Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Way We Swing


I was 12 years old when I was watching Yo Mtv Raps and saw a video of a song the likes of which I hadn't heard before.  There was no "cool" guys running around with Cross Colors, Starter Jackets, or any of that.  It was was a guy what looked like a grampa's sports coat, furry hat, and what would become the world famous BIG nose on the glasses.  I was on the hunt for the Digital Underground.

I lived in a town so small that the idea of the Benjamin Franklin Dime Store selling any cassettes, let alone hip-hop, was just plain stupid.  I would either tape videos to watch over and over or sit and wait for songs on the radio to add to my "mixtapes".  The latter was best done on Sunday during Casey Kasem's Top 40.  To my surprise, The Humpty Dance was on there and climbed all the way to #11.  But like most groups I discovered, I had to find a way to get my hands on the album, and before long I did.

I loved the fun loving Humpty Dance, but the rest DU's first album was even better... and probably way too mature for me to be listening to.  Underwater Rhymes was fun trip of fantasy and The Way We Swing was as infectious as any song I had ever heard.  I still play that thing on a regular basis.  This was my first exposure to hip hop following the heavy influence of funk music.  When I got older, I learned that DU was the Parliament Funkadelic of Hip HOP.  At 12, it was just a groove that attracted me.

Again, I was old enough to connect who I was to why I might attracted to this group.  But if you look at groups style, the album covers and the freedom of the music, you can see why an artist might be into this.  Shock G, the leader of the group really put together an artistic package.  He drew the cartoony album covers for a few albums.   I became addicted to Humpty.  I drew him over and over and on everything.  I connected about 4 sheets of paper and drew a giant one and stuck in my 7th grade locker.  I took fabric markers and made a t-shirt.  He became my mascot for the music I loved and who I think I was at the time.  An artistic music lover that wasn't afraid to act like a clown.

I will say this though.  The first person to try and tell me that Shock G was Humpty was in for a few hours of argument.  I was not having it.  It was fooled from top to bottom.  When people ask how no one knows that Clark Kent is Superman when there is only a pair of glasses to distinguish the two.  Well, at 12 I couldn't answer because all it took was a pair of glasses and big brown plastic nose to fool me.  It actually took me years to accept it.  

DU was also a group that understood what putting on a live shown meant.  They created music and preformed it on tour for years, long past their hay day in the charts.  Unlike most hip hop groups today that either rap over a back track laced with the vocals, or take the stage with 4 hype men so the artist you're there to see says about 4 total words.  

For kids today that remember the "thug" Tupac and the hardcore image he put on (which has sadly spawned a whole generation of copy cats) you might be surprised to know that he started as a dancer and mc with DU.  The Way We Swing was the first time the world was exposed the Tupac.  (This is a side note, but isn't telling how full of shit everyone when Tupac who was the poster boy for "Thug Life" didn't have a criminal record until he was rich and famous.  Clowns!)

So, Digital Underground, another group from the late 80's & early 90's that changed my life forever. 

Next week I'll focus on some newer artists that I've grown to love.

22 comments:

Neftali said...

Wow I must of been like 9 or 10 when the Humpty dance came out. I used to love that song. LOL...
lots of memories. :) I was reading your blog and all I can hear in my head was humpty singing the humpty dance. Do the Humpty hump.
I will need to get this for me Ipod actually.

Mark said...

"All right!
Stop whatcha doin'
'cause I'm about to ruin
the image and the style that ya used to."

I don't even like rap and I like this song!

I'm in denial I think.

Great warmup Skottie, please make more.

Lenny said...

Awesome. Digital Underground is the shiz-nitty! I really enjoy these music spotlights. I can't wait to see what other artists you pick.

Alex "Toon" Deligiannis said...

Personally, All Eyez On Me stands as one of my favorite records ever. Yes, I love the latter 2Pac era... But I absolutely love the DU 'Pac as well (But I'm digressing, since this isn't a 2Pac post). I remember when I first found out that Humpty and Shock were the same person - I was listening to a record that Shock was on, and I remember asking my brother, "I didn't know Humpty was on this track." "That's Shock G," he tells me. Instantly, it clicked. Man, I miss those by-gone days.

Brandon said...

My girlfriend has an actual pair of Humpty glasses with furry nose, that he threw into the crowd when he appeared onstage with P-Funk about 5 years ago.

Kenney said...

He will forever be remembered for the Humpty character, but Shock-G was a pretty good lyricist too. He had that smooth shit down.

DU is also responsible for the time I thought Pac was good. I didn't much care for his change in style and persona when he went out West and got with Death Row. But "When My Homies Call", "I Get Around", and "Brenda's Got a Baby" Pac? Good shit.

pablo said...

I am really digging your recent hip-hop posts, keep it up.

after reading this last post I came across this interview with Shock G http://www.dubcnn.com/interviews/shockg/
check it out if you haven't read it already

A. Jonathan Cox said...

To me, they will always be different people. I refuse to believe otherwise. Shock G just doesn't strike me as the type to get busy in a Burger King bathroom. Anyone who says they are the same person is deranged and a liar.

Also, didn't Nas get his start with 3rd Bass? 2 Pac isn't the only one to start his a career on the sillier side of hip hop. Yeah, I called 3rd Bass silly.

The Optimist said...

Was a HUGE fan of Digital Underground and The Humpty Dance is an instant classic!

Jeff said...

You know, reading M.F. Grimm's autobiography from Vertigo made me appreciate hip hop and the whole scene much more than this white boy from Indiana ever had before.

I love the artwork you've got here.

DAN-VAN-COOL said...

Hey man. I saw this and like yourself I love my musical inspirations as much as a good drawing.
I know you dis-like Lil Wayne, I do too. But Im Sure you have heard of Ryan Leslie.
Talk about making a bad song Beautiful:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT7tjt9aFL4
You Dig?

evan said...

Nice Humpty! At least what I knew him as. I never did find out who he was when I was young. Shoot, I thought it was real. Shows you how stewpid I was. But, yeah, that Humpty Dance rift had me hooked! And, yes, I did know that Tupac got his start with DU. I was shocked when I learnt of it. He wasn't so "thug" then. Eh, its a big machine and they have people that know how to spin it. Too bad he spun it too far.

jamie fickes said...

How much of a moron am I? I have been a Digital Underground fan for 15+ years and I never knew Shock G was Humpty. You burst my cherry, Skottie!
Now when I listen to Sex Packets, I'll cry a little inside.

Jake Records said...

MJ here from Jake Records in Seattle... we're the new record label home of Digital Underground. Love the kind write up here... it was fun to read, thanks for showing the love.

You and your friends and readers may be excited to know d.u. just dropped a new album TODAY called "..Cuz A d.u. Party Don't Stop!" which is on iTunes and at cdbaby.com and others. The album features some great new cuts, some like you would expect, some different... and also features some live cuts, including an amazing recording of "Sex Packets" live. I'll save all the marketing hype though and let you guys go check it out, but if you love d.u. ... you'd hate yourself for not at least taking a peek. www.buydflow.com takes you right to their album on iTunes and www.myspace.com/humptyfunk their official MySpace page.

Thanks again... loved the write up!

MJ

Dustin dArnault said...

Wow great post Skottie, I have been a huge hip hop head for years. I bump classic acts like tribe, De la Soul, Pete Rock and cl on a regular bases, but some how I have not managed to take the time out to listen to DU. I am ashamed... will now rectify this by getting there album. Any recommendations on which album is the best?
I never knew that about Pac, changes things make you wonder.
keep posting gold man!

kiljoyroy said...

If we're gonna talk Sex Packets, let's not forget "Doowutchyalike" (I see guys and girls dancin') and "Freaks of the Industry" (Well, they say that birds do it, bees do it). Big fun!

Tupac was the biggest poser around and while he was a passionate rapper with a sonic voice and tons of charisma, he wasn't talkin' about much. "Ooh, the streets, ooh, heaven for a G, ooh Brenda got a baby"...so what?! That wouldn't be so bad, but he didn't even say that stuff in an interesting way. Don't get me wrong, I love some Tupac records, but when people used to get into the whole Biggie vs. Pac thing, to me...Pac loses everytime. He was never very clever or showed any real lyrical prowess--he was average at best. His career was built on just what I stated earlier, charisma and passion. Which I guess is cool enough. All the posthumous CDs they've put out by him proves that to me. You hear the same ol' references and taglines over and over. He had about two things to say and said them repeatedly. Oh well, at least the D.U. gave him a sense of humor he never had. They weren't super serious either and never pretended to be (I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom).

Anonymous said...

HEY SKOTTIE, i know your an old school fan but you want to hear some different new school underground stuff check out mf doom, madlib, madvillian, and the peanut butter wolf they are off the mainstream creative with thier rhymes and just awesome. i found a site that has concert bootlegs you can try them out for free check it

http://live-bootleg.blogspot.com/search/label/HIP%20HOP

its title adult swim and stones throw

also check out roots manuva, new flesh, and dj kentaro, dj krush, amon tobin

The Black Samurai said...

Man, I loved Digital Underground back in the day. It's amazing what you could do with Hip-Hop back then. Great sketch and thanks for keeping those memories alive!

Kristen McCabe said...

"I once got busy in a Burger King Bathroom"

genius.

Great drawing and great post. I've wondered what happened to HumptyHump

Andrew said...

Sorry I'm late, a shark ate my record crate.

Dope.

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