Shock it to ya

Pub date June 8, 2010

El boogie, my love of loves

7 & 11 belong together

Please set free your G

Love & Bravery on forever — Shock-G

After our recent interview, Shock-G — frontman and producer of now-disbanded rap legends Digital Underground, discoverer of 2Pac, and alter ego of the Groucho-nosed Humpty Hump — e-mails the poem printed above. “I need you to put this in,” he writes. “It’s my thank you to fans for letting me move on after DU.” Plus, he adds mysteriously, “it has many meanings.”

It’s a characteristically offbeat request. Eight years on from meeting Shock, it’s still hard to anticipate his moves. The occasion of our phone conversation is a new disc of Digital Underground rarities, The Greenlight EP (Jake Records). The 2008 Jake Records release Cuz a DU Party Don’t Stopa similarly miscellaneous collection misleadingly marketed as “the final DU studio album” — lacked the coherence of classics like Sex Packets (Tommy Boy, 1989) and was panned by critics, so Shock wants to make the status of Greenlight clear.

“I don’t want to give the public the idea like, ‘Yo, we just made a slammin’ new album,'” he says. “DU’s not my purpose right now. It’s more like, ‘I’m cleaning out the closet, look what we discovered.'”

A 7-song EP, Greenlight benefits from its tighter focus. DU completists may recognize obscure gems like “Used 2B a Sperm” — a sci-fi story of Shock as a sperm cell journeying to the egg. Other tracks like “Purplebrainhurrycainhabit,” produced by a then-unknown David Banner, emerge for the first time. 2Pac appears on a bonus 1991 live version of “Same Song.”

But Shock would rather dwell in the present, which is among the reasons he finally disbanded the group. Much of his conversation concerns his whole-food diet, a difficult pursuit when spending 200 nights a year on tour.

“It requires more thought than most people care to put into it,” he says. “What you eat is so important to your future health and clarity of mind. I’m actually in better shape than I was in my 20s and 30s.”

This lifestyle change dovetails with his other reason for ending DU: the increasingly heavy drug use. Motivated by his health consciousness, Shock’s new sobriety is also an artistic decision. In the 1990s, DU performances were theatrical shows, Shock running the group like a band, in a way that gradually lapsed in the new millennium

Yet live performances led to his latest venture, the Shock-G3 Trio. A collaboration with DU’s original DJ, Fuze, on turntables, and early member PeeWee on guitar, the Trio unites what Shock calls DU’s “core musicians,” responsible for most of 2Pac’s first LP, 2Pacalypse Now (Priority, 1991). The format allows Shock to stretch out on keys, as the group jams on the DU/2Pac repertoire, as well as funk, jazz, and whatever else Shock gets in his head.

“The thing about working sober is the small eye signals on stage and PeeWee and Fuze catch them,” Shock enthuses. “Like the audience wants us to go a few bars longer. Or if they’re not feeling it, backing out of those songs. It keeps the shows tight.”