Digital Underground rapper Shock G of the ‘The Humpty Dance’ fame dies

Shock G
Shock G Image Credit:

Shock G, the rapper, songwriter and producer who helped take hip-hop into the pop mainstream in the early 1990s with ‘The Humpty Dance’ by his Oakland-based group Digital Underground, has died, according to an Instagram post by his former bandmate Chopmaster J.

The rapper, born Gregory Jacobs, was found dead Thursday in a hotel room in Tampa, TMZ reported, attributing the news to Jacobs’ father, who didn’t state a cause. He was 57.

Performing as his alter ego Humpty Hump — “pronounced with a ‘umpty,'” as he advised in the song — Shock G struck a proudly comic pose in ‘The Humpty Dance,’ bragging with exaggerated style about his skinny frame and his physical prowess.

Built on prominent samples of tunes by Parliament and Sly & the Family Stone, ‘The Humpty Dance’ topped Billboard’s rap singles chart for five weeks in 1990 and went to No. 11 on the all-genre Hot 100, where it was surrounded by hits such as Madonna’s ‘Vogue,’ MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This’ and ‘This Old Heart of Mine’ by Rod Stewart and Ronald Isley. The song was also nominated for a Grammy Award for rap performance by a duo or group.

‘The Humpty Dance’s’ success was driven in part by its music video, a staple of early-’90s MTV in which Shock G wore his trademark prosthetic nose and in which a young Tupac Shakur can be seen as one of Digital Underground’s backup dancers. Shakur went on to make his debut appearance as an MC in the group’s 1991 track ‘Same Song.’

Shock G worried later in life that his over-the-top image from the ‘Humpty Dance’ video distracted viewers from his musical talent. “My nightmare was that I was going to OD onstage as Humpty, and they were going to leave me in the coffin with the nose on and put on the tombstone ‘Humpty Hump,'” he told Vibe magazine in 2005.

In a tweet Thursday, Ice Cube called Shock G — whose death closely follows those of fellow hip-hop veterans DMX and Black Rob — ‘a true Bay Area original,’ while MC Hammer hailed his ‘incredible vision.’ El-P of Run the Jewels called him ‘a kind and pure musical genius’ and said he was the “coolest, most down-to-earth icon/hero of mine I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.’

Information on survivors beyond his father wasn’t immediately available.