CD??
Um, many reasons, but it just seemed like time.
One reason is, we finally came across a good, stereophonic, soundboard recording of a show, rather than the usual camcorder versions we have so many of. This bay area show, you can hear the hometown luv in the air, and both the audience and the band was in rare form. We didn’t bother to include the songs inwhich we simply rapped over the records, I figured we all know how those records sound already. No, instead we put the “unplugged” sections on the album inwhich Eric “Kenya” Baker (So Many Tears) is on guitar, DJ-NuStylez is on the turns, Juan Carlos (Sons of the P) is on percussion, and I’m at my favorite place, on piano, while the entire d.u. roster blesses the mic. All the spin-off acts were in the building too that night; Luniz, Saafir, Element, Choice Cutz, even Strictly Dope.. Tupacs’ original group b4 he joined digital underground.
That’s reason one.
Reason two is because these last 10 years I speak of, since the “Gravy” album, we’ve been touring constantly, worldwide, and that time on the road, it sorta seasoned us. Our live show has evolved much tighter, we finally got the years of dues that we weren’t able to get before blowing up so quickly and gettin thrown out there before Public Enemy.
Plus we recruited alot of good emcees along the way too. This album reflects that growth and showcases those emcees.
And there’s a third reason..
Reason three for all the live-show inclusions is because few Pac fans know that our clik wrote the music to practically all of Tupacs singles during his first 3 albums. For instance, So Many Tears was Eric Baker & I musically, I Get Around was myself, Homies Call & Brendas Got a Baby was our homie Deon Evans a.k.a. Big-D the Impossible. In a sense, we were Tupacs in-house band, and I was even appointed by him to be his music director on his up & coming overseas tour in the fall of 1996. Of course the tour never happened, but you could say this album is a taste of what it might’ve been like musically, because these are the cats that would’ve been there with us. And though Pac passed on, we atleast have Ray Luv (of Strictly Dope and early ghost writer for Tupac) and Pacs’ protege` Mac Mall representing in Pacs honor. Plus they supplied me a 77-key Fender Rhodes electric piano that night, so I was in heaven.
4). How do you feel that this new project measures up to that of your previous releases?? And, how would you say it either differs and/or compares to those other group projects??
It’s more raw because it’s mostly a live album. Can’t have re-dos & second takes when it’s live, so it is what it is, ya smell me? ..mistakes n all.
a). Is this really Digital Underground’s FINAL, FINAL record?? If this deems true, tell me how come??
What better time than our 20-year anniversary? We signed our first recording contract as d.u. in 1988. Can’t do it 4eva, I gave it 20 loyal years, I’m done with it.
We simply have outgrown it, myself, Money-B, and even Humpty!
b). What exactly are your “post D.U.” plans??
I’m writing my Tupac book, finally. The real story about all his firsts. I’ve spent more time with Pac then anyone else in the industry besides his best friend Big Stretch. (Randy Walker, R.I.P.) I introduced those two to each other. Pac used ta sleep on my couch when he was 19, and did 4 major states & overseas tours w/us including the Japan d.u./Queen Latifah tour. I produced him through over 20 studio sessions. To give u an example of how much I have to share, he was on Deathrow Records for 9 months; he was on our label TNT for 5 years, and in digital underground for 3 of those years. I was with Pac for many of his “first-time ever” experiences. We got him his first apartment, helped him buy his first car, tag-teamed with him on many of his first groupie experiences, etc.
I got all the juicy stories.
5). Let’s take it back to your beginning…Tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested?? And, how did it all begin for Shock G??
“Gregory, come sing Stevie Wonder for everybody” my mom would shout at me from the living room. I’d walk out and do “Uptight” for all the adults, take a spin, and then dip back into the bedroom to finish playing with my brother when I was 5 years old. This was in Poughkeepsie upstate NY.
By age eleven I was playing drums in neighborhood bands around Tampa Florida where my dad moved the family after a job promotion. The first band was called the Knollwood Specials, named after our street in River Grove Tampa. River Grove was an inter-racial experimental neighborhood, one of the first in the US, where they brought in families of every different race. We used to play “Don’t Call me Nigger” by Sly & the Family Stone and “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock & Headhunters.
My second band was called “Parliament 2”, and all we did was cover P-Funk songs. With this band I scored the 1978 “Most Talented” trophy at Grecco Jr. High with a siiiick performance of “Flashlight” in the school talent show.
Then my mom left my dad and took me & my younger brother back to NYC with her and I got completely into hip-hop. Traded my drums in for 2 turntables & a mixer, and began DJing for rappers, during the wave of the first emcees in the world, New York City circa 77 thru 81. This was the birth of hip-hop. (DJ Afrika Bambaata, DJ Hollywood, and Grand Master Flash go back even slightly further then that.)
It was during this time that my cousin Sean Trone (“Shah-T” of the group “No-Face”) told me that my rap name “MC Starchild” was wack, and that I should be “Shah-G, cause your name is Greg”. I misunderstood him and thought he said “Shock”-G and wrote a few raps that way, and it stuck. Later he clarified that he had said “Shah” which is Arabic for “King”, hence his name “Shah-T”.
But I thought he said “Shock” cause in Queens the “shock” prefix was as popular as the “grandmaster” prefix was in the Bronx. My favorite Queens rapper back then was called “Shock-Dell” for instance.
Then pops got custody, and I found myself living back in Tampa again, but no band this time, now it was the “Master Blasters”, our mobile DJ crew of 3 emcees and 2 DJs; myself, DJ Flame from the Bronx, DJ Cush from Harlem, MC Ronnie Ron from Newark New Jersey, and MC K-Bar from Brooklyn. We all had families that had recently moved to Florida, we all found each other at jams & record stores in search of hip-hop, which hadn’t reached florida yet besides us. Rap was so unknown in florida at the time that when Rappers Delight came out everyone at Chamberlain high-school ran up to me and said “Greg! You made a record!! We heard you on the radio!!” ..but it was Sugarhill Gang of course.
As the Master Blasters, we blazed the Tampa Bay area for the next 3 years or so, including several outdoor jams at Riverfront Park on Sundays, which was the jam-packed crowd gathering area every weekend. Soon the Master Blasters were ghetto-famous in Tampa, which landed me a slot on WTMP R&B/soul radio, in which I was the youngest on-air DJ in the state of Florida that year, 1981. My on-air personality was called “Rackadelic” which was also my graff name when I tagged trains & schoolyards or whatever. My birthname wasn’t “Jacobs”, (Jacobs is my moms maiden name) the birthname is Gregory Racker. From being such a P-Funk fan, and from telling everyone at school about the Funkadelic concerts, the other kids started calling me Rackadelic.
When I finally got fired from WTMP, it was for playing the 15 minute “Not Just Knee Deep” by Funkadelic in a 4-minute time slot, causing me to miss the station I.D. at the top of the hour and the news brief that was supposed to follow. Ha ha, always representin George!
At 18 I gave up DJing to teach myself piano, this wonderful instrument that I suddenly became mesmorized by. (more like hypnotized!) For the next 3 years I literally walked around in a fog, always practicing scales & chord progressions in my head when I was away from the piano. Most people who knew me at this time, including my family, all believed I was losing my mind because I lived in this other world, and disconnected from virtually everything besides piano music. Between the ages of 18 and 21 I wouldn’t even date a girl unless she had a piano. It usually went like this; I’d be the last person at a house party somewhere, still playing the piano at 3 in the morning, when sometimes the girl who lived there would be charmed by the music and would let me spend the night. Then from that night on we’d become a couple and I’d move in with her for a few months. Until eventually she’d realize that she was number 2 to the piano, and would get tired of me ignoring her and playing so much, afterwhich I’d be off to meet the next girl. This is how I spent my college years, alternating living at home with my dad sometimes too. My family got me a piano for my birthday to keep me home, but I guess it didn’t work, cause soon afterwards I fell inlove with a model/actress named Davida and we dropped out of college & eloped to California in 1985.
We first landed in LA, where I played keys for a funk band called Onyx. I quit Onyx cause the lead singer literally thought he was Prince. Afterwards, we moved to Oakland and I formed a hip-hop crew called the “Spice Regime”. As Spice Regime I recorded Underwater Rimes for Tabu records in 1987. It was Tabu who said.. “We like the music, but u need a better name” and that’s when Jimi & I put the 2 words digital underground together.