This article first appeared in Oakland Voices, a community reporting program led by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
While cleaning out some old documents this past Tuesday, I ran across pages from an old Source magazine. They weren’t anything truly memorable, just old pages from a column called “Reality Check,” circa 1997, that I had hung onto. I was really feeling my own mortality as someone who has never known a world without hip-hop and was now watching some of the people who shaped my generation pass away. DMX died on April 9, 2021. Black Rob April 17, 2021. There was something that I was still in denial about, watching Redman and Method Man perform on Verzuz on April 20, 2021. I wanted to believe that my generation wasn’t letting go of its hold in hip-hop just yet.
Then, today, I read the reports that Oakland’s own Gregory Jacobs, more famously known as Shock G of Digital Underground, had died and I could not deny it anymore. He was 57. The year 2021 was coming for my generation and this was a pill that was hard to swallow. Generation X got to experience when Digital Underground’s most recognized album, Sex Packets, was released in 1990.
Generation X got to crowd around a television set to watch Shock G on MTV in fake glasses and nose perform the “The Humpty Dance” as his alter ego, Humpty Hump, creating a dance craze and another widespread movement for the Bay Area. Digital Underground introduced not only Oakland, but the world, to Tupac Shakur on “Same Song.” Digital Underground gave us Freaks of The Industry, rendering every middle school dance I ever attended needing to be chaperoned heavily. All these memories reminded me that my generation, Generation X, wasn’t losing another one we grew up on. We were losing someone we grew up with. This one truly hurts differently.
Here are some of the Bay Area’s own reacting to news of our Shock G:
Raphael Saadiq of Tony! Toni! Toné! simply wrote, “Hometown family at rest” with a photo of Jacobs:
MC Hammer tweeted, “R.I.P. #ShockG. The Underground lit up The Game”:
Mistah F.A.B. (Stanley Petey Cox) wrote on Instagram:
Whiz Wizard wrote:
In the thread, he continued: “Remarkable. Shock G really was a genius. A real musical savant. But the legend of Humpty still blows my mind. There was a time when people would whisper that he and Humpty were possibly the same person like it was was a myth. Helping spread awareness of the band via rumor. GENIUS…If you have ever used rap music as an example for what you understand about the lives of Black men in particular. Then current events should now lead many to understand how the health of Black men should be taken seriously. I want to see my heroes grow old. Same for my peers.”
Hip hop historian and music critic Jeff Chang wrote on Twitter:
Bay Area DJ Chuy Gomez shared on Instagram: “Rest in peace to one of Oakland’s most original.”
Sarah Allen on Instagram posted an iconic photo of Shock G, with the caption, “This one hits too close to home. Rest in peace Shock G!”
Oakland’s own journalist Pendarvis Harshaw remembered a moment from college that made him feel at home, while far away from home: