Shock G performing at Life is Living 2014 at De Fremery Park, West Oakland. Credit: Amir Aziz

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On July 20, The Oakland City Council will vote on a resolution to make August 25 Digital Underground Day in honor of the legendary hip-hop group’s leader Gregory Jacobs, better known by his stage name Shock G. In addition to Jacobs, Digital Underground included Jimi “Chopmaster J” Dright, Kenneth “Kenny K” Waters, and a slew of other artists, including briefly a 20-year-old Tupac Shakur. Digital Underground Day would fall on the same date as Jacobs’s birthday. 

Known for his outlandish wardrobe and numerous stage personas such as the popular Humpty Hump, Jacobs passed away April 22 at age 57. The proposed legislation, introduced by Councilmembers Loren Taylor and Carroll Fife, cites a number of Jacobs’ accomplishments such as creating the platinum hit “The Humpty Dance,” appearing on the Bay Area All Star Remix of “I got 5 on it” by Oakland hip-hop group Luniz, mentoring rap icon Tupac Shakur, and pioneering the use of funk samples from Parliament and Funkadelic. 

“Shock G’s creative vision and artistic brilliance was instrumental to Digital Underground’s success,” Taylor and Fife wrote in their legislation, “and an essential part of the historic legacy of Oakland hip-hop, which has achieved national and global significance.” 

Taylor attended Montera Middle School when “The Humpty Dance” was released in 1990. He remembers it “catching fire at our school before it blew up on the radio in Oakland and later across the nation.” 

“No matter the location, I would always find people who already celebrated and emulated Oakland’s culture, with Digital Underground being a huge part of our brand,” he told The Oaklandside.

According to Fife, commemorating Digital Underground is a part of a larger initiative to uplift the legacy of Oakland’s cultural workers. “The first thing that we did was create Paul Mooney Day on May 19,” Fife told The Oaklandside, referring to the late comedian who spent his childhood in Oakland and passed away in the city on May 19. “We want to acknowledge the contributions of Black artists that really made an impact on the world that were right here around us.” 

Fife hopes that the city’s next opportunity to honor an artist is not prompted by a person’s death. “We have all these people with so much talent, but they pass away and they were never really acknowledged for the gravity of who they were when here, and that’s another reminder that we can’t wait,” she said. 

Jacobs was born in New York City in 1963 and spent most of his childhood in Tampa, Florida. He performed at small local venues under the name Shock G, eventuallying moving to Oakland in the mid 1980’s where he linked up with his future group members and founded Digital Underground. The group released their 1990 debut album Sex Packets on Tommy Boy Records, which eventually reached platinum status. 

Upon his passing, Oakland natives and musical greats such as Raphael Saadiq and Mistah F.A.B penned tributes to the locally revered but underrated artist. Besides helping to create the anthemic song “The Humpty Dance,” Jacobs was perhaps best known for introducing audiences to Tupac Shakur, who made one of his first major music appearances on Digital Underground’s 1991 “Same Song”.  

Shakur would return the favor and featured verses from Jacobs and fellow Digital Underground member Money B on his 1993 song “I Get Around,” In which Jacobs raps: “I’m just another Black man caught up in the mix, trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents.”

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.