Digital Underground's Shock G, an Oakland Hip-Hop Icon, Dies at 57

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Shock G of Digital Underground performs during the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2010 in Atlanta. Shock G died Thursday at age 57.
Shock G of Digital Underground performs during the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2010 in Atlanta. Shock G died Thursday at age 57. (Taylor Hill/Getty Images)

Shock G, the flamboyant, funny rap artist who brought Oakland hip-hop to a worldwide audience with the group Digital Underground, died Thursday at age 57, according to Digital Underground co-founder Chopmaster J.

The cause of death is unknown. According to TMZ, Shock G was found dead in a hotel room in Tampa, with no signs of trauma.

Shock G, born Greg Jacobs, was best-known for his work with Digital Underground, most notably the worldwide smash "The Humpty Dance," released in 1990. Carried by Jacobs' large-nosed persona, the song brought a swampy West Coast funk and dozens of comic one-liners to the national airwaves. The "Humpty Dance" video, filmed at Club Townsend in San Francisco, played in heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 for months during the cable networks' heyday.

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A talented pianist and visual artist who illustrated much of Digital Underground's album art, Jacobs also helped introduce the world to Tupac Shakur, who was an early member of Digital Underground, and whose debut album 2Pacalypse Now he co-produced. Shakur remarked in a 1995 interview that he looked back on his time alongside Shock G and Digital Underground "with the greatest fondness. Those were like, some of the best times of my life."

The cover of The HUmpty Dance single
Shock G's cartoony illustrations laced Digital Underground's album covers and inserts. (Tommy Boy)

Jacobs' production credits, guest appearances and solo work continued long after the success of Sex Packets, Digital Underground's best-selling album. He appeared on the all-star remix of the Luniz' "I Got 5 on It" with a who's-who of Bay Area rap, and produced songs for Mac Mall, Saafir and KRS-One. In 1998, Prince included his remix of "Love Sign" on his 1994 release Crystal Ball. Jacobs also toured with Parliament's George Clinton, and performed in small clubs around the country as a solo artist.

Reaction to the news of Shock G's death was swift: