Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson. See more of Kirsten’s photos from this show here.
“I’m the original big nose rapper,” said Digital Underground frontman Humpty Hump — aka Shock G — after sauntering onstage at Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s Vapor Night Club in a red-and-black velvet smoking jacket, skunk-striped fro and his signature Groucho glasses.
The Digital Underground frontman, one of the most distinctive figures in ‘90s hip-hop, kept up the nerdy, debauched professor look and nasally Humpty voice for half the show—oozing sleazy charm and thrilling the crowd with a handful of old-school songs, from “The Return of the Crazy One” to the group’s biggest (and by far most ridiculous) hit, the Parliament-sampling, ego-tripping “The Humpty Dance.”
Lots of amusingly ribald stuff from the frontman who famously boasted on the latter about getting “busy in a Burger King bathroom.”
During “Same Song,” perhaps the best of the old-school Digital Underground tunes, Humpty Hump’s long-time Digital Underground mate, rapper Money-B, joined him on stage, and Humpty held out the mic to a man in the crowd who did a spot-on take of the verse that originally featured Tupac Shakur (2Pac)— launching the career of the now-deceased rapper when the song came out in 1991.
“Humpty has left the building. I’m not Humpty right now,” announced Shock G after ditching the fake hooked nose, checkered scarf and smoking jacket halfway through for a decidedly more California look of colored aviator glasses, white pants and surfer t-shirt. After bouncing around on stage to the high-energy, Funkadelic-sampling 1991 hit “Kiss You Back” and a cover of Luniz’ classic R&B party song, “I Got 5 on It,” things took a slightly more sober turn.
“Is Tupac Shakur’s spirit in the house tonight?” asked Shock G from behind his Roland keyboard as the P-Funk-loving West Coast group — which at Vapor also featured recurring Digital Underground members DJ Fuze and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Pee Wee Gooden — spent the rest of the show stretching out into some serious funk jams.
Remembering the “young Gemini who came through our lives,” as Shock G said from the stage, the group did a three-song tribute to the murdered Shakur, including “I Get Around,” which featured both Shock G and Money-B when the song appeared on 2Pac’s second album in 1993; 2Pac’s prophetic and sad “So Many Tears”; and “I Ain’t Mad at Cha,” a 2Pac song more recently covered by hip-hop artist J. Cole.
“Let’s get sexy in this motherfucker,” said Shock G before Digital Underground closed with an extended, super-funky version of their Donna Summer-sampling, booty-loving, twisted anthem, “Freaks of the Industry.”
DIGITAL UNDERGROUND SET LIST
The Return of the Crazy One
The Humpty Dance
I Got 5 on It (Luniz)
Kiss You Back
I Get Around/So Many Tears/I Ain’t Mad at Cha (Tupac tribute)
Freaks of the Industry