When you hear a Digital Underground album, or pay to see them perform, Shock G has always made sure that you have gotten your money’s worth. As the leader of the legendary Oakland-based group, he has morphed into many different characters over his career. His metamorphosis into the highly talented Piano Man or the world famous Humpty Hump garnered Shock G and company an incredible amount of fanfare all across the globe.
After fifteen years with the group, he has decided to blend his many musical influences to create Fear Of A Mixed Planet, a distinctive blend of funk, soul, jazz and Hip-Hop with a sprinkle of high quality musicianship to blend it all together. In a recent conversation with AllHipHop.com, he discussed the new album, along with interesting facts about his background, his rumored drug addiction, and a touching banter about the friend that he lost too soon.
AllHipHop.com: One of the most interesting things about your new album is the title. What is the exact meaning behind the name of the album?
Shock G: Fear Of A Mixed Planet is based on all the resistance out here. People are still dividing other people into colors. We are expected to know certain things, not know certain things, expected to be distant in certain areas, more or less trustworthy, more or less intelligent, and it’s all stupid to me. The people that don’t want their family members dating outside of their race and the ones who feel that people should stay at parties with people of the same color are the ones that I make fun of. They must have fear of a mixed planet. I feel like the whole world is going to be mulatto one day. I always felt like we should be judged based on someone’s quality. Someone that’s honest and trustworthy is better than hanging out with somebody that’s flaky and dishonest. You’ll find through life that those people will come in all nationalities.
AllHipHop.com: You are arguably one of the most regular cats in Hip-Hop. Talk about some points of interest, such as your background and things that people may not know.
Shock G: Do you have a regular gig?
AllHipHop.com: Outside of my work as a journalist, yes I do.
Shock G: I worked from age 17 until I turned 25. I used to work hard, too. I had plaques on my wall, [such as] ‘Salesman of the Month’ at this one place. I did everything from washing cars to selling vacuum cleaners. I had a couple of cool jobs, but I kept a hustle, man. It wasn’t until we had an album out and had money coming in that I stopped working. I’ve been studying music for a long time. I don’t consider myself an MC; I’m a musician that rhymes a little bit. I’ve been in groups all of my life. I was a DJ in a Rap crew until I got my rap on. I’m 41, and I was a teenager when Hip-Hop started. When I was 11, I played drums in a band. We used to try to play Parliament, James Brown…we tried to play everything.
AllHipHop.com: I hear a lot of people say that Oakland is one of most musically inspired places a person can ever go to.
Shock G.: I came to Oakland when I was 24 or 25. I was born in Brooklyn, in the Clinton Hill area of Bedstuy. When I was three, we moved upstate and when I was six, we moved to Tampa. I spent most of my childhood in Tampa. When my mom and pop got a divorce, she rose up and took us to Queens. We lived in Far Rockaway for a year and that’s when I got into Hip-Hop. I was living there and getting my Hip-Hop connections, but my grades were going down. I had good grades in Florida, but in New York, it was too fun, too hectic, and there was too much s**t going on to stay in class. We used to take our train passes and go to homeroom to get credit for being there. When the bell rang, we’d sneak out of the school, get on the train and go to downtown Manhattan to f**k with the prostitutes. We was about 13 or 14, and we’d be like, ‘Hey, show me your p***y!’ We was just little kids, running around, looking for s**t to do. The prostitute would lift up her dress and say, ‘Take your little bad a** home!’ We would get flashed and say ‘Ooh, did you see that?’ The family started getting concerned, and my dad wound up getting custody again. I wound up back in Tampa, and that’s where I finished up high school.
That’s also how I wound up being in so many music situations. All of a sudden, record companies started giving out deals to rappers like it was nothing. After Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, LL, Sugar Hill Gang, and Whodini [got on], it started a thing in the industry where record labels thought that Hip-Hop was the new thing. They were signing people easily. Something told me to get back to doing that because I used to do that as a kid. By that time, I was in California already, so I did it with a different spin. Being away from New York got that funk in me. The Parliament side and the Deep South funk became Digital Underground’s sound. You couldn’t really tell where we were from. We didn’t sound so West Coast, and we didn’t sound so East Coast. I guess that comes from growing up all over like that. Pac was like that, too. Pac was from either The Bronx or Harlem.
AllHipHop.com: If I am not mistaken, Pac came from Brooklyn originally.
Shock G: I know he had family in Harlem. We used to go visit some of his family with him after the shows. I’m not sure of his birthplace, but he did live in Harlem and The Bronx.
AllHipHop.com: After 15 years in the business, what made you decide to drop your first solo album?
Shock G: Some of my favorite artists have made music all of their life. Some are more popular and gifted than others, but I’m a musician to the heart. I really wanted to do a Jazz album, and I may do that next, but I wanted to do something in my spare time. In other words, I produced for other people, but when I had a spare moment to myself, I would sneak down to San Diego to do this album. The whole album was done in San Diego. I used to complain about how rough things were. People would look at me and say, ‘What’s your problem? You don’t have [anything] to worry about. You’re Humpty Hump.’ I would say, ‘Yeah, but all of that is over now.’ That had peaked already and that was behind me. I wanted to know what I was going to do with the rest of my life. People told me to do what I do for as long as I can. My mom even told me that Miles Davis recorded until he was 71 years old. He performed under three different genres, from the early jazz, to fusion and electric funk jazz, and right before he died, he worked with Easy Mo Bee and did a Hip-Hop album. So, if I’m really about this music, why am I going to roll over and die or go back to loading trucks? Why? [Is it] because I’m not the hottest new MC out right now? I’ll leave the MC competition for the MCs. I was doing music before Hip-Hop, and I’ll be doing music after Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: I want to give you a good example of what you were just talking about. Do you remember the heavy metal group Guns N Roses?
Shock G: Yeah.
AllHipHop.com: I think the lead singer of that group was Axl Rose. This man released a jazz album that was incredible. This was the cocaine sniffing, heavy metal artist that could not remember his lyrics half of the time.
Shock G: Another good example is the cat from House of Pain.
Shock G: Yeah! He did a Folk album. So, I made an album the way I would like to hear some s**t. Some people may call it Hip-Hop, and I’ve even heard it described as alternative Hip-Hop. Some people even say this is Funk with Rap on it. Whatever it is, that’s me. Digital Underground was a combination of me, some other people, and some concepts. We were supposed to be a party band. We weren’t speaking out on any issues, although we had Pac for that. I felt like as long as I was putting good music under Pac, I was helping the world out.
AllHipHop.com: There were rumors and speculation that you had an ongoing drug problem. Is there any truth to that?
Shock G.: That’s over with, man. If you see me playing shows at a bar or something, I’m going to get my drink on. I’ll have a beer or two, but all that hard s**t is not for me. It’s been since May, 2000 since I took an ecstasy pill. It was the late 90’s and early 2000 when things started getting off the hook. Promoters were paying us cash and dope. [For example,] they would pay us $6000 in cash, and the other $2000 they would pay us with 500 ecstasy pills. The other members of the group would be like, ‘Take those motherf***ers!’ We would take them, and four days later, they would be all gone. But, that’s over and done with now.